Saturday, November 25, 2017

Wonder Dogs, Closing the Park, and Enjoying the Journey

 
Maggie the Wonder Dog and Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy

The Wonder Dogs are exceptionally smart and have an extensive vocabulary. Like most dogs, they know the typical words such as treat, go, sit and stay. The Wonder Girls know phrases, as well. There were two phrases that used to send them into frenzies of delight. Open the park. Close the park. 

When I was an alderwoman in Blue Springs, part of my job was opening and closing the park on my assigned day. One night, I casually mentioned to the girls that I needed to close the park. "We'll leave at 6:30," I told them. 

They couldn't have been more excited about filet mignon. They ran in circles, panting and racing as fast as they could go. They ran down the stairs and back up. Up and down the hallway. Around and around in my bedroom.

At last, I said, "Okay, do you want to leave now?" 

Yes. They did. Both girls raced to the door, then ran in circles until I could get downstairs. They were pumped. I opened the door and they were out of the house like a clown out of a cannon. Whoosh. They were at the car before I could close the front door.

It wasn't the park that delighted them. (Dogs, even Wonder Dogs, are not welcome in the park.) It was the trip to the park. They love to put their paws on the edge of the window, stretch as far as possible, hang their heads out, and let the wind plaster their ears and fur against their heads. Mouths wide open, heads up, they are in heaven.

It sounds dangerous, but the Wonder Girls know they're safe, because I hold them tight. They can reach as far as they want, because I have them, held tight in a no-slip grip.

They love the journey, and any journey will do as long as they're with me.

As I watched them in a wind-induced ecstasy, I realized they experience the journey with an abandon usually absent in my life. My tendency, like many of us, is to focus on the destination. I keep the goal in sight and head toward it with dogged determination.

I wonder, though, if I might not enjoy my journey through life a bit more if I could experience it with the abandon of the Wonder Girls. 

Perhaps focusing less on the needs of the day and more on the experience of the journey would bring the kind of abandon so common to Maggie and Mamie, as well as the joy.

They don't worry about a thing. They know they can count on me to provide for them. With worry out of the way, they're free to enjoy every minute, every day.

How much more should we, who serve a faithful, generous God, enjoy life? How much more should we focus on the journey, relishing the adventures God allows into our lives, without worry or fear? 

It was Jesus Himself who told us, "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Do not worry then... But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself..." 
                                                                                                         Matthew 6: 25, 31, 33 NASB

Let's trust God to meet our needs. Enjoy the day He's given us.  Embrace life with abandon. Stand on tip-toe, stretch as far as we can reach to experience everything God has planned. 

Let's live with joy for we, too, are held tight in God's no-slip grip.
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Black Friday Special that Changed History 

 #havefaithinGod



Friday, November 24, 2017

The Black Friday Special that Changed History



I've had a few Black Friday adventures. They were fun because I was with family, but the crowds and the rush were completely overwhelming to me. Today, I'm staying home.

This morning, I'm pondering the Black Friday Special that changed history: A Messiah for 30 pieces of silver. 

It's a sobering thought, and one we'd do well to remember as we head into the shopping frenzy that, all too often, fills the Advent season.

During this season, we celebrate the nativity of our Lord, the moment in history when God Almighty, King of Heaven and Earth, slipped into a coat of flesh and delivered Himself to the most unlikely of parents, in the most unlikely of places.

He arrived with His face set like flint toward His own Black Friday, and He never lost sight of it for even an instant. 

Let's decide now to keep our eyes on the real reason for Christmas as we make our way through the next few weeks. Let's remember that the cooing baby in the manger matters only because of the suffering Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb that followed.

We can honor Christ as we celebrate the Christmas season, but only if we make a conscious decision to do so. Today, let's fix our eyes on the empty tomb, and celebrate the One who loved us so much that He came as a baby and didn't stop until the tomb was empty and His people were free. 


Joy to the World! The Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King!
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The Road to Bethlehem advent book is available on Amazon: The Road to Bethlehem (Kindle version is only 99 cents. Paperback is $6.00)

In case you missed yesterday's blog post, here's the link: Choosing Thanksgiving and Counting My Blessings
#blackfridayspecial #advent #Jesus

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Choosing Thanksgiving And Counting My Blessings


The last six months have been among the hardest of my life. Caring for Sam Wiley in his dying was difficult emotionally and physically. Most days, I fell into bed exhausted, was up and down through the night, and awakened just as tired as I'd been when I retired.  

Those days were also among the sweetest. Sam and I had precious times together. He let go of bitterness and anger, embraced forgiveness, and gained the most peace he'd ever had. 

I marveled as my son faced our loss of Sam with courage and love. I rejoiced as he served Sam with tenderness and humor. I was amazed by the sweet eulogy he shared at Sam's memorial. 

Despite all the difficulties, the past year has been a wonderful one. I've traveled, met new friends, learned new skills, begun to learn a new language. I've had one adventure after another, and I've seen the hand of God over and over again. 

I'm a blessed woman with so much for which I thank God. Today, I'm counting my blessings and naming them one by one... This isn't an exhaustive list. It's a jumping-off spot for thanksgiving. 


I'm thankful for the empty tomb and the freedom and forgiveness that emptiness purchased for me.



I'm thankful for family. For my son, Ryan, my sister, Cookie, and all the other wonderful family members who have loved me at my worst, rejoiced with me at my best, and cheered me along all my life.


I'm thankful for my Grandmother's faith. She loved missions and she lived her life on mission for Christ every day of her life. I'm thankful for the gift of prayer she imparted to me, and how her frank, truth-in-love words still speak to me             decades after she moved to heaven.

I'm thankful for the Word of God that is sharper than any two-edged sword. The truth in those pages continues to transform my life.



I'm thankful that, in 1989, God placed me on the farm. I'm grateful for the twenty-five years I raised cows, the sheer joy of new calves in the spring, the goats, chickens and bunnies I've raised, and for Andy the pig (who nearly drove me crazy with his antics), as well as for all the lessons I learned along the way.


I'm thankful for these spunky, funny, sweet Wonder Dogs that are so much more than companions and storyline material. 


I'm thankful for Sam Wiley and the many lessons he taught me over the 28 years he was with me. I'm thankful for the peace he gained before his death, and the way he continued to persevere, even when life was hard. I'm especially grateful that I'll see him again in eternity. 


 I'm grateful for my faithful friends, who love me through thick and thin, and for the perennials they've shared with me over the years. 


I'm grateful for the reminder that God always keeps His promises, for the body of Christ, that's so much more than I can yet understand, and for the sweetness of my church home.  

I'm thankful for the call to missions that changed my life, and that God brought me to Global Outreach for this amazing season.


I'm thankful for this nation that has been blessed beyond measure and for the hope that God might, one day, make us strong in Him again. 


I'm thankful for veterans like my daddy who fought and suffered in so many ways for the freedom we hold far too lightly. I'm grateful for the ones who gave blood, limb, and life for those freedoms. 


I'm grateful for our forefathers, who established this nation on Christian principles and grateful for the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14.


I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had and the adventurous life I've lived. 
I'm grateful that my life is never boring, that it's forward-looking, and that God still has a plan for me.


No matter what our circumstances, let's choose gratitude. Let's tell the people we love and appreciate how grateful we are. Demonstrate thanksgiving in word and deed. Let's live as thankful people, not just today, but all year long.

"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all of my heart; I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds." Psalm 9:1

It's become my tradition to read Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation every year. Here's the link: Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Why Every Day Should Be Thanksgiving

If you've been blessed by and are grateful for this digital ministry, prayerfully consider supporting  this outreach. Here's the link for online donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 
#Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why Every Day Should Be Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow, but every day should be Thanksgiving. Why? Because we are a blessed people and because God tells us to give thanks. 

In this post-Sam, not quite recovered from going night and day for so long, life of mine, it's taking me a while to get back to my "usual." I don't want to be Leanna-centric, but I've given some time to doing things that matter to me. Straightening my house. Decluttering. Deep cleaning. Yard work (though you can't tell it from the leaves that have re-accumulated). Reading. Art. Music. Baking.

Writing's probably at the top of my list of things I love to do, but I prefer to write from a full-heart, not a squeezed-dry one. I'm not writing much these days, but it's only temporary, and I'm grateful for that.

Thanksgiving has occupied much of my time recently. Not the holiday, but the action. My list is pretty long:

1. Jesus and His grace and mercy
2. Forgiveness and healing
3. Ryan and the good man he is
4. My family and friends who supported me, encouraged me, helped me all the             way through the long years of caring for Sam.
5. Snuggly dogs and puppy kisses
6. The crunch of fall leaves underfoot as I go to the barn
7. Plenty of hay for the horses and full feed barrels
8. Tractors that run, even though the old one still smokes when it's started
9. Full pantry, refrigerator, and freezers
10. Central heat and air
11. The religious freedom we have in the United States
12. Seasons - in weather and in life - and the assurance that they will, eventually, change, even when they're hard
13. The hope of eternity and the hope we have in the perfect plan God has for us
14. The peace of God that transcends circumstances and carries us through anything we face

Other than food (for animals and for those I love), tractors, and the heating system, there isn't much "stuff" on my list, for life does not consist in things. Luke wrote, "Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own." (Luke 12:15 nlt) He's right, of course. 

Life isn't measured by possessions, but by love. Love God. Love others. It's that simple.

One of the ways we express our love is in thanksgiving, especially when we're going through a hard time and we don't feel particularly grateful. It's a sacrifice of thanksgiving that means more to God than we realize, and it brings some pretty amazing promises our way.

"Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God...then call on Me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give Me glory." Psalm 50:14 nlt

"...If you keep to My path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God." Psalm 50:23

The promise of rescue in time of trouble is so huge that it should spur us to assemble a mile-long list of things for which we're grateful. 

The revelation of God's salvation...even better. This is more than a general offer of help. It's a promise of recognizable salvation. God will save us and we will know it was Him who did it.  

How do we obtain these sweet promises? By saying thank you, even when it's hard. 

Why not make today, and every day, Thanksgiving Day? Let's start now with a list of things for which we're grateful and, as we go about our day, continue with thanks all day long.
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Biting Cat and the View from the Rearview Mirror
photo courtesy of freeimages.com

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Biting Cat and The View from the Rearview Mirror



Biting Cat didn't come for breakfast yesterday, but that's not unusual. He lives life on his own schedule, and it has nothing to do with mine. I assumed he'd found a mouse that was more tasty than his canned food. He does that sometimes, but he usually shows up for dinner.

I went about my morning routine and headed to work.Almost to the stop sign at the corner of Highway 9 and County Road 278, I saw a large lump of roadkill in my lane. 

As I swerved to miss it, I got a better view. It looked oddly familiar. Long, fluffy striped tail. Dense, heavy dark fur. 

Was that Biting Cat?

When I was back in my lane, I looked in the rear view mirror. White belly surrounded by dark fur. My heart sank. It was Biting Cat. I felt sick, and started slowing to pull over, then changed my mind. "Lord, this seems unfair. I just cannot deal with one more loss this morning. I'm gonna have to get back with You on this cat carcass." 

I drove on, leaving my dead cat in the middle of the road. 

Half a mile down the road, I thought better of my decision, but I was already late. I just can't deal with that dead cat right now, I kept telling myself. I drove on to the office and sneaked into prayer time a little late.

When we were finished with Bible study, Lyle reached for missionary cards so we could pray for them. "I hope you pull my card," I told him.

Chuck looked over at me. "Do you need prayer today?"

"Yes, I do. I just left my dead cat in the middle of the road," I announced. There were surprised expressions on every face. It sounded like I'd dumped my cat, but I hadn't, so I explained the situation. "When I get finished with my work, I've got to go back and get that dead cat out of the road to bury it."

"Do you have a shovel?" someone asked helpfully.

"Yeah, but I sure didn't want to dig a grave today." 

We had special prayer for me, because the more I thought about the dead cat in the middle of the road, the more I needed a divine intervention.

Several hours later, I'd finished my pressing work, and left to deal with the sad situation. 

I wasn't madly in love with Biting Cat because, as his name implies, he's bitten me quite a few times. However, I'd spent years teaching him not to bite and he'd finally learned the lesson. In addition, he had learned to purr and let me pick him up. After those victories, I hated to lose him, even if he wasn't a good cat.

Biting Cat was also the least concerned about appearance of any cat I've ever met. He refused to groom himself at all. Over the winter, when his fur grew super-long and dense, he'd get dreadlocks. In the spring, I'd have to shave him slick to get rid of them. Unless you've shaved a near-wild-cat before, you can't imagine the size of the job. 

Biting Cat was a lot of trouble. 

Anyway, I drove home, filled with dread about the task ahead of me. I was dressed in my old leather skirt, tights, boots, and a nice sweater. I decided I'd rather get finished with the job than change clothes, which could've been a bad decision, but turned out okay. 

I grabbed my shovel and a garbage bag and headed to the site. I parked at the pottery shop, waited until no cars were coming. I marched toward Biting Cat's body with black garbage bag in one hand and rusty shovel in the other.

When I squatted down by poor old Biting Cat, I got the shock of my life. It wasn't my cat after all. 

It was a raccoon that looked just like Biting Cat. 

I can't describe the emotions that surged through me. Relief. Aggravation. Embarrassment. 

We'd had special prayer for me over a dead raccoon carcass in the middle of the road. It wasn't my cat at all. 

For a millisecond, I wished it had been my cat.

I loaded my burial equipment up as quickly as possible and headed home, grateful no cars had come while I was squatted by the roadkill coon.

There's probably more than one lesson in this story, but the one for today is how skewed the view is from the rear view mirror. Considerable agony came from my backward view. It was only when I took an up-close look that the situation became clear and I could view it accurately.

There's a reason the windshield is large and the rearview mirror is tiny. We're supposed to move forward, both when we're in a car and in life. Are there difficulties and sorrows in the past? It's important to deal with and learn from them so that we don't repeat our mistakes, but there comes a point when forward motion is required. 

Are we moving ahead or looking back? Today, let's get our eyes off the rearview mirror and put them on the road ahead. Move forward, to the future God has planned. 

"Brethren, I do no regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14 nasb
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: A Very Un-Missionary Like Thanksgiving

photo courtesy of freeimages.com



Monday, November 20, 2017

A Very Un-Missionary-Like Thanksgiving


I've been reading the letters of Paul in the New Testament recently. They haven't been my favorite, partly because sometimes Paul reprimands people via a letter so that he doesn't have to reprimand them in person. 

I'm still a little fragile from the long season of caregiving, followed by Sam's death, and it's seemed like more than I can bear. I've persevered, however, because... Well, I don't really know why. Mainly because persevering is what I do. 

This morning, I opened my Bible with a mild sense of dread, in anticipation of more Paul-fussing. I hate to admit that, because it's not very missionary-like, but it's true. I'm probably not the only one who feels that way sometimes. 

I don't think a dread of Paul's fussing is a sin, unless you indulge it and avoid the Bible because of it, which I didn't. 

I've spent weeks whining to the Lord about how hard it is to read Paul's words in this season of life. When I picked up my Bible, I prayed, "Lord, I need a nugget of truth that's not fussing this morning." I know. That's not a very missionary-like prayer, either, but it was answered in an amazing way. I think God understood my heart.

Today, I read Galatians 2, in which Paul describes his visit to Jerusalem to talk with the elders there. He'd gone to present what he was teaching to the Gentiles and be sure they were all in agreement. 

My faded, hand-written note in the margin says, "Paul suffered much persecution in Galatia. He was stoned and left for dead. Run out of town. The church ladies and leading men of Galatia were stirred up and the city was divided. People tried to worship Paul and Silas and he barely restrained them. Taking the gospel to Galatia was costly to Paul." 

Suddenly, I realized that all the trouble was because Paul, who had been a major Jewish leader before his conversion, spent his life taking the gospel to the Gentiles. Since I'm a Gentile (not a Jew), Paul spent his life taking the gospel to my people. 

If not for Paul, I probably wouldn't be reading my Bible, much less whining about his words not suiting me.

I was cut to the core with conviction.

Sometimes I forget how much it cost those early disciples/apostles to spread the gospel around the world. They were persecuted over and over again. Most of them died martyrs' deaths. 

Paul could've been a top-dog-leader if he'd stayed in Jerusalem. Instead, he walked the path of obedience and paid dearly for it. His life of pain and suffering was the price he paid to bring the gospel my direction.

Tears streamed down my face as I repented of my negative feelings toward Paul's words and thanked God for this man who gave up the life he had to embrace the life God chose for him. I thank God for Paul's impact that persists nearly two thousand years later. 

I'd like to have the legacy Paul has, but I don't want to pay the price he paid to have it. I'm ashamed to admit that, but I doubt I'm alone in my reticence. 

What I realized this morning is that Paul didn't want all those hard times either, but he wanted obedience more than he wanted an easy life. That's what I should want, too. But do I?

This morning, I'm thanking God for those who have given so much to bring the gospel to me, for those early disciples who sacrificed to carry the news of our resurrected Jesus around the world. 

Today, I'm embracing Paul's "fussing." Bring it on, Paul. You've earned the right to your hard words. 

More important, though, is that I'm embracing Paul's attitude. Not me, but Christ. Enduring through whatever comes my way and setting my eyes on the goal, I press on. 

Disciples follow their Master, even when it's hard. That's what Paul did, and it's what we're supposed to do, too. Today, let's assess our depth of discipleship and make whatever adjustments are needed.

Embracing the life of a disciple may not be easy but, to have a legacy that persists thousands of year, it's worth it. 

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When I had a Nazareth Heart and Missed the Miracle Before Me


Sunday, November 19, 2017

When I Had a Nazareth Heart and Missed the Miracle Before Me


I'm getting a new website for Christmas. 

Actually, that's not quite true. I'll have a new website BEFORE Christmas, and it's a ministry-expanding project, not a present. I'm super excited about this. 

In preparation for the new website, I've begun to go back through old blog posts. Some of them will be carried over to the new site. Some will not. This morning, I looked through past Thanksgiving posts, discovered the "Nazareth heart" post, and thought the truths were worth revisiting. 

I found an "ouch" here, so be forewarned.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth and, since it was a small village, everyone knew Him. No one ever expects the little kid next door to grow up into the Messiah who will save the world, even if He's a really nice kid. The people of Nazareth were no different. When Jesus was well-known because of His teaching and miracles, they wanted to see the miracles for themselves.

One day, Jesus spoke in his home church (aka the synagogue in Nazareth) and, instead of being happy about miracles, the people were enraged by His words. Luke (4:28) tells us there wasn't one person who was not out-of-control angry with Jesus.  

They were angry because Jesus said aloud what they were all thinking privately.  He exposed the truth they'd hoped to hide. They were happy to have Him in the synagogue because they wanted Him to do "tricks" like He'd done in Capernaum, but they didn't want words that required them to change their lives or their minds. 

Jesus reminded them that prophets are never popular in their hometowns, and Elijah and Elisha had been sent to Gentiles. He implied that the people of Nazareth would not see any special miracles, but other towns (possibly Gentile towns) would. This was true, but it was fuel for the fire of their fury.

Jesus knew the people of Nazareth didn't want truth or conviction. What they wanted was a miracle-side-show. They didn't love Jesus, and they weren't overwhelmed with gratitude for what God had already done. They didn't want to be disciples. They wanted to be observers. They just wanted a show, and they wanted it to be spectacular.

I had this problem recently, and I still regret it. We helped at the Stone Soup lunch one Saturday at Salvation Army. The last two times I'd been there, we'd seen loaves and fishes miracles that were very impressive. 

I wanted to see another miracle. It didn't happen. 

Instead, a woman walked through the room and sang with such power that I was reminded of the passage in Zephaniah which says God sings over us with songs of joy. (Zeph. 3:17) It was beautiful, but I was so busy waiting for a miracle that I overlooked the amazing truth she sang. 

She was the miracle and I missed it because I had a Nazareth heart.

I have a friend who often says, "If Jesus never does another thing for me, what He's already done is more than enough!" She's right and, I believe she has the kind of grateful heart we all should have.

As we begin Thanksgiving Week, let's take a few minutes for introspection. Do we have a grateful heart or a Nazareth heart? Do we want not only more, but something spectacular? 

"Nazareth heart" is a terrible disease, but the cure is simple. Gratitude. Today, let's look for evidence of the goodness of God at work in our lives and thank Him for all He has already done for us. 

"In everything give thanks for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 nasb 
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: In Defense of Drinking Tea and the Three-Kiss Greeting

p.s - I recently met someone from Nazareth and instantly loved her. She doesn't have a "Nazareth heart" at all, so please don't think badly of her town because of the events in this post that happened ~ 2000 years ago.