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


Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Method in the Madness and Learning from the Land


A dear friend commented about yesterday's blog:

"I remember reading about the frigid temperatures of the past and thinking, 'Why doesn't she just sell those farm animals, freeing herself of all that work?' Hauling water by wagon to those animals was beyond me. But, through the years, I've learned that's part of who you are."

Many people feel the same way about my animals. Yes. I know I could have an easier life if I sold whatever is causing my current challenge. Easier, however, does not always mean a richer life.

I didn't grow up with livestock or horses, but there was always a picture in my head of black and white cows on rich, green pastures. When I arrived at the farm for the first time to "take a look," I saw the picture in my head in living color, alive and breathing in the field. 

I was home.

Within a few months, I had a farm, chickens, guineas, a horse, and a farm hand, Sam. Toby (pictured above), now 30+ years old, was my first horse. He taught me to ride and jump ditches. He quieted my fears. Once a week, I rode across the land on horseback to check fences and pastures. I soon bought a second horse, and Sam rode along. Those were some of the sweetest days of my life.

Before long, I had cows, a bull, and calves. I love cows, and their slow, gentle meandering. I love to see their babies running and playing in the fields. 

I sold my cows a few years ago, and I've regretted that decision many times. I'm not ready to tie myself down to cattle again, but I miss them.

My husband left the animals to me most of the time, but Ryan loved them as much as I did. The year he learned to ride the horse alone, he spent most of the summer riding. I took sandwiches to him so he could eat lunch on horseback.  He and Toby were inseparable. 

Ryan joined 4-H and our fun really began. He showed cows, horses, goats, and pigs. It was a wonderful time of life, and we both grew up in many ways during those years. He still rides the horses in pretty weather when he's home. 

What I seldom talk about is the picture that's still in my head. Long before I came to the farm, I envisioned a place where women could come to retreat for a day or two, get exercise taking care of small animals, and learn about health, and life, and faith. I envisioned families coming to camp in tents, long before "glamping" was a word.

The picture's still in my head, a vision yet unfulfilled. The animals are a part of who I am, but they're also a part of what I still expect to do, one day in the not-too-distant future.

Part of that vision is already a virtual/digital reality, as you share my adventures through the words I write. Selling the last of the animals and leaving the farm would mean giving up my dream. One day, I believe it will be an actual reality.

I'm willing to wait. 

I recognize that the life I've chosen is not the life most women want, and that many people can't understand. For me, this life is not just a choice, it's who I am. 

I see God in the animals, the azaleas Sam and I planted, the lake, the fish, and the grass in the pasture. I see God here, and that means everything to me. It's my refuge, but it's also a place of worship for me. 

There's nothing holy about my land, but holiness begins to happen here, because I leave the noise of the world behind and focus on Him. I'm refined here. I sort out the issues of the day here, and there's no where else on this earth that happens with such depth and efficiency. 

I'm never closer to God than right here on this farm. I commune with Him as I muck out stalls, feed horses, and haul water. What's more precious than that? Nothing.

In 1989, God placed me on this land. He put the dreams in my heart, and He's made some of them a reality. I love this life, with all its challenges and hardships. I don't have the kind of life many of my friends have, but, to me, I have so much more. The dream continues to unfold, and, as long as God allows, I'm hanging on for the ride. 

It's the sweetest place I know. 

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 esv
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Frost-Proof Faucet in the Box and the Blessing of Second Chances