Saturday, October 24, 2015

I Shook His Hand Once

There's a scene in the movie Lawrence of Arabia in which a reporter tries to get quotes from passersby about T.E. Lawrence. One man says, "He was a great man..." The reporter asks, "Did you know Major Lawrence?" The man replies, "I shook his hand once." He admired Lawrence and he shook his hand, but, he admitted, he never actually knew him.

There's a big difference between shaking hands and sharing hearts. 

Jesus described a scene where the same sort of interaction will happen. He was passing through from one city to another, teaching and preaching as He went, headed toward Jerusalem. Headed toward the cross.

His journey was deadly serious because His destination was deadly serious.

Someone in the crowd asked a serious question. "Are there just a few who are being saved?" 

Jesus, on His way to make the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to save everyone, gave a cryptic answer. 

"Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." 

He described a terrible scene. The head of the house will close the door (metaphorically speaking of God the Father) and many people will knock on the door, desperate to get inside. "Open up," they will demand. The head of the house will say, "I do not know you."

The desperate people will justify themselves by saying, "We ate and drank in Your presence." 

Being in the same restaurant where someone ate and drank, even being at the same table where they ate and drank, is not the same as knowing them, being friends with them, being family. 

"You taught in our streets," they will insist. 

Being in the same town as the teacher is not the same as being a disciple of the teacher.

Just yesterday, I attended the I-22 signage ceremony. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves was there. Senator Roger Wicker was there. They both "taught in our streets." I spoke directly to neither man. I personally know neither man. The fact of our proximity while they spoke in no way indicates a personal relationship between us.

In that same way, attending a church where Jesus is proclaimed does not indicate a personal relationship with Him. Attending a Bible study and learning about what Jesus taught does not indicate a personal relationship with Him. The only thing that qualifies as a personal relationship is... a personal relationship. 

The only thing that qualifies us as disciples is that we follow the Master.

One day, time will end. The door of heaven will close and there will be some, Jesus said, who thought proximity would be an adequate substitute for relationship, for discipleship. It will not.  

The time to follow is now. The only One to follow is Jesus. 

"Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able... And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last." Luke 13:24, 29-30 nasb

The most read post of the past week: Removing the Callus.

Here's the link to The Clay Papers, available as an e-book for personal use or to send as a gift for only 99 cents. 
photo courtesy of

#disciple #JesusChrist #followHim #relationship, #TheClayPapers

Friday, October 23, 2015

Becoming a Writer: Cover Reveal and New Book

Disclaimer:  For those of you who have followed and supported my writing for years, this may not seem like a momentous announcement. If it's anticlimactic for you, I apologize in advance. I admit this looks like the cover to my first book. It is very similar, but Ryan (my son) has modified it for Kindle. 
I was still working at IMA in Tupelo when it all began. I overheard two of the nurses talking about pottery class and I took a step closer to eavesdrop more effectively. 

"Pottery class? Did I hear you say you're taking a pottery class?"

"Yes," they said, beaming. "Titus Riley has decided to teach one more class and we signed up."

"I've always wanted to take a pottery class."

"You should sign up, Dr. Hollis. We can take the class together. It'll be fun!"

I was less adventurous back then. It seemed a shocking idea, but, for once, my desire would not be denied. I signed up. The first class was so deeply spiritual that I rehearsed it in my head all the way home from Peppertown. 

By the time I pulled into my driveway, the words were crystal clear in my head. By the time I reached my computer, the words would not be silenced. I wrote them and, in a bold stroke of daring, I emailed them to all 200 people on the roll of the internet prayer ministry I coordinated. 

Every week, I attended class, drove home with words bubbling over in my heart, and headed to the computer. Every week, I emailed the lessons I'd learned to my list of pray-ers.

Before long, people began to reply with comments that described me as a writer. Writer? I am a writer? I couldn't believe it. I thought of a writer as someone who smoked and drank whiskey in Paris cafes. (Yes. My imagination tends toward fanciful.) What did I know? Apparently, not much.

Several people suggested I publish the stories in a little book. A book? Me, write a book? Nothing seemed more unlikely, but the idea would not be squelched. It took me years, but I finally started a little publishing company and published the book. The book still sells in paperback today.

I love these stories. 

It's a tiny book. There's only eighteen stories, but they represent my birth as a writer. They are my favorite stories of all I've written because they are so fresh and pure. There's no "technique". I didn't know about technique back then. It's just pure Leanna, written straight from my heart. 

Those stories were used by God to change me, to force me out of my comfort zone and bring me to the place I am now. Writing full-time. They were the first daring step on this journey of words, and they changed my life.

Two years ago, I intended to convert the book to Kindle, but encountered a formatting problem and gave up. This week, I decided to give it a try again. I was stunned to find that I was one step from being ready to publish. Ryan helped me. He explained how to make the table of content hyperlinks. In under two minutes, the manuscript was done. 

A few minutes more and Ryan had reformatted my original cover for Kindle. We uploaded the files. The format is not as pristine as in the print book, but the stories are all there. It's online already and available for purchase in the Kindle store. (You don't need a Kindle device. You can download the Kindle app and read it on your smart phone or your computer.) Here's the link: The Clay Papers. (Be sure to leave a review.)

I'm selling it for 99 cents. I make 35 cents for every sale, and I have to pay taxes on that. Obviously, this is not about making a ton of money. It's about sharing stories I love. It's about pointing people to the Master Potter and helping them to take a step closer to becoming moldable in His loving hand.

I hope you'll read it. I hope you'll share the post with everyone you know. I hope my little book will sell and people will remember my name when my novels are finally ready. (Those will be for profit, I hope.) 

Most of all, I hope people will be drawn to Jesus because of the words I've written and that they, too, will allow Him to mold and change them into all He intended them to be. I hope The Clay Papers will be used by God to create a desire for discipleship in the hearts of readers. If that happens, I'll have achieved my goal in publishing this book. 

Enjoy, sweet readers. I'm sharing a piece of my heart.

You can read more of the story of how I became a writer in this blog post about Unexpected Blessings: Becoming a Writer.

My advent book is available on Amazon and is also 99 cents for the Kindle version. Here's the link: The Road to Bethlehem.

The most read post of the past week: Removing the Callus.

#coverreveal #Kindle #ClayPapers #becomingawriter #disciple

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Blessing of Protection

One recent morning, I awakened at 1:30 am with a sense of urgency to pray for my son. I prayed and climbed back in bed. It was no better. I prayed in bed. At 2 am, I got up again. As it turned out, I was up for the day. The sense of danger for my son was so strong that I ended up praying off and on all day. 

By lunchtime, I was overwhelmed. Something was wrong. 

I texted him. He was fine. Nothing was wrong. 

I kept praying. I texted my prayer partner to pray. I prayed some more.

Finally, at 3:05 pm, nearly ten hours after my first sense of danger, I received a text from Ryan. A crazy thing had happened. He was driving (in his tiny Nissan roadster) when an 18-wheeler passed him, had a blow out, and blew the tire onto his car. The tire missed his windshield (which would likely have killed him) and hit his front bumper instead. 

"Did it scare you, Ryan," I asked. 

"No, Ma'am. It happened too fast to scare me, but it sure surprised me."

There's damage to the bumper that will need to be repaired, but Ryan managed to navigate to the side of the road without crashing. He made his way to a service station and the man there, who was so nice, gave him several long zip-ties. Ryan, a modern-day MacGyver if there ever was one, zip-tied his car back together until he could report his accident and arrange for repair.

According to, highway debris causes more than 25,000 accidents and at least 100 deaths each year in North America. When I called the insurance company to report his accident, the woman who answered asked how much of the car was damaged in the crash. 

"He didn't crash," I told her. "He said he just pulled off on the side of the road."

Most of the time, she said, when a flying tire-remnant hits a car, it causes a wreck. She was very surprised this one did not.

I'm not surprised at all.

The Lord has made known His salvation... Psalm 98:2 nasb

Our God, who is eternally present and sees the past and the future, knew about the accident to come at 1:30 that morning. He invited me into His divine preparations and I accepted the invitation. I can't begin to tell you how often I've been thankful for that. 

Lest you misunderstand, let me make it clear that Ryan wasn't spared because of his worried mama. Ryan was spared because a loving God intervened on his behalf. 

"He cares for you..." 1 Peter 5:7 nasb

On that particular day, at that particular time, God allowed me to glimpse His provision, His tender loving care. There are many days, in fact most days, when I do not glimpse His provision and tender loving care in such graphic detail. 

My failure to recognize God's care does not negate its presence nor His provision.

As disciples, we serve a loving, knowing God who cares for us with more tenderness, more love than we can imagine. Look around you today. Try to count the blessings you see, then count the unseen blessings that, though less tangible, are no less real. 

There's a song I learned as a child. "Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done."

Indeed. Count your many blessings today and thank Him for all He has done.

#highwaydebris #spared #handofGod #blessed #disciple #JesusChrist #grateful

The most read post of the past week: Removing the Callus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Blessing Disguised as a Coincidence

I don't believe in coincidence. I believe that the events of my life are orchestrated by a loving God who has a plan for me that is good and not evil, to give me a future and a hope. That's what it says in Jeremiah 29:11, and I believe it.

Two days ago, I experienced what my mechanics can only describe as a very strange coincidence. They raise their eyebrows, hold their hands out, and shrug. "Gotta be a coincidence," they insist.

Sam and I were going to run his errands (pharmacy, grocery) and I was driving. I pulled onto the road from the far side of his drive, the side I never use, and wasn't angled enough. The undercarriage dragged on the pavement. "Back up and try again," Sam suggested. I tried. I was stuck. 

The only option was to go forward and drag myself out. It made a terrible noise, but I scraped free. I drove a few yards and noticed the "Check Engine Soon" light had come on after the scraping. I had this light once before. That time, there was a problem with the catalytic converter. It was horribly expensive to repair. I groaned. Okay. I cried, too. But that was later.

My mechanic told me once that the "check engine soon" light means you don't have a catastrophe, but you need to get to the mechanic in the next day or so. I interpreted that light to mean after the pharmacy and the grocery.

We made our rounds without problems, I dropped Sam back at his house, and went out to my car to go to the mechanic's. It wouldn't start. I cried for real this time. I imagined that I had scraped off the vital part that would've kept my car running. Nothing had fallen off on the ground. My assumption was  based on the timing of the scrape, immediately followed by the light coming on. It still makes sense to me.

I left the car and walked back to my house. A couple of hours later, I went back to check on the car. It started just fine, so I drove straight to the mechanics and told them my tale of woe. John, one of my very excellent mechanics, checked the computer. 

"It's your cam sensor," he announced, computer in hand.

"I scraped off my cam sensor?"

"Naw. This has nothing to do with your scraping. It just happened at the same time."

"Are you sure?" 

"Yeah. Couldn't be anything else. The cam shaft sensor is on the top of the motor. You can't scrape it off."

"Maybe I pulled loose a wire to the cam shaft sensor?"

"Nope. The wires aren't down their either. It's just a coincidence."

I was skeptical, but left my car to be repaired. 

Yesterday, I picked up my car. "What was wrong?"

"The cam sensor was burned out. Just like I said. It's common in Altimas. Nissan put out an alert on it. You still had the original cam sensor. It should've burned out a long time ago."

"So how did that happen from the scrape?"

"It didn't. It was just a coincidence."

I couldn't believe it.

This is what I believe. I have traveled quite a bit lately. I've driven long distances by myself. At any moment, the cam shaft sensor could have gone out. Should have gone out. It didn't. Instead, it went out on a day when I was in town, with nothing pressing except my novel edits. It was the least difficult time for me to be without my car.

Had it gone out earlier, while I was on the road, it would have caused misfiring, motor vibration, then failure of ignition.  For a woman driving alone, that would not have been good.

Instead, my cam sensor went out at the time when I was between travel. One week earlier, and I'd have been caught on the road alone. One week later, and I'd have been caught on the road alone.

I whined, and complained, and wept about the inconvenience of my car woes. As it turned out, I was whining, complaining, and weeping about a blessing in disguise.

There was nothing coincidental about it. Psalm 139:16 tells us that God knows about every single day of our lives. He knows about every one of my days, and He orchestrated this one perfectly.

It wasn't coincidence. It was one more evidence of God's perfect timing.

In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Yeast in the FlourThe Problem With Phone CallsHow to Recognize Good News, Removing the CallusRefillable Nespresso capsules, and The New Normal.

The most read post of the past week: Removing the Callus.

#blessingindisguse #camsensor #perfecttiming

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The New Normal

(Before you start reading, I need to tell you that this blog post is not about my difficulties. It's about the faithfulness of God. Don't give in to the temptation to feel sorry for me. You've probably had days like this before. If you haven't, you will. Just keep reading.)

I was up early yesterday. It was so warm and comfy in my bed that I grabbed my laptop and headed back to my big four-poster. I wrote my blog and started on my novel. Ordinarily, I'd have gone to the barn after posting my blog, fed the livestock, come back for a shower, and moved to the kitchen to write. Yesterday, though, the comfort of my bed seemed like a good idea for a change. 

It wasn't.

I was still in my pj's when, shortly after 8:00, I heard Sam call my name. His car wouldn't start and he needed me to jump him off. Right then. 

It was cold outside. I was in the middle of writing a great new scene. I didn't want to stop. Sam didn't want to wait. 

I got up, dressed, and headed out with my jumper cables.

That set the tone for the morning. I won't bore you with details, but it was hard. I cried. More than once. My tears weren't because of anything specific, but because life had changed. 

As the morning progressed (maybe I should say deteriorated, because it got much worse before it got better), I finally realized something important.

This is my new normal, and, sometimes, it's going to be hard.

I blinked back tears and a verse echoed in my head. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) I memorized that verse as a child, and I believe it's true. I dug in. I called a friend to pray. I texted another friend.

My steps faltered, but I kept going. 

I grieved for the old normal. 

I grieved, and I cried, and I whined, and it was all okay. Because life is hard and sometimes we cry. Sometimes we grieve. Sometimes we whine. God knows all about our tears, whining, and grief. He created us. Nothing takes Him by surprise. 

He can handle it.

God is not displeased when we struggle, or grieve, or cry. He is displeased with us when we set up camp in our distress and allow our struggle to halt all progress, all obedience. 

In the midst of my struggle, God strengthened me and I did what had to be done. I blinked back tears, gave thanks for the help I knew He would give, and kept going. 

After everything that needed to be done was done, I saw His hand. My scene was better than I had expected. My unexpected car repair was much less expensive than anticipated. I received a very encouraging email from my editor. I had time to cook last evening before my son comes home today.

Yesterday was just one hard day in the midst of a lifetime of blessing. From an eternal perspective, the difficulties I encountered yesterday lasted no more than a blink of an eye. 

It was a hard morning, but it was a good day, because God brought me through.

In this world, we will have trouble. Jesus confirmed that truth. (John 16:33) Believers are not magically exempt from difficulties. We have as much, or more, trouble than the rest of the world. What makes our trouble different is that we have a Savior who will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) We have a Comforter, a Helper. (John 14:16) We are not alone in our trials. 

Our God will strengthen us, equip us, and bring us through. Even when it's hard. Even when we want to quit. Even when we whine, and complain, and cry.

Are you facing a hard time? Take heart. God is with you. He hasn't overlooked you or neglected you. He is there and He stands ready to help. 

Cry if you must. Whine if you will. But do not fail to lean on the only One who can carry you through.

The most read post of the past week: Removing the Callus.

#newnormal #Godismystrength #disciple #JesusChrist #perseverance 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Refillable Nespresso Capsules and the Learning Curve

Several years ago, a fellow physician and I were drinking a cup of coffee between patients. The coffee was not as delicious as I'd prefer and he said, "I should bring some of my coffee." 

"What's different about your coffee?"

"I roast the beans myself."

Never one to let someone else know how to do something interesting without learning it myself, I asked for full details. It wasn't rocket science and, before long, I was an amateur coffee roaster, too.

Over the years, I've become very particular about coffee.

When Ryan and I went to the Bahamas to visit my cousin, Christy, our hotel included a Nespresso expresso machine in our room. Fabulous coffee. Eventually, I bought a Nespresso of my own. The only problem with the Nespresso (besides the cost of the capsules) was that I couldn't use my own coffee beans.
Recently, I saw some empty pods for another coffee maker. Do they have those for Nespresso? I wondered. It turns out they do. The reviews were not encouraging, but there was one review that gave me hope. "There's a definite learning curve," it said, and gave suggestions for using the empty capsules. I ordered a set.

The reviewer was right. There is a learning curve. I've read the instructions several times, adjusted the grind and the pack of the coffee. Tried again. And again.

This morning, I popped the newly filled coffee capsule in the machine, set it for a short expresso, and watched with delight as dark espresso dripped into my cup. I did it! 

The reviewer was right. There's a learning curve with the capsules. 

I've found the "learning curve" principle to be almost universally true with worthwhile projects, and no where more than in living the life of a disciple. 

If I'm not careful, I find that I do the things I don't want to do and don't do the things I do want to do. (Romans 7:14-25)

The apostle Paul had the same problem. There is a learning curve to this disciple business, and it takes more than "book learning", as my grandmother would say. 

We do no good for Jesus if we talk a great faith but do not live it. 

Is there a solution? Yes. It requires us to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:15) rather than let our minds run wild like a herd of mustangs. It requires focus, and our focus cannot be on ourselves, our children, or the stuff we want. Our focus must be on God. 

There's a key point about being a disciple that is often overlooked, and it's the key to everything in this Christian life we're living.

Disciples follow.

Just to be clear, disciples follow their master. We all follow something or someone, and the life we live, the choices we make reveal the one we follow. 

What does my life say about the One I follow? What does your life say about the One you follow?

If we are to be a disciple of Christ, we must follow Him. (Matt. 4:19) Not from a distance, but up close and personal. We must learn to think like Him. Talk like Him. Act like Him. There's a definite learning curve, but the closer we follow, the easier it becomes.

Where are you on the learning curve of discipleship? What can you do to move along the curve? 

If I had stopped at the first failed cup of Nespresso with my new refill capsules, I'd never have reached the stage of good espresso. It's the same way with discipleship. If we stop at the first failure, we'll never reach the stage of peace that comes with following close behind our Christ.

Are you struggling? Have you had a failure? (Either a private failure that only you and God know or a spectacular, public failure that everyone knows...) Receive the grace of God. (Romans 8:15) Accept the learning curve, but don't stay at the bottom of the curve. 

Press on. 

"Brethren, I do no regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14-15 nasb

The most read post of the past week: Removing the Callus.

#learningcurve #presson #disciple #followHim #Nespresso

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Removing the Callus

I did surgery on my foot last night, and found something I didn't expect. Since there was no blood, it would be more accurate to say I did a "procedure" on my foot with a loop curette. I'm only telling you because there was such a nice object lesson to be drawn from it. 

A hard, linear callus had formed on the plantar surface of my foot. It wasn't painful, but it wasn't supposed to be there. When I wore shoes without padded soles, I could just barely notice it. "I should trim this," I had thought for weeks.

Yesterday, I had some free time and decided to spend a bit dealing with the callus. (Disclaimer: I do not recommend this technique.) I had an old loop curette I had used on Ryan's foot several years ago. I stuck it in the pencil holder when I finished using it, (I don't usually save instruments, but I thought his callus might need additional attention.) where it had been ever since. I sterilized it in preparation for the procedure. I cleaned my foot, wiped it down with sanitizer, and went to work. 

Layer after layer of callus was easily peeled away. I was down to the skin, and wondering if I'd ever get to the bottom of the callus, when I found a surprise. A small splinter.

I had stepped on the splinter and it had lodged in the skin but not gone through the skin. Over time, my body had formed a hard callus around it as a kind of protection. The callus was the only indication I had of the intruder. 

That little splinter and its resulting callus are very similar to what happens in our spiritual life. The smallest sin (whether it be a deliberate sin or a response to a perceived hurt from someone else's sin) can lodge in our hearts in such a way that we form a hard callus around it without ever realizing it's there. The only indication of the problem is the "hard place" in us. 

Like my callus, these little heart-calluses are not constantly noticeable but they have an impact on how we respond, to others and to God. 

The only way to deal with the heart-callus is to allow God to peel the layers away, reveal the problem at the center, and remove it.

Is there any hardness in your heart? In mine?

Left alone, that hard spot will grow bigger. It will eventually be noticeable. To others and to you. There's no good reason to leave it. In fact, the only sensible response for a disciple is to ask God to reveal our hard places and do the work of removing them as well as the causative agent. It's the only way we can have the soft, malleable heart of flesh He intends us to have. 

Best of all, when we allow Him to remove our hard places and give us a soft heart, it allows a deeper intimacy with our God. We, too, can say, "I am His and He is mine". 

"And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. 
And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 
that they may walk in My statutes and keep my ordinances, and do them. 
Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God."                        
                                                  Ezekiel 11: 19-20 nasb

In case you missed any of this week's posts, here are the links: How to Have a Flood of God-LoveThe Wonder Girls Close the ParkSoft drinks, snacks, and airplane takeoffYeast in the FlourThe Problem With Phone Calls, and How to Recognize Good News

The most-read post last week was Soft drinks, Snacks, and Airplane Takeoff.
#heartofflesh #callus #hiddensin #disciple 
photo courtesy of