Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Frost-Proof Faucet in the Box and the Blessing of Second Chances

When I opened my computer to write this morning, the only topics on my mind were freezing temperatures and frozen water pipes. If you follow me on social media, you've probably seen my whining complaints that the pipes at the barn froze this week and I've had to haul water for the horses. 

I dread January because of the problem of the pipes. This morning, I flipped through blog posts from Januarys past and found that, four years ago, I had the same problem, only bigger. 

The pipes and automatic waterers were frozen, and they are again. I hauled water then, just as I'm doing now. In 2014, however, I had cows and chickens, as well as horses. The amount of water to be hauled was enormous.

Why haven't I solved this problem in the 28 years I've lived here? I've asked myself the same question every day since this cold snap began. What I'm ashamed to admit is that the "fix" is in the tack room of my barn, waiting to be installed.

A frost-proof hydrant is still in the box.

Four years ago, all the water lines from outside my house to the barn were frozen. I did a little research and found that a different hydrant, with an underground valve, would solve my difficulties. I bought one and Sam used it to replace the hydrant at the garden. 

There was a question about a problem with the new hydrant, so I bought another to replace it. As it turned out, the leak was due to an installation error, so I had an extra hydrant.

Putting the second hydrant in the hallway of the barn would solve my winter water problems, I decided. The hydrant went to the barn, but it was never installed, partly because I forgot about it.

When I saw the weather forecast for frigid weather, I remembered the frost-proof faucet. When the temperatures plummeted, it was too late. 

The difficulties I've faced the last few days are my own fault. They were also mostly preventable. I don't have a good solution for the automatic waterers because of their distance from a source of electricity. The frozen water faucet, however, could've been prevented.

Sam didn't worry about frozen pipes because he had a plan that worked. He wrapped the pipes with towels, stacked hay around them, then covered them with a big rug. 

I thought Sam's way made a mess in the barn and seemed iffy at best, even though it worked most of the time. This year, I used foam insulation caps over the hydrants instead. They weren't messy, but they also weren't enough. Sam knew that, but I didn't believe him. I do now. 

Before long, the temperatures will improve, the pipes will thaw, the water will flow. I'll have another second chance to have the faucet installed and solve my difficulties. 

Not every problem comes with a second chance, however. One day, Scripture tells us, Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout. We who are alive will be caught up and meet Him in the air. 

All the second chances will be over. 

It won't matter what we planned to do or whether or not we intended to follow Christ eventually. If our eternal destination is not secured when Christ returns, it will be too late. 

Let's address the most important question of all for a moment. Where do I stand with Jesus? 

Am I a disciple or merely an interested bystander? Jesus never called anyone to sit on a pew or serve on a committee. He calls us to follow. If we belong to Him, that's what we'll do. 

Today is our second chance, so let's use it well. Jesus is coming again. Live ready. 

"For the Lord Himself will descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 5:16,17 nasb
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Missed Lessons and the Failure to Change 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Missed Lessons and the Failure to Change

It was a beautiful summer day, full of joy and peace, until sorrow invaded like a conquering army. The tragedy was devastating, and I wept as I adjusted the ropes that held the flag and eased it down the pole. I stood back and saluted, hesitated to leave because of the grief represented by the lowered station, still shaken by the news of yet another devastating horror. 

I can't remember why the flag was at half-staff, but I remember the day I lowered it. I remember the act of recognition, but I've forgotten the grief. If I wrote about it at the time, I can't find it now. My sorrow has vanished like dew on a summer morning.

Do we all process national tragedy in such a briefly intense way? Does it fade from consciousness so quickly for everyone except those personally affected? 

In 2016, we lowered the flag as we grieved Brussels, Orlando, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge. In 2017, it was lowered after Las Vegas and Southerland Springs. In neither year did we lower the flag for every national or world tragedy, yet the details of even those few are only vague memories now.

It's no wonder we fail to learn from the past. We don't hold it long enough to make it a part of us. We don't remember it long enough to process it, much less glean a lesson for the future from it. 

Instead, we post a "pray for..." on social media, light a candle, say a prayer, and move on to the next big news. Processing grief and passion should lead to heart-expanding memory. Those memories should change us as we go forward.

What happened to lingering with loss? What happened to caring enough to allow growth in us, and letting our concern cause us to work for change in society? 

We're great at bearing one another's burdens for a moment or two, a day or two, but do we go the distance? Do we shoulder a load and carry it with our friends, our nation, our world until the burden is resolved and the sorrow is healed?

Lest you think I'm making accusations, I'm talking about myself. I'm as guilty as anyone. 

Last night, I cleaned out a drawer and found a rubber bracelet made as a reminder about the persecuted church. I've had it for years, and it's been in that drawer almost the entire time. I was deeply concerned about believers suffering for the cause of Christ, but I wore it only a day or two. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I took it off because it didn't look cute with my outfit. I never put it back on. 

I held the bracelet, still in a pristine state, and wept. It was a shocking reminder of how quickly my own concerns fade. I wonder...what if I'd remained as passionate about persecution as I was the day I ordered the bracelet? 

Would people I love be fleeing for their lives if I'd remained involved? If I'd stood stronger for the cause of Christ? If I'd prayed more?

Wearing a bracelet doesn't change the course of history, but the passion represented by wearing it might. If we allowed the reminder on our arm to drive us to true intercession, it would make a difference, not just in us but likely in the world around us. 

Today, let's take a few minutes to allow memory to flood our hearts and minds. About what issues have we been passionate? Whose grief moved us? How did we allow our grief and concern to change us? What did we do about it? Have we shouldered burdens all the way to the end, or left friends and family members dangling in their sorrow? Is there a cause about which we need to make a stand? 

While we're making resolutions for 2018, let's include a resolution to take a stand about something that matters and pray it through. 

We can make a difference, but not if we do nothing. 

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works..." Hebews 10:24
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Memorizing Scripture, Barbed Wire, Persecution, and Jesus 

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Memorizing Scripture, Barbed wire, Persecution, and Jesus

Memorizing a chapter of the Bible a month might have been a little optimistic for a New Year's goal. Four days into the year, I'm already a little behind.

I know how to memorize. The problem isn't my understanding of the technique nor my ability. It's my reliability

Every morning, I've reviewed my verses and made a stab at memorizing them. I've quoted them a few times throughout the day. 

What I haven't done is soak in their truth, and that's the reason they haven't "stuck."

This morning, I reviewed the first twelve verses of John 1, because that's how much I planned to have memorized by today. The second time I read them through, the third verse came alive.

"All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." (John 1:3) nasb

All things. 

The image of barbed wire instantly popped into my head. Yes. I know it was odd. Barbed wire? Does Jesus even care about barbed wire??? 

I pondered that a moment and read the verse again. If all things came into being by Him, and Scripture says it did, does that mean barbed wire came into being by Jesus? I guess it does. (He made the person who invented it, of course, as well as the mind out of which the invention came.) 

Barbed wire is on my mind these days because I haven't finished building my fence yet. Does Jesus care about the fencing wire so prevalent in the Southern US? Yes, in multiple ways. He cares about the people who build the fences and stretch the wire. Those sharp barbs provide security and protection for animals, and their owners, about whom our Lord cares. 

Did Jesus die for barbed wire? No, but He knows about it. 

The second thing that came into mind is a part of the world that's dear to me. Recent governmental decisions there have broken my heart. I've prayed at length about the situation and begged everyone who will listen to join me in intercession. Occasionally, my prayers have sounded a little accusatory, as if I thought God had overlooked the events that give me such pause. 

"What about there, Lord? It's a mess right now," I asked. (Okay. I kinda demanded.) 

All things.

Those two simple words resonated in my heart. Governments are established by God and have their authority with the permission of God. (Romans 13:1) He moves the heart of the king like channels of water. (Prov 21:1) 

He knows.

He knows about the corruption in the government, the crack-down on religious freedom, and the persecution of believers. He knows about my friends who have to flee for their lives. 

Nothing has escaped his notice. Nothing will be wasted. 

It wasn't the answer I wanted. My desire was for God to roll up His sleeves and wade into the battle. I wanted God to do things MY way, instead of His own. It's a problem as old as creation. We want our way instead of His. 

This morning, the barbed wire pondering led, in a round about way, to "nevertheless" about a few things. "Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done." (Luke 22:42)

That simple act of surrender brought me to the place I needed to be with Scripture memory, and the verses came alive. "The light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it" made perfect sense. The efforts of believers hadn't been wasted in that beautiful place of persecution. Light had shined, but the darkness didn't comprehend, exactly as John 1 said.

The importance of Scripture memory is not in the act of repeating words until we can say them by rote. The value comes when we allow the Word of God to invade our hearts, reveal truth to us, and change us. That's what happened for me this morning. 

Today, let's choose one verse and allow it to invade us until the truth becomes such a part of us that we see things God's way and surrender to His will. Let it marinate our hearts and saturate us with Him. 

"Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done." Luke 22:42

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." 2 Timothy 3:16 nlt
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Maggie and the Relentless Search

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Maggie and the Relentless Search

Maggie the Wonder Dog is usually the most placid of early-morning risers. She wakes up just enough to go outside for a quick potty trip, then hurries back upstairs to snooze on the end of the bed while I study, write, shower, and get dressed. 

Mornings are not her favorite.

Today, however, I put her back on the bed after her visit outside and she sniffed something interesting on the covers. She went nuts, sniffing, scratching, trying to get under the sheets. Nothing I did settled her down. 

She'd had a bone on the bed a few days earlier, long since moved to a better place. I retrieved it in hope of calming her frantic search. The bone wasn't "it."

I offered her stuffed bear, a chew toy, another sliver of bone. She rejected them all. I commanded her to sit. She ignored me, completely intent on her search.

Finally, I opened my Bible and left her to it. She sniffed and scratched and searched all through my quiet time. "That dog is driving me crazy, Lord. You'll have to speak loud for me to hear over her scratching," I prayed. (I know. Maybe not the most churchy of prayers.) 

What I read next made me laugh out loud:

"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah29:13 nasb

The words of Jeremiah came alive as I watched Maggie's focused, relentless, energetic search. She was so much like us humans. Some search for power, control, peace, or security, but we're all searching for something. Our quest gives direction to our lives and, in some ways, our destiny.

For what are we searching? What is the one thing we want more than anything else?

Do we seek God with unrelenting focus? If so, we have an iron-clad guarantee. If we turn from the things of this world and seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him. 

Today, let's turn our hearts heavenward. Put our search for God and His ways before all the worries and concerns of this world. Seek Him, His Kingdom, and His righteousness and everything else will fall into place. 

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33 nasb
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: One Practical Way to Appreciate the Amazing Year Ahead

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

One Practical Way to Appreciate the Amazing Year Ahead

My Gratitude Jar project started in late 2015. Small slips of paper on which were written notes about answered prayers, evidence of God in my life, and things for which I was grateful went in the jar. The stack of papers grew in 2016.

On New Year's Day last year, I went through the slips and read every one. It was amazing to see how all the hard times turned into good. I was stunned to see how often I'd felt on the brink of disaster in 2016, and the ways God had carried me through. I wept as I read them, not from sorrow but pure, overwhelming gratitude. The tiny notes were precious, so I kept every one in the Gratitude Jar, even the "outdated" ones.

During 2017, my Thanksgiving notes became fewer and farther between. I didn't record much last year, which makes me sad. It was an amazing year. The good times are still clear in my mind, but not as fresh as if I'd written a wonder-laced note.

This morning, I read through all the slips from past years and felt the sense of amazed thanksgiving all over again. I want to do a better job of preserving my gratitude during 2018. Since INTENTIONAL is my word for this year, I've slipped a supply of paper strips in my planner. They're blue for the photo, but I'm changing to white slips for ease of reading. When a moment of gratitude comes, I'll be ready. 

I've decided in advance to give thanks, and I've made provision for it.

It's a Biblical principle we'd all do well to consider. Giving thanks doesn't happen automatically. It's much easier to give thanks in hard times if we decide in advance to do so. Our willingness implies a decision to look past the circumstances to find the blessing in the midst of the difficulty.

We've chosen to set goals and make a plan to achieve them. We've committed to doing what we've planned. An amazing year is ahead of us. Let's live intentionally grateful during the next incredible twelve months, and give thanks in all things, whether easy or hard. 

Why not prepare for gratitude by adding a few slips of blank paper to our planners? Let's make a note of even the smallest moment of thanksgiving and slip it in our Gratitude Jar. When 2019 rolls around, we'll read through our blessings one by one and be glad we did. 

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:28 nasb
Please take a moment to like and share this post. It makes a big difference in how far my digital reach extends. I can't do what I do without your help! Thanks. 

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: How to Change 2018 from Just Getting By to Simply Amazing

Monday, January 1, 2018

How to Change 2018 from "Just Getting By" to Simply Amazing

2018 is only a few hours old, and we've already begun to spend the year. Sleep, food, exercise, family, work, friends, fun, and faith. We'll fill this year with so much, but what will we accomplish with the time we're given? 

Some of us will do amazing things. Others will barely get by. If we want to be in the amazing category, we need to be intentional about our choices and actions. 

With "amazing" in mind, this year, I'm taking a new approach to planning and I think it's going to be helpful. If something sounds useful, feel free to incorporate it. 

I prayerfully made a master to-do list that's pages long and includes every area in which I want to make progress. I asked God to direct my plans and show me what He wants to accomplish this year. His plans, of course, are much more important than mine. 

We know God wants us to love Him, love others, and be a clear witness for Him to the world around us. He's not a God of chaos, but of order, so we know He wants order in our lives, our finances, and our homes. Scripture says our bodies are the temple of God, so we know He wants us to care for them. 

With His will for order in mind, all the things I need to do around my home, including repairs to be done, cabinets to clean out, floors to refinish, and clothes to sort through and pass along are on my "home" list. You probably have a to-do list as long as mine. When I look at the entirety, it seems impossible. Sorted into one task a month, it's fairly easy.

I made similar lists for writing, ministry, finances, and personal care, then divided them into sets of monthly goals to achieve. I have a busy year planned, but everything I want to do can be done if I stick to the plan. I've written each month's goals in my planner so that I'm accountable, and so that I don't forget. 

I've failed at the usual goal of "lose twenty pounds" numerous times. This year, in order to take care of the temple of God (my body) I've changed the goal to "be intentional about health." Part of that intentionality includes what I eat and how much exercise I get. 

I want my blood pressure and cholesterol to be better at the end of 2018 than they are at the start, and I don't want more medicine. If that goal is to be achieved, I'll have to make enough lifestyle changes to accomplish it. 

For January, I've set "check blood pressure and weight daily and record" as one of my goals. Another is to get at least 10,500 steps daily for five days a week. (If you don't have a step-counter, your smart phone will count steps for you.) 

Since I also have a goal of less than 2,300 mg of sodium and less than 2000 calories per day, I plan to write down what I eat, every single bite. I know from experience that the simple act of recording my intake makes me less likely to "graze" mindlessly when I'm bored. 

For January, I've set goals of "manicure" and "have lunch with friends twice." After my fencing adventure, I have so many barbed wire scratches on my hands  that even a manicure will not be enough to repair the damage, but it's a start. 

Time with friends won't happen if I don't choose it. Neither will time with family, which is also on my list. 

Another area I've included in my monthly planning is "faith." One discipline I'd like to incorporate this year is Scripture memorization. I set a simple goal of one chapter a month. The first chapter of John has 51 verses, and I'm familiar with the passage. If I memorize three verses per day, I'll have room to spare in January. 

If a chapter a month seems too much, why not memorize one Scripture verse every week? It's a powerful way to change your life and deepen your faith. 

I'd like to expand my outreach in 2018, broaden my digital reach, improve my writing, complete new projects, and remove clutter in my home. It's all on my list. The plan's a good one, but the most important part of it is me. Will I do what I've planned or not? 

This year, we can accomplish more than we've ever done before IF we make a plan, get started, and stick with it. Who's with me? 

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 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:The Fence Repair Adventure

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