Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Fence Repair Adventure

Friday night, Ryan and I talked about the best way to protect the horses during the upcoming frigid temperatures. 

"You should move them to the pasture behind the barn. It would be easy to get them in and out of the stalls, and they could shelter under the overhang by the back door during the day," Ryan suggested.

"Yeah...but the fence isn't great," I countered.

"Can't we fix it before I leave tomorrow?" he asked.

Yes, we could, I realized. Yesterday, we gathered our supplies and headed out. Ryan started on the first section and suggested I make a survey of the entire fence. 

Big branches had knocked the barbed wire down in two sections. There were a few areas with broken wire. Mostly, though, the wire needed to be tightened and post clips needed to be added. 

In one area, Sam had used sticks of cane to secure the wire instead of metal posts. It was a dementia-driven decision, and it hadn't worked well. We needed to replace the cane with proper posts. I wasn't sure about all the wire, but I thought we could fix it.

I replaced clips while Ryan patched. Once the clips were complete, we worked together to move a big branch off the fence. 

We worked straight through lunch. I was tired, hungry, and cranky. Ryan was his usual sweet self, but he finally put down his tools and stretched. "I'm tired and I need to get on the road."

My heart sank. He was leaving me to finish the fence? I blinked back tears. "You're leaving?"

"Mama, I need to go home before the bad weather comes. They're talking about an icy mix. I don't want to drive in that if I don't have to, and it'll be late when I get to Atlanta if I leave now. You know how to do this, and we've already done the worst part. We're nearly finished." 

I picked up my tools, blinked back tears, and nodded. I knew he needed to go, but I didn't want to work alone. I was afraid. What if I couldn't finish? What if I couldn't do whatever needed to be done? What if I didn't know how?

My mama heart finally overrode my whiny-baby, scaredy-cat heart. "You're right. I don't want you on the road in bad weather, either. I'll keep working. I can do this." We hugged and Ryan headed to the house to get his car packed.

I trudged my way around the fence, repaired what needed repair and patched what needed patching. For the first few minutes, I whined and cried to the Lord. Finally, I ran down and worked silently for a while. 

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," came to my mind. I laughed out loud. 

"Lord, You need to strengthen me for this next part, because it's a mess and I'm not sure I can sort it out." 

The "dementia fence" was bad. I sank to my knees, uncertain what to do. Finally, I noticed a single strand that went all the way across. It was sagging but I removed the cane "post" and managed to tighten the wire. Another wire was broken in one place, but was easily patched. Before long, I had three strands of wire stretched tight across the distance. 

I tackled the next few sections in the same manner. The wire was all together by the time I quit, but I ran out of light before I got the posts in place.

Every inch of my body ached. Literally. It was all I could do to make a sandwich, take a shower, and crawl in bed. My sense of accomplishment was immense. I'd tackled a hard thing and done it!

The fence isn't perfect. There are still some t-posts to place on Monday, but I know how to do that. Some wire needs to be replaced and new wooden posts are needed in a few sections, but it can wait until pretty weather. 

The horses have a second secure pasture again. I'm tired today, but it's a good tired. I couldn't have done it without Ryan's help, but he was right. I could finish it, and I did, all ten acres.

We can do ALL things through Christ, including the hardest things imaginable, because He strengthens us. 

Ponder that for a few moments.

It's an immense bit of truth that changes everything. There's nothing to which He calls us that we can't tackle, because we can count on His strength to accomplish the job. He can work through us, and He will, if we allow it.

I don't know what tasks God has planned for 2018, but I understand anew that anything is possible because Christ in us is more than enough. 

Anything is possible. Today, let's allow that truth to seep into our marrow and change our thinking. To what is God calling us? 

Does it seem too hard? Good. That's exactly the opportunity we need to allow Him to strengthen us, so let's say "yes" to whatever God suggests. 

He is able and, because of His power in us, we are, too.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 
If this post was helpful to you, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Facing a Storm and Remembering My Source of Strength and Help
photo courtesy of free

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Facing a Storm and Remembering My Source of Help and Strength

When Sam died in early November, I knew the coming days would be different, and dreaded the first holidays. He'd been a part of every celebration and had joined my family for coffee and a piece of pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving and Christmas since 1989. It was one of our traditions.

This year, we skipped the pie. Ryan and I ate chocolate cake, and drank milk with our dessert instead of coffee. We didn't want to erase the previous years, but we needed to make fresh memories, and we did. 

Our ears still listened for Sam's footsteps on the stoop, but we treasured the reminiscences and talked about the good times. Being without Sam wasn't as hard as I'd expected because the memories are sweet.

I dreaded the first winter and the first cold snap with single digit temperatures, too. I wasn't sure I could manage all the farm work and preventive maintenance without him. As it's turned out, I learned more from Sam than I realized, and, so far, I've handled every challenge. 

Although I've had livestock for nearly thirty years, I've never taken care of "everything" without either Sam or Ryan. Even last year, as his health failed, Sam participated in as much as he could.

I've missed the strong arms that lifted bags of feed out of the truck, carried hay bales, shepherded horses. I've missed Sam as resource to answer questions and reassure me of my competence. For the last eight days, Ryan's been home, and he's done the heavy lifting. Today, he'll return to Atlanta and his routine and I'll be on my own again. 

Single digit temperatures are almost here and the horses will need extra care. For a few minutes last night, panic threatened and soft grief was nearly overshadowed by hard, gripping fear. 

What if the water lines froze? 

What if the horses don't cooperate with the plan? 

What if ... 

I imagined all the possible problems, but I couldn't see many potential solutions. I prayed and pondered, but I still fretted.

Ryan just smiled and hugged me. "You'll be fine, Mama. We'll get it all set up before I leave." 

I awakened early today. Last night's concerns threatened again. This morning, however, I remembered two verses I learned as a child:

"What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." Psalm 56:3 kjv

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 nasb

Duh. If God is with me, and He is, why should I fear? If He will give me all the wisdom I need, and, according to James 1:5, He will, why should I fret? It's time to trade fretting for faith and fear for courage. 

This morning, that's exactly what I've done. I've stopped rehearsing my fear and started embracing the wisdom and help that's promised. I've remembered my resources and the One who's provided them all. I've chosen trust and faith.

Regardless of the circumstances that come our way, we don't face them alone. We don't have to manufacture solutions. Our God stands ready to help, so let's be sure to put our trust where we say our faith is. 

Today, Ryan and I will make our morning trek to the barn, as always. We'll check our supplies, pick up anything that's needed from the farm store, and go about our routine. Before we're done, we'll be ready for the weather to come. It won't be because I'm competent for the challenge. It'll be because God can handle whatever comes our way, including single-digit weather. 

He is able. Especially in a storm. 

If this post was helpful to you, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Intentionality: Changing Wanna Be into Got'er Done

New website coming soon, with easy access to both new and established blogs. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Intentionality: Changing Wanna Be into Got'er Done

My word for 2018 is INTENTIONAL. It's my first-ever "word of the year," and there's good reason for my choice. Stated goals are great, but they'll never be achieved without an intentional effort to reach them. describes intentional as something "done with intention or on purpose." An intentional act is a deliberate one done with a specific goal in mind. 

The last two years of caregiving took quite a toll on my lifestyle, including diet and exercise. I gained more than 20 pounds. That wasn't the fault of the care-receiver, of course, but cooking one meal was easier than separate meals for each of us. After a while, I cooked what Sam would eat and ate that, too. I realized at the time it was a bad idea, but I wasn't deliberate about making a better choice. 

In 2018, I want to be intentional about healthy diet and exercise choices, with the hope that weight loss will follow. Those twenty extra pounds have to go, plus a few more.

Over the last year, I did what had to be done. Time with family and friends, as well as recreation, took a back seat. It was a precious time and I'm grateful for it, but it was also lonely and hard. As in all caregiving, breaks were few and far between.

In 2018, I hope to be intentional about rest, recreation, and (most important) relationships. 

Because I need the accountability, I'll start blogging after the New Year about everything from recipes and healthy living to travel, leisure, and fun. Well, I'll begin as soon as I have a new name for my lifestyle blog. My first five choices were already taken, so feel free to make a suggestion.

The lifestyle blog will be weekly, but Lines from Leanna will continue as a daily faith-based blog. Faith won't be emphasized, but it will underscore everything in the new blog, as well, because faith infuses every area of my life. Isn't that what discipleship mandates?

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the importance of intentionality in matters of discipleship, as well. Do we want a closer relationship with Christ in 2018? Do we want to see God's Hand at work in our lives? To follow His leadership? To embrace His peace, love, joy? If so, we must deliberately choose a walk of faith that includes daily quiet time, Bible study, Scripture memory, and active efforts at forgiveness and love. 

Today, let's take a close look at our lives and the areas we hope will be different in 2018. Have our changes failed to be effective, or have we effectively failed to change? Intentionality is the key that turns "wannabe" into "got'er done." Feel free to adopt my word (intentional) as your own. 

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all the things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:33 nasb
If this post was helpful to you, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: How to Set Goals You Can Achieve in the New Year

New website coming soon, with easy access to both new and established blogs. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

How to Set Goals You Can Achieve in the New Year

No matter our age or economic status, we can have a better, more Christ-filled, 2018 than the year just past. Change doesn't come by chance, however, but by choice. If we want greater accomplishment for the Kingdom of God, we must make a plan and stick with it.

People often ask how I "do so much." The answer is simple. I pray about my schedule, prayerfully make a plan, and diligently follow it. There are plenty of "efficiency experts" willing to teach the "how" of organization, but, today, I'm sharing my own personal technique. 

I use a "paper" planner on a daily basis, always with two-page Month-at-a-Glance pages, as well as separate pages for each day. I keep a small sticky-note pad and a pencil in the planner for quick notes and updates. (The pencil allows erasures rather than strike-throughs.)

Everything goes in the planner, including grocery lists, things to do, scheduled meetings and events, and actions I want to be sure to accomplish. Call a friend, mail a letter, even things to ponder go on the calendar. It takes less than five minutes every day, but it yields big rewards over the course of the year.

The planner I used in 2018 was soft-bound and easy to carry. Unfortunately, they aren't available this year, so I've gone back to a brand-name planner/organizer. It's bulky and inconvenient, but has the tools I need. 

I chose to sacrifice the comfort of size for the convenience of tools.

A detailed planner allows me to review the past months and accomplishments, consider changes, and make new plans as I go along. If you don't have one, invest a few dollars in an organization tool that will help you all year long. 

I used my 2017 planner to identify areas on which I'll focus in 2018. First, my digital outreach faltered during the last half of the year. The demands of caregiving were unrelenting, and left little time for social media management or digital expansion efforts. This area is a prime focus for me in early 2018. 

Caregiving also made intense attention to my fiction manuscript nearly impossible because of the constant demands. This year, I'll finish long-overdue edits and fine-tune the story. Because of time constraints, this goes to the top of my to-do list. 

Digital outreach is a significant part of my ministry effort, and fiction is (I hope) a potential revenue source to help fund ministry. (I am peer-to-peer funded, and have to raise all my own support.) These two areas may not sound very "missional," but they make my ministry possible, and are in need of significant attention.

Once I identified my top three concerns for 2018, (ministry, fiction, digital outreach) I considered goals and actions to be completed in order to move from where I am to where I want to be. 


1. Expand digital outreach 
2. Use experiences in Middle East to minster to Middle Easterners living in U.S.
3. Expand prayer ministry and coverage for missionaries 

   - New website should go live in the next few weeks. It will be a one-stop
     experience, and include blogs, e-courses, prayer calendar, upcoming events,
     and opportunities for participation and service. (There'll be a big learning  
     curve for me, but it'll be worth it.)
   - At least one major event for women, in addition to those already scheduled.
   - Renew acquaintances in the Arabic community. 
   - Connect with new Arabic pastor when he arrives and discuss ways to help.
   - Include Global Outreach board members in daily prayer lists.
   - Increase efforts at virtual prayer walks. 

1. Publication of first novel.
2. Monetize writing through blogging.

   - Complete edits on my first novel.
   - Prepare a proposal for my manuscript and turn in to agent.
   - Expand my knowledge about writing and blogging by attending conferences 
      and taking courses online.
   - Start a new blog designed around healthy, fun living with intentional profit-
     making efforts. (ads, affiliate links, etc)

I also include personal and family life in the goals and actions program, as well as the other areas of my daily life. 

If you take a close look, you'll see that my actions include those that can be accomplished quickly (include board members in daily prayer) and those that will require most of a year to accomplish (a major event for women). 

As I tackle each major action, I'll make in-depth to-do lists. For example, to accomplish the edits on my first novel, I'll first need to review my "technique" books, and study two new books on writing. Then, I'll set aside time to work from home, block out my schedule (no meetings or speaking) and write. Each day will have goals and actions of its own.

Not everyone has the same "life areas" as mine. Perhaps your "areas" are Christian discipleship, family, and organization/ clutter-control at home. Write them down, set goals, make lists of actions to be done in each area. 

Use the goals and actions you've listed to make a "to-do" list and schedule it in your planner. Make them realistic. Volunteer with one ministry for a few hours a few times a month rather than overextending. Start small and work toward more. (We can always use help at Global Outreach.) Clean out and organize one drawer a day, in addition to all else you do, rather than try to do an entire room. 

Once you've made your to-do list, get started. Check off each action as you accomplish it, and carry anything undone to the next day. 

Do you want 2018 to look exactly like 2017 or would you like to accomplish more, make a bigger difference in the world, be more like Christ in December than you are in January? If we want a different year, the time to chose it is now.

What's your goal for 2018? What actions will you take? 

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." Proverbs 16:3 niv
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Choosing Our Legacy: Why a Look Back at 2017 Matters for 2018

New website coming soon, with easy access to blog posts. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Choosing Our Legacy: Why a Look Back at 2017 Matters for 2018

A few years ago, I started a new tradition of an annual belated Christmas letter. I meant to write it yesterday, but Ryan and I were having too much fun to stop. This morning, I've paused long enough to look over the past year, remember the good things, learn from the hard, and look ahead to 2018.

2017 was a good, but kick-in-the-gut hard, year. 

One of my most important tasks was caregiving.

Sam (my beloved employee, neighbor, and friend) grew increasingly frail and moved out of his home of 60 years into mine. I worked from home to care for him. The most difficult thing I've ever done was stay in place 6,500 miles away as his body failed us. I'm grateful I could be back home with him at the end.

I learned how the body of Christ is supposed to function.  

Caregiving was one of the hardest tasks I've ever done, and would've been impossible if not for the incredible help of the body of Christ. Friends from a variety of denominations and communities helped in sacrificial ways. We worked, wept, grieved, and rejoiced together, just as Christ said we would, and it was beautiful.

Ministry began to feel like home.

Decades of medical practice were an odd preparation for a prayer-and-outreach missionary, but I began to find my rhythm. For years, my contacts on LinkedIn endorsed me as an event planner. Their endorsement didn't make sense to me, until this year. Four Whisper Gatherings, a Blessing Bag party, and a Jordan brunch later, I've begun to understand. 

I love big-impact events, as well as small, intimate ones.

I stopped apologizing for being a writer and a blogger.

For the first time ever, I said these words, "I'm not through writing this morning, so I'll be later coming to the office." They made sense to me but, to my surprise, they made sense to everyone else, too. I started describing myself as a writer, even before I signed with a literary agency and won a national writing competition.

I stopped apologizing for down time and rest.

There's a time to work and a time to rest. The long stretch of caregiving nearly defeated me until I learned to find rest where I could. A friend came to my house many Sunday afternoons and taught me a skill I'd long needed. She'd declare a two-hour moratorium on care-taking. We spent the time chatting, laughing, painting rocks, and having fun. Even Sam knew how important those few minutes were, and encouraged them. My friend trained me to snatch rest in a way mere words never could. 

Because of caregiving, I didn't have as much time with friends and family as I wanted, but I'm making up for lost time now.

My son, Ryan, had less mama-guidance through the hard loss of this past year, but he loved well and grieved well. While I was in the Middle East, Ryan took time off work to spend with Sam, and I was never more proud. Ryan dressed him, fed him, laughed and reminisced with him. He stuck it out, even when Sam was too drowsy to respond. The eulogy Ryan gave at the memorial service was full of wisdom and respect for the man who helped me raise my boy.

I saw persecution because of Christ up close for the first time. 

"We've counted the cost..." Two people I love looked persecution in it's ugly face and chose continued obedience to the call of God. They're now preparing to flee for their lives because of that choice. 

I'm more concerned about the persecuted church than ever before, partly because I believe our turn is coming. I'll be more involved in this area in 2018 than ever before and, probably, more involved with the refugees in our area.

The love lavished on Sam (and others) was more important than the list of accomplishments, even though that list was long. 

The first prayer retreat, then the first Whisper Gathering, were followed by three more Gatherings abroad. Hundreds of blog posts were rewarded with hundreds of thousands of views. I started learning a new language, spent more than six weeks in the Middle East, embraced a new culture, spoke countless times, and served hundreds of Saturday lunches to the homeless and needy. More than 500 blessing bags were packed and distributed by Outreach Ministry volunteers. Daily prayer and emails for missionaries continued. While I was working from home, I wrote a daily "update" and prayer email for my co-workers at Home Office. 

None of my accomplishments would've mattered if I'd failed to love my neighbor as my self. 

Loving God and loving others are the two laws Jesus considered most important, and they should be most important to me, as well. This past year, they were. I wasn't perfect at loving, but I tried hard and repented when I failed.

Hindsight is a valuable tool, if used correctly. My 2017 was informed by the successes and failures of the years past. 2018 will be, too. A careful look back allows us to see our joys and our regrets more clearly, and plan accordingly. What activities and attitudes should we keep? Which should we remove?

Today, let's take a few minutes to consider the past year. Where were our successes, our failures? In what ways did we love God and our neighbor? How can we improve in 2018? 

Our days on earth are numbered, and considerably shorter than we realize. If our legacy in 2018 is to be different than 2017, we'll need to choose that difference from the start. How can we love more, forgive more, serve more? 

Set a goal, make a plan of action, and get started. Change the world, one act of love at a time.  

"But now abide faith, faith, hope, these three, but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13 nasb
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: What to Do with the Day After Christmas

New website coming soon, with opportunities to serve. 


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

What to Do with the Day After Christmas

After Christmas: Sales. Travel. Taking down. Putting away.

The week between Christmas and New Year's is an odd jumble of not-holiday, not-quite-regular days. I've never known what to do with them. 

When I grew up, we always took the tree down right after Christmas, so I'm usually ready to move on, to "get Christmas behind me." Today, I passed my tree on the way to the coffee pot with that phrase echoing in my head, as if Christmas was a bad cold from which I need to recover. 

The nativity of Jesus is not something we should "get over." It's the pivotal moment that split history into before and after. Jesus' arrival changed everything. It destroyed the ritual of sacrifice for sin, because Jesus became the permanent sacrifice. The Christ-filled manger brought God to us and provided a way to have God in us. The indwelling of the divine is not a condition from which we convalesce. It's persistent, pervasive, and permanent. 

The birth of the Christ child should have been so real to us yesterday that it changed our today. There's only one way for the reality of Jesus to remain as strong, as pertinent in our lives.

We must choose it.

Yesterday must inform today, and all the days after because Jesus in the manger wasn't passing through. He came to dwell with us.

Today, let's choose to live every day like we did yesterday - full of love, generosity, and service to others. Let's honor Christ with more than words, more than one festive day. Let's live like Christmas all year long. 

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 nasb
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: #23:The God Invasion That Changed Everything 

New website coming soon, with an all-new daily prayer calendar. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent 2017: The God-invasion That Changed Everything

Merry Christmas Eve!

Rise and shine came early this morning so I could finish some last-minute cooking before we head to my church's morning Christmas Eve service, then to Christmas with my family, and back to another Christmas Eve service. 

The house is quiet and I'm pondering what Mary and Joseph's Christmas Eve was like so many years ago. They didn't know it was Christmas Eve, of course. All they knew was they'd been traveling for days. They were probably tired of the journey and the crowds. Who wouldn't be?

The last few miles must have dragged on for what seemed like forever. 

As a first-time mother, Mary's labor probably took a while. If she delivered Jesus during the hours before midnight, contractions likely began well before the end of their travel. 

They were first-time parents with increasingly frequent contractions, still on the road, and, when they finally arrived in Bethlehem, no room in the inn. I wonder if Joseph panicked, if Mary was afraid, if they struggled not to complain or speak harsh words. I wonder if they were, instead, so certain of God's plan that peace filled their hearts. How did they pray?

When someone directed them to the stable-cave, they must have heaved a sigh of relief for the promise of shelter from the night and privacy for the delivery. When the baby came, did Joseph know what to do? Did he find someone to help him? 

We don't know those final details, but we know there was a long, tiring journey, a disappointing arrival, and a delivery of their first-borne in a most unlikely place. In a moment, though, God, wrapped in the flesh of an infant, invaded their world and everything changed. The Redemptive One drew so close, Mary and Joseph could feel His breath and kiss His cheek. 

Angels sang. A star shone bright. Shepherds rose to their feet and ran to find the newborn King. 

Emmanuel, God with us, had arrived. 

The Long Awaited Savior was here.

The dividing point of history, when man no longer had to work his way to God, because God had made His way to man, had finally come. 

That beautiful, world-changing moment is why we celebrate two thousand years later. It's why we rejoice, sing, give, love, and hope at Christmas time.

Christ has come. Life is made new.

As we celebrate around the table with friends and family, give and receive gifts, sing carols, and listen to the Christmas story one more time, let's be sure to remember the reason for our festivities. 

Welcome to our world, sweet Jesus. We're glad You came.

Merry Christmas!
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#22: The Savior Who Understands

New Website coming soon. You'll be able to choose opportunities to get involved and join in the fun!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Advent 2017 # 22: The Savior Who Understands

Flu's been going around our office. More accurately, it's a flu-like viral illness that makes you feel terrible, with a cough that sounds like you're hacking up your lung. I don't want to catch it.

This morning, I awakened at a ridiculous hour with sneezing and a stuffy nose. "Aww, Lord. I don't want to be sick at Christmas," I whined as I sneezed a few more times.

I couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to start the day early, and opened my Bible to Isaiah 53. I've literally read this passage every year for more than 20 years, but I didn't know it as well as I thought.

"A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief...Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried..." Isaiah 53:3,4 nasb

The word translated as "sorrows" actually means pains; the word translated as "grief" actually means disease or sickness.

Jesus carried our pain and sickness when He went to the cross. Long before we had the first twinge of discomfort or the first shiver of fever, Jesus already knew it, had already carried it. 

Nor even the sickness that seems too much to bear is new territory for Jesus. Neither flu, cancer, heart disease, Celiac sprue, or crazy middle-of-the night sneezing, is new to Him. He knows about it all. He's carried it. He's experienced it.

I can't understand this mystery, but my failure of comprehension doesn't make it any less real. 

He knows about feeling tired and sick, but having to keep going anyway. 

He knows about being so ill the doctors expect you die, and about the agonizing struggle to recover afterward. 

He knows about pain and feeling like you'll never be comfortable again.

He knows about seeing someone you love suffer as disease robs them of vitality and life.

No matter what we face, we can take heart in this: Jesus understands and He cares. We don't go through our trials alone. He's been there before and He's right there with us again.

"Casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
ps - I don't have the dreaded flu-like illness, just acute allergies. All is well. 

If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#21: When Persecution Hits a Little Too Close to Home 

New Website coming soon. You'll be able to comment directly, rather than returning to Facebook or signing into Google. We'll be able to chat about blog posts! 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Teach us to Pray, part 25: Hallowed be thy name: Jehovah Shalom, TheLord is Peace

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

Jehovah Shalom

The Lord is Peace. What a beautiful promise, especially when we remember that Jesus told his disciples, "My peace I leave with you." John 14:27. In this tumultuous world, filled with war and evil and sin, peace is in short supply, even among God's people. It's easy to forget that we're the ones who should have an abundance of peace in the midst of trouble.

Perhaps part of the reason we lack peace is that we don't understand what it means to have it. It's not the absence of conflict, trouble, or sorrow. Shalom, translated as peace or absence of strife, is derived from the word shâlêm. This Hebrew word means "to be complete" or "to be sound." 

Jehovah Shalom is used only once in Scripture and is found in Judges 6:24. This is the story of Gideon. Because of their sin, God had given Israel into the hands of the Midianites for seven years. It had been a horrible time, because the Midianites destroyed all the crops as well as all the livestock. Not only had they brought war, but they had imposed famine. Somehow, Gideon had wheat and, in an attempt to preserve it and hide it from the Midianites, was beating it out inside the wine press. (This was likely a dug hole in the ground with a drain that allowed the juice to run out after the grapes were crushed. Depending on the vineyard, this could have been a deep hole.) 

An angel of the Lord came to Gideon and addressed him as "valiant warrior". This was an interesting choice of terms, because Gideon saw himself as a nobody who was worth nothing. He felt completely inadequate. "The Lord is with you," the angel told him. Gideon's answer was just a little surprising. (this is the Leanna paraphrase) "Yeah, right. If He's with us, why are the Midianites whipping us so bad? And what happened to all His great miracles? We don't have any miracles now. If God is so great, where is He and why isn't He helping us?" 

What happened next must have been so surprising to Gideon. The angel looked straight at Gideon and told him to get going and deliver Israel from the Midianites. "God hasn't abandoned Israel, Gideon. He has sent you." What a word that is! 

If I could only remember those words every day, what a difference I might make in the world around me. God hasn't abandoned America, He has sent you, Leanna. In fact, He has sent every one of us to live in obedience and make His difference in our world, so it is imperative that we recognize this and get started. Why not join with me in making that mighty difference? It is not too late to save our nation.

Back to Gideon. He could not believe what he had heard. He needed a sign, so he ran back in his house to get a "peace offering", then put it on a rock. The angel took his staff and touched the meat and the bread. Fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the offering. Finally, Gideon was convinced that he had been in the presence of the angel of the Lord and was frightened, thinking he might drop dead because he had seen the face of the angel of God. 

"Peace to you, do not fear," the angel said to Gideon. Judges 6:23. Gideon had no peace of his own. He was a frightened young man who had lived his life in insignificance. When that angel spoke peace (shalom) to him, however, he was given the peace of God and it changed his life. The strife outside Gideon (the war with the Midianites) did not change at that moment. Instead, God completely filled Gideon with wholeness of spirit and removed the fear and the turmoil that had raged within him. Gideon was given the kind of peace that does not depend on circumstances, but on the truth of the power of God.

The peace of God is something you and I can have for ourselves. We, too, can be completed with peace. I learned this verse from Isaiah as a child and it still speaks to me today.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: 
because he trusteth in Thee. 
Isaiah 26:3 KJV

When I focus my mind steadfastly on the Lord, trusting only in Him, He will not only give me peace, He will keep me in perfect peace! How amazing! All that is required to have peace and keep it is to look constantly, consistently to our Lord in every situation.

The Apostle Paul knew about having peace in every situation and he wrote about it in his letter to the Philippians.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:6-7 

If I want peace, I can have it, but I must choose it. In my choosing, I take my fear, my concern, my needs to our Lord with thanksgiving. I am to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, giving thanks when I don't feel like it, as I pray.

How do we hallow the name of Jehovah Shalom? Paul makes it clear that you cannot choose to have anxiety and peace simultaneously. Which do we want? Peace or fear. If we want the Shalom of Jehovah, it can be ours. Honoring His name begins by focusing our hearts and minds on the Peace Giver, allowing Him to give us His peace until we are completely filled by it and kept in it.

Peace. It can be ours if we will accept it. Shalom. 

If you are interested in reading more about peace, you might enjoy this blog post:

Advent 2017 #21: When Persecution Hits a Little Too Close to Home

Today's blog post was almost finished when I read back over it, hit save, and closed the document. I intended to tell you about a pastor I know who's going through a tough time of persecution, to paint a word picture that would drop you right in the action and let you feel the fear, the uncertainty, the agony of opposing the government for the cause of Christ.

I started over because I'm afraid my words might make things worse for him and his family. Instead, I thought, I'd write about how I felt, but I was present for some of the government "attention," and that, too, might make things worse.

This is my third attempt to write a blog post today. Though I wanted to write a cayenne pepper kind of article, I'm blinking back tears and choosing vanilla to protect those I love. 

This morning, Isaiah's words spoke directly to my heart:

How lovely on the mountains
are the feet of Him who brings good news,
who announces peace
and brings good news of happiness,
who announces salvation... 
Isaiah 52:7 nasb

My friend and his wife have lovely, lovely feet because they are among those who bring good news of happiness and announce salvation to all who will listen. They're in the midst of relentless persecution and they refuse to deny Christ and His call. They press on regardless of the cost.

I want to help, but all I can do for now is pray and ask you to join with me. Please pray for my dear friends to be brave for the cause of Christ, to keep going as the government pressure increases, to be faithful no matter the cost. 

Even as I type those words, I dread the price they will pay for obedience, and wonder if I would be willing to serve as they serve.

Persecution is like fuel to the gospel fire. I want it to spread, but I didn't want such hardship to breathe life to the flames. The difficult times have come, and, somewhere down the road, I'll rejoice over the strong and vital church that was birthed in this adversity. I'm not there yet.

I'm begging God to make their suffering count in such a way that even the officials will want the faith they see in my friends. Please pray that, too.

Their situation is just one of many. According to the website, 322 Christians are killed for their faith every month, 3,864 per year. Between now and Christmas (four days from now), more than 40 people will die because of their faith in the Savior, whose birthday we celebrate. That doesn't include the hundreds more per month who endure violent treatment ranging from beatings to rape to forced marriages. 

Eleven people every day until Christmas (and after) will be murdered because of their response to the Christ child. Would our celebration of His birth give adequate evidence of our faith to endanger our lives for Him? 

Selah. Let's pause and ponder this for a moment. 

Our religious freedom in the U.S. is rare and must not be wasted. We can share Christ, and we must. We can serve, and we should. If we refuse, we will be called to account one day.

Please pause a moment in the midst of holiday parties, shopping, and family gatherings to pray for our eleven brothers and sisters around the world who will die today because of their faith, and for their families. 

Pray for my friends.

"If one member suffers, all suffer together..." 1 Corinthians 12:26 nasb

"Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." Hebrews 13:3 nasb
Here are links to a few articles about persecution you might find informative:
3) Christians: A Persecuted Minority?
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#20: God's Promise is Worth the Wait

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent 2017 # 20: God's Promise is Worth the Wait

A lot can change in three years, and it has. (I've written some of what you're about to read before, but I'm repeating it to make a more complete "whole" to this story. Please bear with me.)

In fall of 2014, I took a break from medicine to write. I fully expected to return to practice in a few months, but I planned to enjoy the holidays while I wrote. 

Everything changed in November, and it was partly the mayor's fault. An email promoting National Novel Writing Month arrived in my inbox. My town could be a "Come Write In" site, it suggested. 

I loved the idea, so I set to work. My fellow aldermen and our mayor agreed. I ordered vinyl decals for the door, special bookmarks, and, together, we set up two donated computer terminals for the potential novelists. I posted the opportunity on social media and talked to anyone who'd listen. I begged people to give novel writing a try.

"What if no one comes to write?" the mayor asked. 

"They will. But if they don't, I'll do it myself," I joked. 

The Mayor wasn't kidding. No one came. She held me to my flippant word, so I sat down and wrote the first sentence of fiction I'd ever written, and another, and another. Pretty soon I had a paragraph, a page, a chapter. 

I wrote more than 50,000 words that month, and called it a novel. In retrospect, it was terrible, but I didn't know it yet. I had a plot, characters, and action, but the writing wasn't publication-ready by any stretch of a true novelist's imagination.

By January, I thought it was time for an agent. On January 4, 2015, I sent my first query letter. (For my non-writer friends, a query letter is a certain type of letter sent to agents to see if they'd be interested in representing your novel.)  

Before I hit send on that query letter, I prayed for a word from God about the process and read until I found Isaiah 42:16. 

"And I will lead the blind by a way they do not know,
In paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will make darkness into light before them
And rugged places into plains.
These are the things I will do,
And I will not leave them undone."

I laughed when I read it. I felt a little blind, and as if I was going a way I didn't know and didn't understand. It wasn't the most encouraging verse I'd ever claimed, but I stuck with it. The part about darkness and rugged places didn't appeal to me, but I was willing to go as long as God stuck to the "I will not leave them undone" part. 

My heart pounded. I felt exposed and vulnerable. It seemed the most risky thing I'd ever done. What if she didn't like it? What if she said I'd wasted all my time and effort? My finger hovered over the send button. I touched it, backed off, touched it again, repeatedly. Finally, with one more prayer for favor, I pressed the key and sent the query. 

The agent was a gift from God. In less than thirty minutes, she replied requesting additional pages and, eventually, asked to read the entire manuscript. 

She didn't offer to represent me because she had limited her practice to romance, and my novel wasn't in her genre. What she gave me instead was encouragement. She loved my style. I was a good writer, she said. If I wrote a romance, she wanted to see it first. She was sure there was an agent for me. She gave me hope and the will to keep trying.

Learning to write fiction has been a long, hard process. I tend to repeat words for emphasis, but they're distracting in fiction and have to go. My commas aren't always in the right places. They have to be corrected. Sometimes I swap verb tenses in the middle of the page or paragraph, but they have to be consistent. 

It's easy to tell a story, not show it, but not as great a read. "Showing" by dropping the reader in the action and allowing them to experience the emotion of the scene is hard, but it has to be done. It's why the Caregiver Chronicles were my most-read blog series ever. It's also why views drop off when I write a Greek word study. Who wants dry and boring when you can have action and interesting? No one.

Three years after I completed the first draft of my first novel, I signed with a literary agency. In the intervening years, I took online classes, read a mountain of books on writing, joined the American Christian Fiction Writers organization, attended a writing conference, hired a teaching editor. I spent countless hours searching through my manuscript to find and correct errors. 

I worked on the novel until I was sick of it. The process felt hopeless to me. It was too hard and I couldn't do it. I wondered if I should leave the writing to the English majors. 

My editor suggested I set the project aside for a while. "Come back to it when it's fresh again," she told me. She was right. After a few months, I had a new attitude and a better perspective. I set to work again. It was still hard, but I made my way through.

Monday, my agent sent me the proposal template I'm to use. My stomach churned as I read it. Too hard. Too elegant. Too polished. "I can't do this. I'm not this good. I'm not ready," I whined silently. My sense of dread at the effort threatened to overwhelm me. 

I closed the file without printing it. 

This morning, I opened Isaiah and began to read chapter 42. I turned the page and found the passage I claimed before my first query. I laughed again, but this time with delight.

God has led me, the blind, in a way I didn't know. He has guided me through paths I'd never traveled before, made darkness into light, and turned rugged places into plains. He hasn't left anything undone, and He won't. 

The template that frightened me is merely another rugged place that God will make into a plain. It's simply another learning curve to conquer, another task to complete. It can be done, and it must if I'm to follow this path. 

Sometimes God moves in an instant. Sometimes, He takes centuries to accomplish His promise. None of the intervening time is wasted. The time between promise and fruition of my writing career has served to prepare me for what God has planned.

The question is never whether God will do His part, but whether I will do mine. When God promised a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, it was as good as done. The One Micah wrote about has come. The response to our Savior is up to us. Will we accept the payment He's made for our sin and follow Him or not? 

This Christmas, let's use the advent season to examine our hearts and lives. Is our response to the Babe in the Manger one of worship and surrender or do we treat Him as merely one more sweet piece in a nativity scene? Is He our divine Lord or a lovely decoration? Does our response to Him drive us to serve and love or decorate and shop?

The advent season, a time of waiting and preparation for the Christ Child, is designed to help us prepare our hearts to receive Jesus. Will we respond as disciples or as bystanders? 

God kept His promise, and it was worth the wait. The rest is up to us. How will we welcome Jesus this year? 

"Unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord..." Luke 2:11 
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#19 When Grinch and Scrooge Threaten Christmas

Here are links to other posts in this series:#18: Harvesting the Sweet from the Hard, #17: Church and the Mattress Set#16: Taking Our Confusion to the One Who UnderstandsWhen Rest Isn't Optional and Christmas Has to Wait