Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Very Surprising Day


Just when I think I've seen it all, good and bad, and won't be surprised again, I am. Yesterday was one of those days when I had one sweet surprise after another. 

I helped in Bible school yesterday morning. It was the last day of a chaotic week. I'd helped one particular group of little boys with their crafts almost every day, but, in retrospect, I don't think I'd ever introduced myself. 

The cutest little boy came up to me and said, "Miss Leanna, will you help me?" I was stunned that he not only knew my name, but had bothered to remember it. A few hot tears stung my eyes. I blinked them back and bent down to look at his work.

He knew my name. It always touches my heart when people know me, but the One that stuns me most is that God knows my name. He was intimately acquainted with me before I was born, and still is. 

He knows me, inside out.

Later that afternoon, Sam and I went to the lake to feed the fish. Remember the bread that filled my car recently? We took two loaves of bread with us and, one slice at a time, wadded the bread into balls and threw it into the water. Since Sam can't see well, he made a rule that I had to throw my bread between two particular clumps of grass. That's so he can see the fish when they come up to eat the bread.

I'm not an accurate thrower, so my bread went everywhere. Occasionally, though, I could get my bread-wad where he wanted it. A particularly large wad, thrown in just the right place, attracted the big catfish that lurked nearby. He jumped part-way out of the water, grabbed the bread, and made a little twist. We could see his shiny white belly. The big splash made Sam laugh.

I was, once again, surprised by the joy he finds in the simplest of things. When I grow up, I hope I have that same sense of joy and wonder.

We were almost through feeding when my phone rang. It was The Hired Hand.

"Hey, y'all come on up to the barn. I'm taking Sam for a hayride."

We'd talked about the hayride in general terms, but I hadn't expected it yesterday. Sam was thrilled. The Hired Hand and His Son had everything arranged. There were bales of hay on the trailer and a traveling rug over the hay. A rope was attached from front to back so we could hang on in case it got bumpy, which was a good thing.

If you had seen Sam's face, you'd have wept with joy for him. He hadn't been to the back of the farm since he broke his hip several years ago. 

It was the thing he most wanted in the world. The Hired Hand knew that, so he made it happen. 

Sam reminisced about his early days on the farm, told stories that made us both laugh, and made a plan about picking blackberries that was so fanciful we laughed again. He talked about his deceased wife's blackberry pie and, for the first time, there was more peace than sorrow. 

Nothing that happened was "big" by the world's standards but, by my standards, it was all precious. The sweetest of all was the look on Sam's face as he rode through the land he'd helped to clear.

"I could ride through here on the tractor and think through everything. It was the most peaceful place in the world. I loved it here."

The Hired Hand turned back from the tractor. "I do that, Sam. I love it, too."

Old man and younger, joined by faith and friendship and love of the land. It was the way we're meant to live, and the beauty of it surprised me all over again. 

As we drove across the land, I realized that, to Sam, that hayride was evidence that our Lord knows his name, too. Yesterday, with the Hired Hand and His Son's help, He gave Sam the desires of his heart.

When God created us, I believe He intended to make people like Sam. Kind. Loving. Generous. People who loved and protected the land and all His creatures. It's a simple life but, if you ask Sam, it's the best life of all.

Love God. Live simply. Take Joy in it all. 

That's Sam's motto, and it's a good one to have. 

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; 
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord, 
and He will give you the desires of your heart." 
Psalm 37:3,4 nasb

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In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: Over in an Instant
#disciple #surprisingday #SamWiley #linesfromleanna

Friday, June 10, 2016

Over in an Instant: The Importance of Living Like We Mean it



They had been raised from chicks by hand, and they were much loved. Ricky and Fred were stunning examples of their breeds. An Americauna and a Silver Wyandotte. When the roosters began to crow, they needed a new home, so they came to live with me.

The third rooster was just "Rooster" and I had raised him from an egg.

They were the funniest roosters I've ever had. Sassy and bossy, they strutted in front of the barn like they were kings of the world. Until day before yesterday.

That morning, I had checked the chickens before I went to help with Bible school. They were all in the coop. I let them out to free range for the day. When I left, they were fine.

Later that afternoon, I was on the screen porch, writing, when I heard the chickens cackling like crazy. The roosters were crowing. It was an uproar. I looked around for Maggie and Mamie, my two chicken-chasing dogs. They were snoozing on the floor beside me. 

Usually, a chicken uproar means the dogs are trying to play chase with the chickens. This time, the racket was over almost before it began. Chickens being chickens, I decided, and kept writing. 

I wish I hadn't. 

I'm not sure I could have changed anything if I'd run with all my might, though.

A few hours later, The Hired Hand came by. "What're all those feathers about?" 

"What feathers?" 

"Two big clumps of feathers. One clump of red feathers and one clump of black ones."

"I don't know. The chickens were all there a few hours ago."

We shrugged it off. As usual, the chickens put themselves to bed and he closed the coop door on his way home. 

Yesterday, I had a busy day, so I didn't get to the barn until mid-afternoon. I apologized to the chickens for being late and looked around. Seven hens. No roosters.

I called the roosters. No one came.

I searched everywhere. Not a rooster in sight.

When I saw the feathers, I knew.

The hawk we'd seen circling the barn a few days earlier had come back. The roosters were gone.

I know this might not be the first thing most people think about when they find the remnants of their beloved roosters, but I thought, "Life is so fleeting. It's just a vapor, really." I put the chickens back in their coop and trudged toward the house. 

As I walked, I pondered the brevity of our lives. In the big scheme of eternity, it's over in an instant. In a flash of talons and ripping beaks, the roosters' time here was done. Our lives can end just as quickly. One pause in heart rhythm, one car accident, one tiny blood clot to the brain, and we're gone. 

One moment we're here. The next, we've stepped into eternity. 

Life is short and it ends fast sometimes. That's why it's so important to live like we mean it. 

If we say we love our families and friends, we need to live like we do. 

If we care about our neighbor as ourselves, we need to demonstrate that concern with our lives. 

If we say we love our Lord, we need to live so that others can see that in us.

There will come a day when we take one breath in this world and our next breath in eternity. It can be sooner than we expect, so let's stop today and consider the priorities of our lives. Are they in the proper order? 

If we were to die today, would we be proud of how we invested our few days on this earth? Would God be pleased?

The time to change is now. Consider what is most important in life and begin today to make any adjustments that need to be made in both priorities and life style.

Tell people you love them. Express appreciation. Say thank you. Put down your phones. Embrace life. Laugh. Give more hugs. Smile every chance you get.

 Live like you mean it.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 nasb

#lifeisshort #GoodFriday #disciple

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Totally forgiven


I read something this morning that was so beautiful I had to share it.

When you hear the name of King David, you probably think of Goliath the giant, or David as the shepherd boy who became king. If you know his story, you probably also remember the disaster with Bathsheba and Uriah and the terrible mess David made. The consequences of his sin affected him personally, his family, and his entire nation.

It's hard for me to forget that episode in David's life, but it's not hard for God.

When David came to the end of his sin, he was truly heartbroken. He went before the Lord, repented, and was forgiven. Today, I was reminded of how complete that forgiveness truly was. 

During the time of Jeroboam, the kingdom of Israel was split. Jeroboam was king over Israel, and Rehoboam (David's grandson) was king over Judah. Because Jerusalem was in Judah, Jeroboam was afraid the people would want to worship at the temple there, and he would eventually lose his kingdom.

In an attempt to decrease the number of people seeking God in Jerusalem, Jeroboam started a new religion. He evicted the true priests from Israel, built two golden calves, and instituted worship of the idols.

Needless to say, God was not pleased. He eventually sent a message to Jeroboam through one of His prophets that he would destroy him and his lineage. In that conversation, He referenced "My servant David." 

"... you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight;" 1 Kings 14: 8 nasb

When God remembered David, He didn't rehash his mistakes. He didn't recall the mess with Uriah and Bathsheba. He didn't bring up the time he numbered the people and was disciplined for it.

God treasured the sweet days of communion with His servant. When God forgave David, He "remembered it no more". 

When we seek forgiveness with a broken, repentant heart, that's how God views us, as well. He forgives and, ever after, sees our repentance, not our sin.

No matter what we have done in our past, God can forgive. No matter how heinous our sins, God can wash us white as snow and remove them from us forever.

Today, let's take all our mistakes, our failures, our rebellion to the Lord and leave them with Him. Allow Him to forgive and cleanse us with the confidence that He will never remind us of those sins again. 

Forgiven. 

That's how God saw David, and it's how He will see us, as well. 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: More blessed to give than to receive
Here's an intro video to the Hosea study: The Greatest Love Story

#forgiven #repent #linesfromleanna


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hosea: The Greatest Love Story of All (Video #1)

I made an introductory video for the Hosea study. I hope it will be the first in a series of short Hosea videos. I'd love to hear what you think. Click on the link below: (It may take a bit to load, so wait for it.)



#lessonsindiscipleship #Hosea #Biblestudy

More Blessed to Give than Receive

 


In 1999, I started pottery lessons with Titus Riley in Peppertown. It was a profoundly spiritual experience, and the applications to faith bubbled up in and me and demanded release. After the first class, I returned home with an experience that must be told, sat down at the computer, and wrote my first real story. Over the ensuing weeks, a writer was birthed.

There's nothing better than to have people read what you've written, so I started a little publishing company, fine-tuned my stories, and published The Clay Papers in 2005. Those were the stories that "made me a writer", so they are the most precious of all my stories. At least to me. 

Once we entered the digital age, there was more of a demand for ebooks so, last year, Ryan helped me convert it to the kindle format.

After the young woman gave me her sweet gift of cookies, (The Incredible Kindness that Broke My Heart) I began to think about how it is more blessed to give than to receive. Maybe there would be a blessing in giving my most precious stories away, I thought. So... I decided to do a giveaway. At first, I planned a two-day promotion. When Amazon had technical difficulties and delayed the start, I switched to a five-day promotion. 

{It began 6/3/16 but there was such a glitch that I expected it to run through today. The glitch day apparently counted after all, so it ended yesterday.}

On Saturday, I opened the Amazon listing to copy the link and an unusual thing caught my eye. The book was #1 in free spirituality/devotionals. I didn't believe it. I closed the tab and reopened it. Closed it again and reloaded the page. Closed the browser and reopened it. Every time, the book was listed at #1. 

My precious little stories had jumped thousands of points in the rankings to become best sellers. Literally overnight.

For four days, the stories that are closest to my heart were #1 with only a few hours' drop to #2 or #3. 

It was impossible. 

It was totally a gift from God and confirmed, once again, that it's more blessed to give than to receive.

What I gained from that giveaway was not monetary. (Although I did make $1.40 cents somehow.) Instead, I gained a much deeper understanding of the Sovereignty of God. He touches everything. Controls everything. Can upend everything. He asks permission of no one, for He is in charge. 

The day after the sale ended, I checked the ranking, wondering if the best seller status had lasted through the night. It hadn't. It was back in the paid category and down to #676 for spirituality/devotionals. (It's much further down the list now)

You might think I'd be disappointed, but I'm not. I saw those numbers and realized just how far God jumped my book to get it in that much-desired #1 spot. I'm astounded. What God did was bigger than I realized, and I'm in awe of His kindness.

I saw the drop in ranking and reveled in the power of God to give good gifts to His children. The giveaway and the gift of #1 were such fun that I wondered what I could give away next.

That's what happens when we obey. There's such joy that we want to obey again. 

Today, let's ask God for the next bit of obedience, then let's do it. No matter how unlikely it is. He doesn't surprise with #1 every time, but He always gives good gifts to His children. 

Obedience is worth it. Every single time.


"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of lights, 
with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." 
James 1:17 nasb


My friend, David Turner's comment on the first draft of this post was so profound that I've added it. He rightly discerned that the #1 was a mountain-top experience. The drop in rank today could have been a valley for me, but it wasn't, because I've learned an important truth. 

"The God of the mountain-top experience is still God in the valley." (David Turner)
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Rolling Barrel and the Heavenly Help
#moreblessedtogive #disciple #Jesus #linesfromleanna

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Rolling Barrel and the Heavenly Help



It happened like this, no matter what Sam says. Well, mostly. 

A few weeks ago, Sam wanted me to buy some agricultural bread from the bread store to feed the fish. The $9 basket seemed a better value than the $6 basket, so I went for the big one. 

The back seat of my car was completely full of bread when I left the store. That wasn't a problem. Until I got home. There was nowhere to keep all the bread except an old olive barrel. I bought it for $10 years ago, and it's very handy for storage... for someone at least six inches taller than I am. 

Nevertheless, Sam, who is a full foot taller than me, thought it was an excellent storage barrel for our fish bread. I loaded it to the rim. 

Every afternoon since then, Sam and I head to the lake. His walking is not as steady as it used to be, nor as fast, so I usually get our bread out. That wasn't a problem as long as the barrel was full. Yesterday, however, there were only a few loaves of bread on the bottom of the barrel. 

I was determined to use all the bread before I bought more because the barrel was dirty inside. It needed a serious cleaning. To make matters worse, at some point, I had failed to screw the lid on tight enough, and rain had leaked in. The bottom was yucky. To put it nicely. The aroma was not lovely. 

So... I took the lid off as usual, and looked inside like I always do. It was a long way to the bread at the bottom. The only sensible thing I could think of at the moment was to stand on tiptoe and lean over into the barrel. 

Usually, I can reach the bread, but, yesterday, my reach was a few inches too short. I leaned over just a little bit more. And then, the unthinkable happened. 

The barrel tipped over and flipped me inside. 

Barrel and silver-haired woman started rolling, headed down the hill. My legs were kicking. I was yelling. Sam was laughing. The lake was getting closer. 

I considered what it might be like to drown inside an olive barrel with old bread and smelly goo. It didn't seem like a happy ending. 

I prayed for help. 

I don't want you to think I waited to pray until I was almost rolling into the lake. My first prayer in this little episode was when Sam and I headed to the lake, that we'd make it there and back without him falling down. (I didn't think to pray that I wouldn't get caught in the olive barrel, but I will today.) 

That prayer continued when my feet left the ground and headed in a wrong direction. When I yelled HELP, I was not talking to the 86-year-old man who is so unsteady on his feet that he's barely able to stay upright. I was addressing the King Of The Universe who is fully competent to handle keeping the stars in the sky and well-preserved, barely-senior-citizens out of the lake at the same time. 

I needed rescue, and fast, so I turned to the One who could help. (I might have also suggested from inside the barrel that I didn't want to get my cute pink top and khaki capris dirty. But we won't mention it.)

Divine assistance arrived a little later than I expected it. It did, however, arrive before I rolled into the lake. 

The barrel hit a stump and stopped. 

The sudden impact gave me a little whack. Sam was still laughing when I crawled backwards out of the barrel. After I got out, I was happy to find that I had been spared from drowning and, miraculously, my cute clothes were spared from stink and goo! 

Unfortunately, I forgot to get the bread on my way out of the olive barrel. I did not go back inside.

There are so many lessons to draw from this little scene in my calm and uneventful life that I hardly know where to start. I'm sure you can manage most of the lessons on your own. The most important point, however is not to get a shorter barrel or to screw the lid on tighter. 

The most important lesson is to understand Who's in charge and willing to help in time of need, and that's God Almighty. King of All Kings. God above all Gods. He's the beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega. He knows the number of hairs on my head. When my feet left the ground, He already knew about the barrel adventure I was about to have. 

He knows me, through and through. He loves me, despite how much trouble I am. He helps me, despite how many crazy scrapes I get in. 

My help comes from the Lord. Always by my side. Always ready in time of trouble. Sometimes He uses human hands to help, and sometimes He uses stumps, but my help always comes from Him.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea..." Psalm 46:1-2 nasb

"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth." 
Psalm 121:2 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Happy Puppy and Loving Everyone

#disciple #answeredprayer #help #Jesus #linesfromleanna



Monday, June 6, 2016

The Happy Puppy and Loving Everyone


I love this picture of Mamie. I call it the "laughing puppy" picture. She's considerably older now, but her happy face is still the same. She loves life and everyone and everything in it. 

Mamie never meets a stranger and rarely meets someone she doesn't like. She has an innate ability to discern the one who needs her brand of Mamie-love the most. If you have a burden on your heart, Mamie will somehow know. If you sit down, she'll jump in your lap, give you a few puppy kisses, and snuggle in close. 

I've watched her do that many times. The comfort she gives always surprises me, and I've wondered how she recognized something I didn't.

I think her skill might come from her basic attitude. There's something good in everyone, and Mamie sees it. There's something to love in everyone, and Mamie loves them. 

It's the way we, as followers of Christ, should be. Looking for good. Loving all. Drawing people to Christ because of the light in us.

I'm not as nice as Mamie, and certainly not as good as Jesus, but I wish I were. I've seen some "not so good", and it's made me cautious. Perhaps overly so. Maybe you have that problem, too.

Today, let's try to respond to those around us like Mamie does. With open hearts and happy expectation. Let's do what Jesus would do. Love. Help. Reach out.

This world is a dark and lonely place for many people. They're desperate for someone to love them, to introduce them to Jesus, the One who loves them most. We can be that one. If we will.

Look around for the most unhappy person you know and share some of your joy with them. Look for the most unloved person and share some of your love. Look for the most needy person and share some of your riches.

Be Jesus with skin on today.

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12 esv
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Being Tired and Going For a Ride 
The Clay Papers e-book is free through 6/8/16 so don't miss your chance to get it while it's free. You do not need a kindle to read it. There's a kindle app for your electronic devices. Here's the link: Clay Papers ebook
Hosea Chapter 6 Lesson is now available. You do not have to be signed up to access the material. 
#happypuppy #loveall #disciple #linesfromleanna

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Being Tired and Going for a Ride


My little blue storage house was a mess. The cabinet was in an awkward position and everything had been piled in the door with no organization at all. Finally, I came to the end of my patience with it and pulled everything out. I left the things I needed close at hand and moved the hydraulic fluid (in the wagon above) to the barn, near the tractor. It was a great reorganizing that required many trips to the barn, dragging my wagon along.

Maggie and Mamie made every step alongside me. For the first trip or two to the barn. It wasn't long before their little legs tired out. They sat down on their haunches, looked up at my with their tired dog-eyes, and begged for a ride. 

They love riding in the wagon, especially if I go fast, so I loaded them and headed out. they rode until they were rested, then hopped out, and walked beside me again.

It was such a sensible solution that I took note of it. They worked until they were tired. Let me carry them until they were rested. Were hard at it again when they were refreshed.

I believe that's the way those of us who follow Christ should be. My tendency is to push on, no matter how tired I am. I've learned, however, that I can work in my garden past fatigue, but I'm not an efficient writer or editor if I'm tired. 

This whole business of resting and sleeping came to a head recently. I was getting up at 4 am and going to bed near midnight. Writing like a frenzy. Spending countless hours with Sam. Trying to get gardening and housework and yard work done in between. I was exhausted. A geyser of tears threatened just under the surface all the time. I needed rest.

I did what I always do. Prayed. Well, I whined to the Lord and called it prayer. "I'm so tired. What am I to do? Woe is me..." You might know about that kind of prayer yourself.

Early one morning, this verse slammed into me with the force of a bulldozer.

"It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep." Psalm 127:2 nasb

I'm kind of ashamed to admit this, but I read that verse and said, "Yeah. Right. I'm supposed to sleep late, go to bed early, and still get everything done. How's that gonna work, Lord?"

He clearly understood how tired I was, because that still small voice whispered in my heart. "No, dear. You're supposed to sleep when you're tired. Get up when you're rested. Do what I give you to do."

I knew that already, but I hadn't lived it for a while.

It stunned me. An overachiever like me? No alarm? No predawn mornings? No late nights? Still get all I had to do done?

I decided to give it a try. I turned off my alarm. Went to bed when I was tired. Woke up when I was rested. Sometimes that was before dawn. Sometimes it wasn't. I soon found that I felt better, but I couldn't get everything done.

"What's up with this?" I thought. The new plan wasn't working. I read the verse again and found the part about "painful labors". Maybe what God wanted was about more than sleep. 

I looked at the big garden I had planted and thought, "I hate this garden. I don't have time to do this, and the work is killing me." I prayed that God would forgive me if I was wrong, but I cleaned out the raised beds from last year, moved the healthiest plants from the garden to the raised beds, and semi-abandoned the big garden. It was too much.

My friend and I looked at the garden recently. "That garden looks rough, Leanna. You need some help?"

"Nope. God didn't tell me to do that garden. I just plunged ahead. I didn't know I'd be writing Hosea when I started. It's a reminder to ask first before I tackle such a big thing."

I'm happy to report that even my abandoned garden is producing enough vegetables for English peas and green beans for supper. The squash and zucchini are blooming like crazy, and the corn is higher than the weeds. It's God's garden now. He can do what He wants to with it.

The raised beds are beautiful. Tomatoes. Cantaloupe. Watermelon. Brussels sprouts. Onions. Lavender. Rosemary. Dill. Butterfly bushes. The fragrance is lovely. 

The raised-bed-garden is just big enough to enjoy and to produce the vegetables I most enjoy. The work is not too much for me, and doing it is a joy.

I'm rested again.

I can write again.

God gives to me even in my sleep.

Are you tired? Does it seem as if you're never done? Maybe you should take a lesson from Maggie and Mamie. (and Jesus) Rest when you're tired. Work when you're refreshed. And only do the jobs God's given to you.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, 
and I will give you rest." 
Matthew 11:28 nasb

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The Hosea chapter Six lesson is now live and here's the link: Hosea Chapter Six 
You don't have to be signed-up for the study to access the chapter lessons. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Tambourine Girl

#rest #Sabbathrest #disciple #linesfromleanna