Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Deli Meat Special

One afternoon earlier this week, I had another experience with directions. I was in line behind several people waiting to have meat and cheese cut at the deli. Somehow, the lady in front of me realized that she could get a full pound of meat and a 1/2 pound of cheese for $9.00 This was an especially good deal, because the roast beef she had ordered was $9.98/lb. For less than she was paying for the meat, she could get the meat plus cheese.

It seemed like a crazy kind of deal. 

There was a catch, of course.

You only got the deal if you told the lady cutting the meat that you wanted it.

She wanted it. 

I listened to the last part of the exchange. It was clear something interesting had happened. The lady turned to me and said, "Did you hear that? I'm getting a pound of meat and a half-pound of cheese for less than I was about to pay for my roast beef. You might want this deal, too." 

She was right. When it was my turn, I requested the meat-cheese deal.

While I waited, I told the two ladies who had just arrived behind me. They wanted the deal, too.

"I'll have what you're having," one lady told me. "I'm glad you told me, but how were we supposed to know about this deal?"

I pointed to the sign on the counter. In bold letters, it declared, "Any one pound of meat plus 1/2 pound of cheese for $9.00."

She looked back at me. "Well, duh."


I read the sign again and had church, right there at the deli while the lady behind the counter sliced my Cajun turkey.

Just as those of us in line obtained the "deal" only by asking the lady for it, so we attain the righteousness of God by accepting the "deal" He offers through Jesus Christ. It is by His blood that we are made clean, but only when we accept His sacrifice for us. 

We learn of this great "offer" in one of two ways. Someone who's accepted Christ tells us, or we read about it in God's Word. 

I had to step a little closer to read the sign, so I would have missed the deli offer if the lady in front of me hadn't told me about it. The ladies in line behind me, would have missed it if I had kept silent. 

As I stood there, watching the slicing, I pondered how quickly we shared the $9 special. None of us hesitated to share it with the people around us.

If we are that excited about a deli special, shouldn't we also be excited and eager to share the "Calvary special" of forgiveness and eternal life for the price of repentance and humility?

Today, let's share our redemption in Jesus with all the enthusiasm we usually reserve for a two-for-one sale.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ is coming again. 

The price for our sins has already been paid, but only if we ask. It's good news. Let's share it with enthusiasm.

"for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. 

How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? and shall shall they hear without a preacher? 

And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!'" 
Romans 10:13-15 nasb

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Importance of Understanding the Directions
#delispecial #Jesus #goodnews 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Importance of Understanding the Directions

I've been on a quest to restore the manicured look to my yard for the last week, but it's a losing proposition. To be perfectly honest, I've never actually achieved the manicured look. At best, I've had the barely-tamed look. Lately, though, the weeds and vines have been winning.

The holly tree, located in a ridiculous spot between two lovely oak trees, has always been an irritation to me. It's a fast-grower and obscures the view of the lake when it gets above shoulder height. Pruning is a constant challenge. If you get close enough to prune it, the leaves scratch you to shreds.

I decided the problem called for a Yard-Helper. Yesterday afternoon, I accompanied Yard Helper, complete with long pruning clippers, to the holly tree. 

I'm not saying that I'm a perfect direction-giver, but I have spent most of three decades giving doctors' orders. In a manner of speaking, I've made a career of giving directions.

Yesterday, however, you couldn't have told it by the results.

"This holly tree is too tall, and I can't see the lake. I don't want it any higher than your shoulder." To make the instructions perfectly clear, I put a hand at Yard-Helper's shoulder. "Right here. No higher. Trim these limbs as much as you need to, but I don't want anything above here."

Yard-Helper trimmed the holly tree. He worked for hours, and was so proud of the results. There was an enormous pile of limbs on the ground, which you may be able to see from the picture. It will take a pickup to carry them away.

When I went to inspect his work, I was momentarily speechless. He had trimmed as many limbs as he could, but had trimmed nothing above his shoulder level.

I now have a lollipop holly bush. It still obscures the view of the lake. 

Today, I'm getting out the chain saw.

The problem was not so much in the directions (although I'm willing to admit that the last few words might have been unclear...) The problem was in the listening. Yard-Helper assumed he already knew what I wanted from the start. 

"I'm gonna trim it back so you can see through the branches."

"No. I want it cut way back. Nothing above shoulder height."

The results of our failure to communicate are disheartening. As I stared at the lollipop holly, I wondered if God has as much trouble communicating with me. It didn't take long to know the answer to that question. Yes, unfortunately, He does.

My problem is the same one Yard-Helper has. I've usually already made a plan of my own.

As it turns out, God doesn't need my plan. He wants His own, because it's always better. His plans are designed to accomplish His purposes while helping me to become more like Him. 

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 nasb

It's only when I want His will more than mine that I can begin to be the disciple He intended. This requires the kind of surrender Jesus demonstrated at Gethsemane. 

Thy will be done, all-in, no holding back, surrender.

That kind of surrender doesn't just happen. For me, it begins by being quiet and listening for that still, small Voice. Checking it against Scripture. Once I know God's will, the right thing to do would be to instantly obey.

I wish I always did that, but I don't. I struggle with the plan. Agonize over it. Try to determine the outcome at the start. The problem, of course, is that God's will is always best, but it doesn't always look like it at the time. 

Loving my neighbor as myself sounds great in theory, but it's not quite as attractive when God asks me to love a neighbor who's antagonistic to me. Love a neighbor by giving more than I want to give. Love a neighbor by sacrificing me-time for their needs. 

When I try to adapt His plan to my will, it never turns out the way it should. 

Maybe you have that problem, too.

Today, I'm reminding myself of Jeremiah 29:11 and that silly-looking holly tree. God has a perfect plan, and it benefits me more than I will ever understand. Even when I can't see how it will work out.

My job isn't to give the directions. My job is to follow His.

So let's follow. Let's love God the most today, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. If we manage that, we'll have made a good start.
In case you missed it, here's a link to yesterday's post: A Merry Heart is Good Medicine

#disciple #obedience #pruningholly

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Merry Heart is Good Medicine

The email in my inbox was titled, "The Dangers of Not Smiling". It was an odd title for an email from a shoe company, so I opened it. The title made reference to a Scientific American article about the benefits of smiling. 

As it turns out, when we frown, it triggers a series of chemical reactions in our body that makes us feel bad. (That's an extremely simplified version of the biochemistry involved.) 

When we smile, it makes us feel better.

What caught my eye is that, when people saw something disgusting, but held a pen in their mouths so that they couldn't make a disgusted expression, they felt less disgust. 

What we do affects how we feel, including what we do with our faces.

No matter how bad our circumstances are, when we smile, it gives our hearts a little lift. 

Today, let's smile. Regardless of how our bodies feel. Regardless of our circumstances. Regardless of the sorrow and distress flooding our world.

Just smile. 

Before you know it, you'll feel better, too.

"A joyful heart is good medicine..." Proverbs 17:22 esv

In case you missed it, here are the links to the Orlando series:
#smile #merryheart #joy #disciple

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

After Orlando: Gratitude

As I begin to write this pre-dawn morning, I'm propped up in bed, pillows behind my back, looking out the French doors at the lake. Two sweet but sassy little dogs are snoring beside me. It's already a gorgeous day. 

My son is coming home for a visit in three days and I'm ecstatic.

Today, I'll write, finish a continuing education course, and prepare for Ryan's arrival. Sam and I'll drink coffee on the screened porch, feed fish, walk the dogs, work in the garden.

It'll be a good day here, and I'm deeply grateful.

In Orlando, however, there aren't any good days yet. The families of 49 victims prepare for funerals they never expected. Families and friends of the wounded wait anxiously for them to recover. 

City officials are still reeling, too. They've set up a Family Assistance Center, offering help with everything from translation services to funeral services. 

Citizens are still stunned, horrified by the events that unfolded in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The news agencies are still running follow-up stories on the Orlando tragedy, but they'll soon turn to the next crisis. We'll go back to our lives and the attention focused on Orlando will die down. We've been trained by our constant barrage of news and information to move from one crisis to the next. 

This time, I want to linger here a bit. Focus my attention on those who remain to deal with the aftermath of Orlando. Continue to pray for them as they deal with the unthinkable. 

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Today, as we're enjoying our morning coffee, laughing with friends, loving our families, let's savor every precious moment, for circumstances can change in the blink of an eye. 

Let's move a little closer together as Americans, as the body of Christ, as family and friends. Cherish each other and celebrate our faith together.

Most of all, let's thank God for the blessings He gave in the midst of the tragedy. The lives that were spared. The policemen who rushed in, despite the danger. The outpouring of support for the victims and their families.

We serve a good God who, even on the darkest days, can bring light into the most hopeless of situations. Even in the deepest sorrow, He can bring comfort and peace. I'm praying He does that for the people of Orlando. 

I recognize that, even now, not all the sorrow is located in Orlando. There are people around us every day who are suffering in ways we can't even imagine. Let's allow this tragedy to open our eyes to the pain in our midst, to help us reach out to each other, to love and serve our fellow man. 

Let's pray this tragedy will be used by God to make us better, more like Him. More loving. More kind. More humble. More gentle.

Pray for and reach out to those who suffer. No matter where they are.

"This is My commandment, 
that you love one another as I have loved you..." 
John 15:12

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

In case you missed it, here are the links to After Orlando and After Orlando: Lowering the Flag

#orlando #burdenbearer #disciple

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

After Orlando: Lowering the Flag

After the gunman shot, killed, and wounded so many Americans in Orlando Sunday, the President and Governor ordered the flags to be flow at half-staff. I'm not usually the one who lowers the flag, but this time, I volunteered to do it. 

It turned out to be one of the most sorrowful tasks I've ever had to perform.

Half-staff means the American flag is lowered, traditionally to the half-way point of the staff, or flag pole. (Half-mast, though in common use, is a term reserved for shipboard flags.) 

To position the flag at half-staff, it must first be raised quickly to the highest position, then lowered slowly. It's to be saluted while being raised or lowered. 

The flag was already at the top of the pole, so I lowered it. It's hard to lower the flag and salute it at the same time, so I saluted in my heart. 

Tears trickled down my face as I adjusted the flag and thought about my fellow Americans who had died in the attack in Orlando. Many of them were the age of my son. 

There are mothers and fathers whose hearts are broken, almost beyond repair. There are sisters and brothers who can never regain what was taken from them. All in the name of hate and evil. I can hardly bear it. 

We've lost more than those fifty people who died, more than those 53 who were injured. We've lost the joy and hope of all those who loved them. They may regain their joy at some point, but it will not be today. Nor for many days to come.

I wept for them all.

Because the Mississippi flag flies under the American flag, there's a big expanse of flag fabric, and it covers a significant part of the pole. I lowered the flags, secured the rope, and stepped back. It looked nice, but it wasn't right. 

I adjusted the position of the flags, secured it again. Changed it again.

The last time, I realized the problem. I raised the flag to the top, slowly lowered it until the Mississippi flag approached (but didn't touch) the ground, and raised it up just a bit. The American flag was at half-staff. Maybe a little below it.

I stepped back and saluted. I knew it looked low, but I left it. If you see our flag, it might catch your attention because of its position on the pole. 

I left it there, on behalf of the American people, as a symbol of humility and deep sorrow. 

It's not the first time we've had to lower the flag in the last few years. It won't be the last. 

We've had a terrorist attack on American soil. Again. Yes, it was a hate-crime, but it was also a terrorist attack. The cover of protection we've enjoyed for more than two centuries is gone. 

I'm not sure we'll ever get it back.

I know one thing for certain, though. If we want to enjoy the favor of God again, we have to make some changes. 

Now is the time to put aside our stubborn pride and humble ourselves before Almighty God. 

We need more than congressmen and women singing "God Bless America" on the steps of the Capital building. We need to, individually and corporately, get on our faces before God and repent of our godlessness. We need to return to Him and His ways.

We need to stop trusting in our own ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and trust the One who has provided every good and perfect gift that has come our way.

We need to stop chasing the American Dream and start chasing the Will of God and His plans. 

My fellow Americans, we cannot continue as we are, for evil is rampant. Our leaders lie with impunity and grasp at power as if it could sustain them when hard times come. It cannot.

There is no blessing on evil.

There is no blessing on hate.

The blessings of God are given as He desires. What He wants is a relationship with His people and righteousness in them. We're a long way from that now.

If our great nation is to be saved, we must turn back toward God. We must humble ourselves, turn from our wicked ways, seek God's face. 

As I stood before that half-staff flag and wept, I realized the flag was in a position of humility, but I'm afraid our hearts are not. 

I have made a start at my own problem of repentance and humility, of besieging heaven on behalf of our nation, but I cannot do it alone. And I don't have to. Men and women across this country have felt the same call I have felt. And they, too, have responded with tears and repentance and a renewed sense of humility and fervor. They, too, are praying for our nation.

In the name of Jesus, please join us in prayer for our nation. Let us humble ourselves together. I fear we are headed in a deadly direction, and destruction will come. It will not be pretty.

We must mourn with those who mourn. We must weep with those who weep. But when the mourning and weeping are done, we must rise up with humility and repentance. 
Here's the link to yesterday's post: After Orlando

#Orlando #714 #pray #linesfromleanna

Monday, June 13, 2016

After Orlando

The Nigerian Schoolgirls. The deadly attacks in Paris. The terrorist attacks in Brussels. There's been horror upon horror. Terror upon terror

I'm sorry to say that I was so horrified after I heard the news, I couldn't find the words to respond to this latest atrocity. I'm still reeling.

This time, the horror is closer to home. A nightclub in downtown Orlando. Sunday, (June 12, 2016) an evil, hate-filled man shot and murdered 50 people and left 53 more injured.

It may or may not have been done in the name of religion, but it was definitely done in the name of hate. Of evil. Those two are running rampant these days. 

Dear God, help us.

I have something to say, and it's time to listen up, hate-mongers. 

If your god tells you to slaughter people in the name of religion, or that it's okay someone else did, you need another god.

If yours is a god of hate, you need another god. 

If your god tells you people should be exterminated because they are different from you, you need another god.

If the evil done in Orlando yesterday looks like a victory to you, you have a serious problem. Only my God can change you, because your god is surely not sufficient.

So, hate-mongers, you need to meet Jesus, and I'm praying you do. Because He didn't kill a single sinner when He was here on earth. Instead, He died to save us all. He rose again. He reigns in Heaven. He's coming back one day.

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

When Jesus was here on earth, He was big on righteousness and long on grace. He loved sinners and He spent a lot of time with them. Because every single person on the earth was a sinner, except Him. 

Jesus loved them just as they were, and He offered them the chance to follow Him and become more like Him. And He still does. Lots of sinners have taken that offer. Including me. And we've changed to be more like Him, although I, personally, have a long way to go.  

Jesus is nothing if not persistent about righteousness. No matter what your personal favorite sin, Jesus will press you to change, especially if you're a hate-monger. It might be hard, but it's always worth it. I've learned that from experience.

I know a lot of people in the LGBT community. And I love them. I don't love them because they're gay. I love them because they are people made in the image of God. Just like I am. And every one of those people is loved by God. 

I know a lot of people who are not in the LGBT community. I love them, too. I don't love them because they're not gay. I love them because they are people made in the image of God. Just like I am. And every one of those people is loved by God, too. 

To the Orlando LGBT community, and to those in Orlando who are not in the LGBT community, I'm sorry about what happened in your city. I'm sorry about those who died. About those who were injured. I'm sorry for the friends and family members who are grieving.

I can't go to Orlando and offer a hug or a blanket or hope to the people who've lost so much, but I want you to know that I care, whether you're different from me in some way or not. 

I'm praying for you. 

There are people who worship hate and delight in evil, but they are not Jesus' people. He is the One who is "not willing for any to perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 esv)

If I could, I would show you the love of Jesus, but I'm here and you're there. So let me tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much. He longs to help you. To mourn with you. To comfort you and carry you through. To quiet your fears and fill your heart with hope. 

He's done that for me, and He'll do all that and more for you, if you'll let Him.

I pray that the body of Christ will act as the hands and feet of Jesus to show you just how much He cares. I pray they will shine the light of Jesus into your darkest hour of fear and grief, and you will see that the light is love, not hate. 

Jesus loves you, Orlando. Jesus loves you, hurting people. And this sinner-woman does, too.

Believers, there's only one way to change our sin-riddled country. 

"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 will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 nasb

I've updated The Prayer List. It's now the featured blog post. Pray, brothers and sisters. A nation depends upon it.

#Orlando #ISIS #Muslim #hate #PrayforOrlando
If you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Return of the Rooster and the Resurrected Jesus 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Return of the Rooster and the Resurrected Jesus

The hay ride for Sam was not the only surprise I had late Friday afternoon. (Very Surprising Day) After we returned to the barn, I had the biggest surprise of all. 

A rooster was crowing in the chicken coop.

As you may remember, a hawk killed all of my roosters. (Over in An Instant) I found two big piles of feathers, both matching my missing roosters. There was a third pile of feathers that wasn't as big, but big enough to suggest a fatality. 

No roosters + big piles of feathers = dead roosters.

I counted the chickens Thursday night. Seven hens. No roosters. When I wrote about the missing roosters, there were still seven hens. No roosters.

Friday afternoon, I went to investigate the crowing. There, in all his glory, was the rooster that had hatched from an egg in my barn. (RIP Fred and Ricky) 

Once known as Rooster, his new name is Lazarus.

I don't know where he was when I was counting, but he is definitely in the coop now. Maybe he was hiding in fear of the hawk. Maybe he was sulking in the corner. Regardless, he's back, and I am the most surprised of all about it.

I renamed him in honor of Mary and Martha' brother, Lazarus, who was Jesus' friend. You probably remember this story. (Here's the Leanna Paraphrase)

Lazarus was sick, and his sisters were distraught. They knew he was about to die, so they sent for Jesus. 

"Come quick," they said. He was sad about His sick friend, but Jesus didn't come quick. 

Lazarus died. 

What no one knew was that Jesus didn't come quick because He had a wonderful surprise. 

When He arrived at their house, everyone was wailing and crying. They were all mad at Jesus. 

"Where were you when we needed you?" They didn't even want to talk to Him. 

That didn't bother Jesus. He knew about the surprise. He walked over to the tomb where his dead friend had been buried for days. 

"Come on out, Lazarus," Jesus called.

The people probably looked at each other and rolled their eyes. "Yeah, right." 

All of a sudden, a mummy came stumbling out of the tomb. 

"It's Lazarus!" It wasn't a mummy after all. He was just wrapped up in grave clothes and couldn't get out. The people raced to him, unrolled him from the burial wrappings, and celebrated! 

Lazarus was alive! 

There were probably many reasons Jesus waited to spring His big surprise on Martha and Mary (and Lazarus), but I think he had one main reason.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. He knew He would be crucified, buried, and rise again. He knew the resurrection would be hard to believe. 

If His followers had seen someone rise from the dead before, though, it might be easier. Jesus knew that the great joy of Lazarus' return from the dead would make up for the few days of grief his sisters had endured. So He did it. He waited until Lazarus was dead, raised him, and imbedded a memory in the minds of His followers. 

When they heard that Jesus had died, they wouldn't panic. They could remember Lazarus and hope. When they heard that Jesus had risen, they wouldn't be skeptical. They'd remember Lazarus and think, "Oh, yeah. I've seen Him do that before." It would help them believe. It would blunt their grief. It would ease their confusion.

He did it because He loved His friends and followers, and He knew His death would be hard. It was a complicated technique, but Jesus eased their pain, in advance, the best way possible. By showing them it was possible.

I saw that rooster (who didn't get raised from the dead, but was just hidden) and thought about Jesus. He showed us that He was able to do what must be done. He conquered sin and death, and He is still in the conquering, cleansing business.

Jesus has gotten lots of bad press in recent years, but He's still as nice, as victorious, as powerful as ever. 

The One who raised Lazarus from the grave can still change the course of a bungled life. 

He can still bring joy from sorrow. 

He can still bring victory from defeat. 

He can still handle problems and concerns as big as yours and mine.

Today, let's take our eyes off the worries of life and put them on the One who can handle it all. 

Cry out to Him for He is able.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die..." John 11:25-26 nasb

P.S. - I had another surprise. My friend, Pat, has found me a new, young Americauna rooster! I'm about to have a very excellent addition to my chicken coop. Two good things have come from my one big sorrow. Thank You, Jesus and Your helper, Pat. 
If you missed the stories the last two days, the links are embedded in the text. Just click on them.
#resurrection #Jesus #roosters #surprise #linesfromleanna