Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Importance of Mucking Out the Stalls


The photo today might be a little bit shocking, but bear with me. Yes, the contents of the wheelbarrow are exactly what you think. Manure. It's a part of my daily routine. 

When the temperatures are low or the weather is stormy, my horses go into the barn for their evening meal and to sleep overnight. The next morning, they have breakfast and go outside again, where fresh water, grass, and hay await them. 

My job is to prepare the stalls in which they reside. Every day, I fill the racks with fresh hay and the water buckets with fresh water. I also scoop out the waste from the night before. Part of that waste is hay that's been trodden underfoot. Part of it is the droppings they've left behind. 

There's something oddly appealing about the job of "mucking out" the stalls. I take great pleasure in a clean stall that, moments before, was filled with the stench of waste.The work results in clean stalls in which my horses will be more comfortable. It makes a safer environment for them because the bacteria-laden manure is not left as a breeding place for disease. 

When the wheelbarrow is full, I roll it to a hole that needs to be filled, and dump it. Nothing is wasted. In a year or two, the manure and hay will degrade into composted soil that will make a happy home for grass or flowers. 

I pray as I scoop out the waste. Earlier this week, I had a conversation with the Lord that went a little like this:

"Whew. Calli sure was busy last night, Lord. There's a mountain of pooh in here. I could smell it when I walked in the barn."

I scooped for a bit, then something occurred to me. "Lord, I hope my sin doesn't seem as unattractive to You as this stall is to me."

That Still, Small Voice didn't hesitate for a moment. It wasn't an out-loud voice, but in my heart, I knew. "It's much worse."

I leaned on my scoop and pondered that for a while. The stench of sin rises up to the Lord, just as our offerings of praise and love rise up. Our prayers are a sweet smelling incense to Him. Our sin is not. It's offensive and foul. 

Our job as disciples is to muck out the stalls of our hearts every day and remove the droppings of sin and our encounters with the world. When we do, we present a sweet-smelling home in our hearts for our Lord to reside. When we don't, we risk the disease of sin breeding in our hearts and minds. We also leave an odor that's unpleasant to the Lover of our souls. 

Today, let's take a closer look at our hearts. Is there anything there that needs to be "mucked out?" If so, let's do the work of repentance until it's done so that we can present our Lord a heart that's beautifully cleansed. Done daily, the job is repentance is quick work, so let us not delay. 

"Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." Romans 8:8,9 BSB

"And the smoke of he incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand." Revelation 8:4 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Footprints in the Snow


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Footprints in the Snow



An unsullied expanse of snow is a beautiful sight. To preserve the recent pristine white as long as possible, I tried to walk along the edges of the sidewalk. The stretch of snow in front of my house made it, intact, nearly to the end of the cold. 

The last morning, I walked out the front door, headed to the barn. I took my usual edge-of-the-sidewalk route but, after a few steps, noticed something unexpected. Large footsteps marched in a row, right through the center of the snow. They were a male's prints, and considerably larger than mine. 

What in the world? I thought. After another moment, I realized the source of the snow disturbance. The UPS man had boldly walked straight up the path to the door. Every step had left a clear impression in the snow.

As I stared at the evidence he'd left behind, as well as my own footprints in the snow, I realized an important truth. Where we walk, and how, are more important than we realize. Every step we make leaves an imprint, though not often visible to us.

Jesus' instructions to the disciples rang in my heart. "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17 nasb) If we choose to follow Him, we, too, must walk in His steps, both where and how He walked. How? It was because of God's great love for us that Jesus came, and it that same love for which He persevered all the way to the cross. If we are to walk as He walked, then, we must walk in love - for God and for others.

In eternity, we'll see the impact our steps have made. Unfortunately, not all of mine will have left a positive impact. I can't change my wrong steps, but I can make better choices for the future. 

Today, let's ask God to give us a glimpse of our own footprint. Do my steps draw me closer to Him? Does every step lead someone else closer to Christ, as well? If not, pray that God will direct our paths in such a way that He will be glorified and honored by our life's journey, all the way until He leads us home.

"Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or to the left." Isaiah 30:21 nasb
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Growing Your Faith Retreat and How You Can Be a Part


Friday, January 19, 2018

The "Growing Your Faith" Retreat and How You Can Be a Part


For months, women have been meeting to plan and prepare for an upcoming retreat. We've prayed for God's perfect plan, and we hope we have it. Three churches have joined together to sponsor a women's renewal retreat at FCR at Crow's Neck in late February. (Bethlehem United Methodist Church, Ingomar Methodist Church, and Amaziah Baptist Church) The theme is Growing Your Faith, and I'm excited about speaking. 

After Sam moved to my house, we met via phone/FaceTime. A couple of weeks ago, we were finally able to meet in person. The sweetness and unity of spirit was amazing. These ladies are kind and loving, and the choices they've made for the meeting reflect their gentle hearts. I think those who attend will be so blessed.

Sherra Owen will share some of her knowledge of Mississippi plants, and Emily Manning will share an art performance. 

I'll be leading in the study/learning sessions. We'll have small group sessions and large group worship time.

How do I prepare for such a big conference? The same way I prepare for every day of my life. I pray for God's direction. Read Scripture on the topic. Memorize passages that are pertinent. I ponder. 

It takes a lot of time to prepare because my life needs to be the first one that's actively growing, actively repenting, actively changing. I can't teach what I don't live, so I have to have my act together in order to prepare.

I don't use a speaking script. Instead, the words must be planted deep in me in order to come out at just the right time. Sometimes, I'll use an index card with a few Scripture passages to remember written on it, but not always.

I tell you this because I need your prayers. We expect God to move in the lives of the women who attend. We expect we'll all leave changed. For that to happen, those in leadership need humble, servant hearts. I need an humble, servant heart most of all. 

Please pray I'll be ready and have exactly the right words and teaching tools. 

Ladies, you, too, can be a part of this precious weekend, but space is limited so sign up soon. Here are the details:

Grow Your Faith Retreat
FCR Camp at Crow's Neck
February 24-25, 2018
Cost: Full conference $70
Saturday only $35
Check or cash only

Mail check to Laura Pannell, 1549 CR 478, New Albany MS 38652

There's a Growing Your Faith facebook page where you can ask questions and learn more. Be sure to connect with us.

I hope you'll join us for this fun retreat. I can't wait to see what God does.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 esv 
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Importance of Head Protection

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Importance of Head Protection



I can still hear my Mama say, "You need to put your toboggan on, or you'll catch your death of cold." The connection between wearing a knit cap and preventing viral infections seemed iffy, at best. If I ever put that cap on, I don't remember it.

I've rarely worn hats, baseball-style caps, or knit caps. When temperatures recently dipped into the single digits, however, headwear became considerably more attractive. I dug in my glove-and-cap basket until I found a knit cap that must've been twenty years old. It was gray, had a hole in one side, and fit about like draping a piece of fabric over my head. It slipped off at least twice every time I wore it to the barn and required constant readjustments to keep it in place.

Yesterday, my gray cap fell off when I leaned over to scoop some manure from one of the stalls. That was the final straw. I threw the cap in the garbage. When I went to the feed store, I bought a new, bright red knit cap with a pompom on top. The style was most suitable for a child, but it fit my head and stayed in place. I wore it home.

I know the importance of covering your head to prevent heat loss, but I've never bothered with it before. This week, I've reconsidered my decision. Today, I'll wear my new cap to the barn and, likely, to the office, as well. I'm tired of being cold, so I've decided to protect my head. My Mama would be so proud.

There's another kind of head-protection that's even more important than wearing a cap in cold weather. We're constantly bombarded by worldly words, opinions, and images from social media, news outlets, books, television, movies, and music. When we allow these influences into our mind, they have a significant impact on our thoughts and our actions. 

The responsibility to guard our minds and hearts is ours alone. We're not accountable for what's available, but we are accountable for what we choose to do with it, and how we allow it to change us. Does it make us more like Christ or not? If not, why do we choose to fill our minds with it? 

Today, let's take a serious look at the influences we allow into our minds. Would Jesus choose them? If not, should we? Let's be sure to protect our heads and our minds.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Resolution Check: How I'm Doing on Getting Things Done

You might also enjoy: 
Making a Choice and Choosing a Path
Pigpen Parables: The Place of the Piggy Heart
Intentionality: Changing Wanna Be Into Got'er Done

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Resolution Check: How I'm Doing On Getting Things Done


The temperature is 4 degrees outside. Instead of face the sub-zero wind chill, I decided to check my planner to see how I'm doing with New Year's resolutions. 

I'm not as far behind as I thought.

I resolved to memorize Scripture this year, a chapter a month. The first chapter of John has been quite a challenge, with 51 verses. By this point in the month, I should have 25 verses memorized. I'm not there yet, but I do have 16 verses memorized and am working on the 17th. 

How have I managed it? I spend a few minutes memorizing every morning, but I also ponder the verses and find applications in my life throughout the day. I try to live the Scripture I'm learning by soaking in its truth.

Two weeks into the month, Scripture memorization is already becoming a habit. 

My mentoring partner and I are holding each other accountable, as well. We agreed to quote the verses we'd learned in our Sunday morning time together. As you might imagine, I practice hard to be sure I'm ready. Accountability is key. 

"Take a blogging course" was on my list for January. I signed up for a four-part online course. I'm through the prequel course and 1/3 of the way through the main course. It's harder than I expected and taking more time than I wanted, but I'm learning critical skills. I'm stopping to practice what I've learned, which nails the knowledge down and assures I understand the material.

Get at least 10,500 steps every day was also one of my goals. Yesterday was the first time I fell short, with just under 9,000 steps. I should've finished out my goal on the elliptical, but I worked on a writing project until late. 

If you want lots of steps, put horses in the barn at night and walk back and forth. Add cleaning out the stalls and you'll have more steps than you can imagine. 

One simple lifestyle change has made all the difference.

I'm supposed to be following the DASH diet this year. Less salt and meat. Lots more vegetables and fruits. A weekly pot of vegetarian vegetable soup helps me meet my vegetable requirement, and a supply of fruit in the crisper has made the difference with the fruit requirement. (I'll do a different blog post later on specifics) 

Weather and limbs on fences have prevented a few outings and meetings I'd planned, but there's still time. Reading 100 books this year is also on my list. I've finished seven already. (I'll do a blog post on how-to's)

The most important part of sticking to my resolutions was in the making. I prayed about every area of my life. What changes were needed? How should they be done? It's not an accident that Scripture memory is the FIRST resolution on which I work every single day. 

I didn't stop after praying about my resolutions. I pray about my to-do list and about how to get it done, too. Specific, goal-directed prayer is a critical part of my daily life. 

I've already begun to tackle some of the most challenging areas in my life and I'm making progress. How? Because I've made a plan, stuck to it, and prayed it through. 

What are your resolutions for the year? What changes did you plan to make? It's not too late to meet your goals. Make a start now, take consistent steps, and you, too, can have an amazing year.

The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Snow Doesn't Fall: 6 Ways to Deal with the Disappointment of Unmet Expectations

You might also like: How to Change 2018 From Just Getting By to Simply Amazing



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When Snow Doesn't Fall: Six Ways to Deal with the Disappointment of Unmet Expectations


Last night, the local TV station reported a winter weather advisory with a band of  snow approaching Northeast Mississippi. My home is sandwiched between the areas expected to get 1/2 - 2 inches of snow and 1-3 inches. It would start, the forecast said, around 2 am. Snow would hamper our morning travel.

I, along with snow-loving children of all ages, went to bed expecting a scene of fluffy white this morning. I awakened before 5 am and thought, "SNOW!!!" What a disappointment it was to look outside and see the usual brown winterscape and patchy remnants of ice.

My dogs were both miserable during the recent ice storm. They hated walking on the cold, slick layer. Mamie stopped after only a few steps and refused to go even an inch further.

Snow, however, is a different story. Maggie's experienced a big snowfall before. She loved bounding through soft, powdery snow. I think Mamie would love it, too. 

There isn't any snow, though, and I'm surprisingly disappointed. It's moving slower than expected, the morning forecaster said, and it'll be here in a couple of hours. 

Snow's coming, or so they say.

I've been disappointed about snowfall before. I don't know whether to hope or not, so I'm proceeding with my morning routine, doubtful it will be disrupted.

Expectations bring excitement and energy. They're fun, until they're not. Unmet expectations break our heart, fuel anger, and breed bitterness, don't they? We've all had them: 

- the job offer we expected but didn't receive
- the cancer that wasn't cured
- the raise we hoped for that wasn't given
- the child who strayed
- the pregnancy that never happened
- the spouse who wouldn't go the distance
- the death that came too soon
- the health that didn't last

What we expect isn't always what we receive. When the unexpected and unwanted arrives, we can greet it one of two ways. Accept its arrival with anticipation that God will use it in a positive way in our lives or allow anger and disappointment to direct our responses. It's all too easy to become bitter and push away those who would comfort us and help us through.

How, then, can we deal with disappointment in a more productive way?

1. Start by giving thanks for the positive blessings we've already received: A roof over our heads, warmth in cold weather, food on our tables, friends or family who love us, a God who never leaves us nor forsakes us. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

2. Release anger quickly. According to an article cited by Webmd.com, people with unresolved anger issues are 19% more likely to have a heart attack. Seething anger is accompanied by a cascade of consequences that can be worse than the disappointment we've experienced. Choose to let go of anger and replace it with peace. (Ephesians 4:26) 

3. Look for the lesson in the disappointment. Is our health issue due to poor choices? What can we learn? How can we make better choices going forward? Was our raise denied? Is there something different that might make it a possibility later? (James 1:2-5)

4. Embrace change. It's easy for suddenly-widowed women to be overwhelmed by the increase in responsibilities and physical work that must be done. Choose to learn new skills. Missing a promotion may be an opportunity to start a side-business of your own. Try a new health skill. Walk a little further every day. Maybe God's doing a new thing. It'd be a shame to miss it. (Isaiah 43:19) 

5. Grieve well. If the unmet expectation is a result of loss or death, take time to grieve. Give yourself extra grace. Tears will come at the most unexpected times. Let them fall. Navigating through grief takes time. Don't get in a hurry. (Lamentations 3:31-33) 

6. Choose hope. As believers, our hope is in Christ alone. We look to a future in heaven when we'll be reunited with all those we love. Healing will come. Joy will return. Hang on to hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) 

We all experience the disappointment of unmet expectations. How we respond to the hard times determines, in large measure, how life will look on the other side of hurt, sorrow, or loss. We can allow our faith to sustain us. We can demonstrate the power of the light of Christ to a dark and lonely world. We can, if we will. 

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 esv
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: MLK Day: On Making a Difference By Taking a Stand

Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther King Day: On Making a Difference By Taking a Stand and Living What You Say You Believe



This morning, as I pondered what to write on the celebration of Martin Luther King Day, the stark contrast between the Poor People's Campaign and last year's Women's March came to mind. I envisioned the mule-drawn wagons and the women wearing vagina-style attire, and shook my head. 

I have no idea what the women hoped to achieve nor what they protested. Those ridiculous hats are all that stuck in my memory. Did they accomplish what they hoped? I doubt it.

I will never forget Reverend King's march, however, nor the civil rights for which he protested. Did he accomplish what he hoped? Yes. His protests didn't change every heart, every circumstance, but they changed a lot. 

We live in a far different society, in many ways, than the one in which I grew up.  We can all enter by the same door, sit in the same waiting room, eat in the same restaurants now. If we work hard, we can all go to college, get a good job, make a nice living for our families. We can attend the same church and worship together, side by side. 

It was not so when I was a child, for the color of your skin determined your opportunities.

One man saw injustice, prayed it through, then took a stand. He endured threats and persecution, yet he persevered. Photos taken on the day before he was killed show a man who knew what his actions were about to cost him. He knew he would soon be killed, yet he pressed on because he had taken a stand for right and he would not back down. 

It's one thing to talk a good line. It's another thing entirely to live what you say you believe. Where are the people today who take the kind of stand Martin Luther King took? Where are the people today who live what they preach in the public arena? 

I wrote the words you're about to read last January, but they're as pertinent today as they were then. I'm repeating them, because I can't write it any better.

* * * 

I've sat here for an hour, trying to find a topic for today's blog. The visuals echoing through my mind are the photo of one of the women's march participants shrouded in a vagina costume and the ones of the women in various stages of undress, slogans painted across their bare chests.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do those pictures say? I'll let you draw your own conclusions. 

There are all kinds of protests, but the one that I've never forgotten is the Poor People's Campaign, organized by Martin Luther King. 

I didn't understand what it meant, but I knew it was important. 

Protestors left Marks, Mississippi in mule-drawn wagons, headed toward Washington D.C. It was the spring of 1968, not long after Rev. King was assassinated. 

My mama carried my sister and me to see the protestors. We parked on the side of the road and stood beside the car. Silent. Watching. 

The mules, heads down, pulled the wagons. Protestors sat quietly as the mules walked, the wheels turned. It was slow progress, but it was real.

There was no doubt in my mind that something powerful was happening. I didn't understand it, but I knew, at the core of my being, that life would change. 

And it did.

No one dressed in vulgar costumes. No one shouted obscenities. No one waved blasphemous signs. 

They counted the cost and took a stand.

That one protest will always be the epitome of effective protest for me. Quiet. Peaceful. Intense. Powerful.

Not everything was rosy and beautiful when they reached Washington, but that moment in time, watching at the side of the road, stands out in my mind. It's a sharp contrast to protests like the recent Women's March on Washington. 

I recognize that there are still inequalities. I'd like to see them corrected, and I've tried to accomplish that very thing. I went to college, then medical school, worked hard, made it through. 

There was sexual harassment. I took it for a while, then I counted the cost and took a stand. When I spoke up, it was clear I meant business. I didn't shout, carry a sign, or wear a costume. When I stood up to the bullies, they stopped, because that's what bullies do. They back down when confronted. 

I practiced medicine, worked hard, made it through. No one bullied me. No one treated me differently because of my gender. 

I know inequality still exists. I expect that, as long as there is evil in the world, inequality in some form will always exist. 

I know that most of the protestors probably dressed in regular clothes. The media has, as usual, shown us the most outrageous, because that's what draws views and makes money. 

I'm not opposed to peaceful assembly and I support the right to free speech. I'm not opposed to the recent march. I'm not even opposed to costumes that look outrageous to me. 

My grandmama taught me something, though, that we'd all do well to remember. Especially the people in the vagina costumes. 

Actions speak louder than words. 

"... let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18 niv.

We demonstrate who we are (and whose we are) by what we do, so we'd do well to choose our actions wisely. 

The most effective protestor of all time was Jesus Christ. He entered a world filled with violence, poverty, oppression, and cruelty, and He chose love. Every single time. He chose sacrifice. Open-handed giving. Equality. Peace.

In a male-dominated culture, women traveled with Jesus, and demonstrated, by their lives, the power of Christ to transform. 

After the resurrection, His followers chose love, as well, and that love was unstoppable. It changed the world and turned it right side up.

I doubt I'll ever protest with signs, slogans, costumes, or marches. I hope to spend the rest of my life protesting the evil in this world by choosing love. Demonstrating love. Giving it freely and without complaint. 

From helping at soup kitchens to collecting supplies for the homeless, to helping rebuild homes after disasters (and everything in between), I want to be a change-agent of love in this struggling world.

Today, look for the evil, inequality, and injustice around you and take a stand. Make a difference. Protest like Jesus did, and let your actions help change the world.  Pursue mercy and justice. Use words if you must, but protest with love. 

"And now remain faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13:13 nasb
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: When the Answer to Our Prayer is a Much Needed Delay

#MLK #MartinLutherKingDay

Sunday, January 14, 2018

When the Answer to Our Prayer Is a Much-Needed Delay



Before I let the horses out Friday morning, I walked the fence to be sure it was still intact after the storm. My frigid journey through the ice wasn't because I want a fine-looking fence, although I do, but because I want the horses safe. If they get out and on the road, an accident, with catastrophic injuries to humans and horses, is far too likely. 

I found a big cedar tree down, but it had fallen away from the fence. A large oak limb had smashed, but not broken, the wire closer to the barn. It was at least eight feet long and about as big around as a whole frozen chicken, admittedly an odd comparison.

The wire was pressed down enough that I could easily step over it, so it would be no problem for the horses. One step and they'd be out of the fence.

The limb had to go. When I went back to the barn for supplies, the horses were seriously unhappy. They were not on their best behavior. Whinnying. Pawing at the door. Stamping their feet. They wanted out of their stalls, and they didn't care why I was delayed.

I ignored them, and did what had to be done.

When the fence was repaired and the pasture was safe, I opened the stall doors. The horses raced out the barn door without so much as a nuzzle of thanks for me. I'd kept them safe, but their only concern was getting what they wanted...out of the barn.  

I wonder how often I've prayed in that same horsey way - demanding what I want with no concern for why God might have waited to answer with a yes. Was there a danger from which I was protected by the delay? Was He preparing something special for me or for those for whom I prayed?

All too often, I presume that I should receive what I want when I want it, but there was a reason Jesus told us to ask for God's will and not our own. His way is best. 

Waiting time isn't wasted time. He has a reason for the delay, every single time. God is at work, even when we don't see His hand.

Today, let's give thanks for His delay and look for the lesson in the waiting. 

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10 nasb 
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Working from Immediately and Getting More Done



Our pastor is teaching through the book of Mark. This past Sunday, he announced his passage for the next week, as he always does, and suggested we read the first chapter in preparation. 

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I don't alway do the homework. This week though, I determined to be a diligent student. A pastor friend of mine once told me that he studied one hour for every minute he would spend preaching. I tend to use that formula when I'm preparing to teach or speak, too, but I don't usually use it when someone else is preparing to speak.

For a change, I read the first chapter of Mark every day. I was half-way through the morning's reading and realized something unexpected. This chapter is rich and full of great lessons. I can't wait to hear what part of this chapter he will teach tomorrow. 

I realized another important truth this morning, too. The answer to the question I've been asking God is on this page. 

Fun, to me, is to get a lot of things done. I love a long, written list to start the day IF I can end the day with every item marked off. I hesitate to say it's a perfect day to me, but it's a pretty great one. 

My schedule is full, but not as full as it was the last few years when I was taking care of my neighbor, Sam. That was a full schedule that literally went round the clock. I have some free time now, and I hate to waste it. 

How should I use the extra time to get a lot more done? That's what I keep asking myself.

I found the answer in the 45 verses of Mark 1. IMMEDIATELY. Mark used that word forty times in his account of Jesus' life, because it describes how Jesus used His time. 

When He had something to do, He did it immediately. He didn't make a list, ponder how He would do it, or get distracted and do five or six other things before He got to the one thing He intended to do. He didn't stop to look up something on His phone and end up spending an hour there. 

What would it look like if I did things immediately?

1. When I awaken in the morning, I'd get up immediately, instead of lying in bed, halfway between sleep and waking, wasting another fifteen minutes (or more).
2. When I'm finished using something, I'd put it away, rather than leaving it where I used it.
3. When I remove my clothes at night, I'd take them to the laundry chute and drop them down to the laundry room, instead of leaving them on the floor of the bathroom to accumulate until there's a big pile.
4. When doing laundry, I'd fold and put away the clothes as soon as they come out of the dryer or off the clothes line.
5. When I start to work online, I'd keep at it until I'm done, instead of taking a segue to something else.
6. I'd stop putting off and start doing. Immediately

Yesterday, I decided to give immediately a try. I had a bit of fence to repair because of a fallen log. My chain saw wouldn't start, as usual. I thought about calling someone with a functioning saw to help, but, because of immediately, I used an old hand saw to cut the log. It was hard, but took less time than walking back to the house, charging up my phone, calling someone, and waiting on them to arrive. 

I was tired from sawing and wanted to spend a few minutes congratulating myself, but I didn't. I set to work on the wire and a new t-post. 

When that was done, I realized I needed to add a couple of staples to tighten the wire. What I wanted to do was let the horses out and take a break. I considered it, but immediately came to mind. I went back to the barn, put a few staples in my pocket, grabbed my hammer, and headed back to the fence.

I didn't stop until the fence was finished. Then, I let the horses out, put the tools back in their places, and took a break. 

It was a snow day, and I wanted to spend the rest of the day drinking hot tea before a roaring fire. Instead, I made a pot of soup and, while it simmered, I resumed work on my blogging course. In the spirit of immediately, I kept at it until 5 pm. 

I took an occasional break to get a cup of tea, start a load of clothes, or switch them to the dryer. Immediately, though, I returned to my work, every single time.

Yesterday, I studied my Bible, wrote a blog, cleaned out stalls, prepped the barn for the falling temperatures, repaired a fence, and did four lessons in my blogging course. I also washed, dried, and put away a load of clothes, made soup and cornbread, cleaned the kitchen, and dreamed about my new blog (planned blog topics). I replied to emails, helped a missionary with a crisis, comforted someone in their grief from hundreds of miles away, and cast a vision for a new outreach. Before I was done, I had a clear picture of the new project and so much enthusiasm about how it would be done that I wanted to start the preparation immediately, but it was way too cold for any more outdoor work.

All of that, and more, before 5 pm. How was so much accomplished? Because I worked from immediately. I completed many tasks, but I still had time to text with my family, dream, cast visions, and plan because I didn't waste time.  I didn't watch TV or YouTube videos. I didn't play games on my phone. I didn't scroll through Twitter or Instagram or SnapChat. I simply did what needed to be done.

If you'd like to use your time wisely, and accomplish more than ever before, why not give immediately a try? If it worked for Jesus, it will work for us, too. 

I can't wait to hear about your immediately day, so be sure to check back and comment about how it went. Have fun!

"And Jesus said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' And they immediately left the nets and followed Him." Mark 1:17-18 nasb
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Choosing Suffering Rags When Healing Is a Few Steps Away






Friday, January 12, 2018

Choosing Suffering Rags When Healing is a Few Steps Away


We stood at the entrance of the synagogue in Capernaum. Ruins of the village stretched before us. Enough of the stones were in place to give a clear outline of houses, rooms, common areas. 

"I wonder which of these was Peter's house," someone said.

"You're looking at it," our guide explained. "Under the modern building ahead. It was built over the site to protect it." 

Peter's house, where his wife's mother lay dying, was only a few feet away from the door of the synagogue. I stared at the site and pondered what it must've been like that day...

Mrs. Peter was probably at her mother's side, desperate with worry. It was before the time of aspirin and acetaminophen for fever, so she probably dipped soft cloths in cool water and made compresses for her mama's head and body. Maybe a few of the other women hovered nearby, ready to assist, or weep and wail, as the situation unfolded. 

Help was only a few feet away, but their hope was in a bowl of water and a damp cloth. 

Peter was with Jesus, who, it was reported, could do miracles of healing. While the men stood in the synagogue and listened to Jesus read from the Torah, Peter's mother-in-law's condition worsened.  By the time the men left the service, she was near death. 

Jesus walked out of the synagogue and immediately went to Peter's house. Someone "spoke to Him about her" and, immediately, He went to her. He didn't wait for someone to wash His feet, serve Him tea, or offer him a snack. 

He went to her, reached out His hand to her, and drew her up. By the time she reached a sitting position, her fever was gone. That good woman didn't waste a moment lounging around. She didn't rest and recover. She rose up from her bed, healed, and began to serve her Healer.

I want to be like Peter's mother-in-law. I want to be the one who experiences the touch of Christ, receives healing, and immediately serves.

I'm afraid, however, that I'm sometimes like the women with the damp cloths, desperately making compresses to lower fever, when healing of the disease is available for the asking. 

Friends, we serve a wonder-working, immediately-acting Lord who hears and responds. He cares about us. Today, may we give up our suffering rags and bring our needs to the One who stands ready to hear and help all who call on His name.

"And immediately after they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick in bed with a fever, and immediately they spoke to Him about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon possessed...And He healed many..." Mark 1: 29-32, 34a nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Horses and Humans and the Tendency to Wander
photo above courtesy of freeimages.com

Here's a link to a video about Capernaum and Peter's house if you want to see the ruins. 



Thursday, January 11, 2018

Horses and Humans and the Tendency to Wander


Dusk had begun to fall last evening before I headed to the barn to feed. Just outside the tack room, I saw a deep indention in the soft, moist soil. A hoof print. I groaned. The fresh track could only mean one thing. At least one of the horses was out.

I opened the back door of the barn. Two horses trotted inside to their stalls. Belle looked at me from the other side of the fence. She was out of the pasture, and not at all happy about being separated from her herd.

Once I'd redirected her to the stall, I walked the fence line to find the problem. I was nearly to the far corner when I found it. Just before the New Year, Ryan and I had worked that stretch of fence. I thought the wooden post, though not perfect, was good enough. It wasn't. 

The post in which I'd put my trust was flat on the ground, the barbed wire still attached. It was no problem for a curious horse to step over the downed post and explore the adjacent ground. 

Belle had probably wandered a few steps over the fence, nibbled a little grass, wandered a few more steps. In no time at all, she was separated from the other horses. Later, she noticed her plight but was too far from the opening to easily return. Judging from her hoof prints, she'd paced back and forth in front of the barn, uncertain what to do.

Robert Robertson's 18th century hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," uses a phrase that describes the human condition quite well. We, like Belle, are "prone to wander." A missed quiet time here, a skipped church service there and before we know it, we've wandered away from our church fellowship and from a close relationship with our Lord. 

The purpose of the fence is to keep the horses in a safe place, with easy access to the shelter of the barn and the blessing of twice-a-day feed. The purpose of the restriction of our faith is not to keep us from something good or pleasurable, but to protect us from harm and give us easy access to the blessings of God. 

Belle could only be restored to the rest of the herd by surrendering to my direction and following me to the barn. In that same way, we will be restored when we recognize our situation and surrender to our Lord, who stands ready to lead us back to Him. 

Today, let's do a proximity check. How close are we to our Lord? Our fellow believers? Have we wandered? Failed to follow in any area? Do we feel separated from God? If so, the solution is simple. Recognize our plight and cry out to the One who longs to restore, then follow where He leads.

"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his should form death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When the God of the Universe Knows Our Name

photo courtesy of freeimages.com


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

When the God of the Universe Knows Our Name


The settings section of my phone lists my name. It's correctly spelled every single time. Seri, however, has a little trouble with the pronunciation. Her "Leanna" often sounds nothing like my name. 

That's been a lifelong problem for me. When I was a girl, the usual combination of "Lee" and "Ann" was Leanne, not Leanna. Sometimes, Leanne was spelled "Leigh Ann." My name was uncommon.

The efforts at pronunciation were even worse than the spelling difficulties. I've been called Leanner, Leeanne, Louanne, and Leander, among others. Because of the confusion surrounding my name, it's precious to me when someone gets it right the first time. It's also caused me to take note of others' names and try to get them right.

Yesterday, I was speaking with a group of teenaged students. They aren't usually the most welcoming group, and not often as responsive as I'd like, but I made an effort to learn everyone's name. For once, their names "stuck" in my head.

When I began to speak, I called the students by name and invited them in to the conversation. It caught them off guard, and they participated in a way they never had before. Not all their stoniness crumbled, but a little of it did.

Some of the names were non-traditional and multi-syllabic. They weren't easy names, but they were no less important to the students. Last evening, I pondered our time together. I'm convinced using their given name correctly made a difference. 

This morning, I'm reminded that God knows our names. He never misspells them nor mispronounces them. He gets them right every single time. 

When the Good Shepherd calls a sheep, it's generally grazing, satisfying it's hunger. A sheep is trained to stop nibbling, look up, and follow. It's life and safety depend upon the promptness of its response. 

The difficulty in following Jesus is not whether He knows or uses our name. It's not even whether or not we hear Him call us. He calls. We hear. We know we're supposed to obey. The difficulty comes when He requires us to walk away from our grazing and follow Him. Will we stop our efforts to satisfy our own hunger and allow Him to lead us to greener pastures? To lusher grazing? To still water?

He calls us by name. Our job is to respond, and to do it instantly. 

Today, let's listen for the Master's voice and choose to turn from seeking our own satisfaction and follow Him. 

"To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." John 10:3 esv
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Finding Good in the Midst of the Hard

Monday, January 8, 2018

Finding Good in the Midst of the Hard


Horses, like humans, have distinct personalities. Toby, my first horse, has always been sassy and full of zip, but he's slowed quite a bit. He's more than thirty years old now, and his personality is a little more zap than zip. He's slower to come up than he used to be and his final days are near.

When it comes to eating, he's especially slow, and it shows in his gaunt physique. I've added extra feed, wormed him more often, checked his teeth. No change. He's always been thin, but he's gotten thinner as the years have passed. "Just like me," Sam always said. "We're both thin. It don't matter a bit." 

Most of the time, I feed the horses together in one trough at the edge of the pasture. The younger horses eat quickly. Toby chews on every bite. It takes him a while, and he's often at the trough long after the other horses have wandered away. Hay's always available, so he's never without something to eat, but I've worried about him. 

When single-digit weather came, I moved the horses to the pasture behind the barn and started feeding them in stalls again. The first day, the young horses were finished eating long before Toby. I waited a bit to turn them out, and Toby finished his grain.

Last night, I dumped feed in Toby's pan and ran my hand down his side. He was still lean, but his ribs weren't quite as prominent. He'd gained a few pounds since he'd been in the barn. "Hey, Toby, I think the freezing weather has helped you, old buddy." He kept his head in the feed.

The cold snap brought low temperatures, ice, frozen pipes, and extra work, but the effort hasn't been wasted. Toby's a little better. It's a bit of good in the midst of the hard.

I've been through plenty of hard times in my life, but one thing's been true of every difficulty. There's always something good in the midst, IF we're willing to look for it.

Today, let's spend some time considering our own difficulties. What growth has God brought from it? How are we becoming more like Him? How has blessing come from the hard? Let's look close to find the good, and be sure to thank Him for what He has done.

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." Romans 8:35, 37 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Method in the Madness and Learning from the Land