Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Blizzard That Was Not

The NOAA weather alerts pinged off and on all day, sometimes arriving before I could finish reading the one before. My heart sank when the alerts changed from "Winter storm watch" to "WINTER STORM WARNING". An icy storm was the last thing I wanted.

According to NOAA, the storm wasn't just a possibility, it was a done deal. It was coming, and I needed get ready. (Admittedly, the storm did arrive, just not at my house.)

My neighbor, Sam, had been to the store, where he drinks coffee and discusses the issues of life and the world with the other men. It's been a ritual for decades. He came back from drinking coffee with a firm certainty that a bad storm was coming, and we needed to get ready. 

I was already prepared for the storm. I had been to town and bought dog food, butter, and spinach. That's what I wanted on hand if I got snowed in. I'd also bought carrots. They're not my usual winter storm fare, but I needed them for the beef stew I was cooking.

My preparations were both adequate and complete. I thought.

Sam decided we should bring firewood from the tractor shed to the house and stack it in the wood rack on my porch. Just in case the power went out.

"I already have enough wood for two days. That's plenty."

Sam disagreed. 

It was raining. I didn't want to get out. I whined and argued. 

Sam was adamant. 

"Look at the radar, Sam. We're on the edge of the storm."

"You need the wood. Just in case."

"Now, Sam. Even if we get snow, the temperature's in the mid-thirties. It's too warm to stick."

"Come on. Let's get it done." Sam would not give up. 

We hauled the wood in the rain. 

The question of storm preparation has been on my mind ever since. When we know a storm is coming, we're wise to prepare for the survival of our families. 

But what about the spiritual storms that are coming?

Scripture is very clear that, one day, Jesus is coming back to get His church, and there will some tough times before He does. It's not a storm we can track on radar, but it's even more certain than the most urgent warning.

Jesus is coming and, when He does, there won't be time to run to the store for bread and milk. 

"Behold, I tell you a mystery;
 we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; 
for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, 
and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 nasb

We can prepare for that day, and the Apostle Paul has told us how. 

"Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, 
knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." 
1 Cor 15:68 nasb

In all our preparations, lets be sure to make the preparations that matter most. 

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ is coming again. Be ready.


Be sure to check out my new Amazon Author Page.

#stormwarning #milkandbread #secondcoming #beready #Christian

Friday, January 22, 2016

Flashback Friday: Getting Centered

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…”   Hebrews 12:2

“Getting the clay centered is the most important step,” he cautioned.  “It determines everything else that happens to the clay.  Don’t try to form anything until you have it centered.”  

I, of course, found it hard to wait until the clay was set just right.  

Repeatedly, the potter wrapped his big hands around mine and centered the clay.  He wanted me to feel the difference in centered and not-centered clay.  

Repeatedly, I thought the lump was ready when it wasn’t. Over and over, I would call to the potter.  

“Check it now,” I’d say.  “I think I have it.”  

Every time, he’d just smile as he looked at the clay and say, “Not yet.  You’re close, but not quite there.  Keep trying.”  

His experienced eye could see the wobble without even touching the clay.

I learned quite a bit about what happens when the clay is not centered, because I found it so hard to slow down and wait until I had it right.  

It is tough, if not impossible, to make a bowl when the clay is off-center, and it is extremely frustrating.  Most of the time, my efforts just became “wibbly-wobbly” and collapsed into a little lump before I was through.  

Occasionally, the entire lump of clay flew right off the wheel, hitting the student at the next station.  She was gracious about the first few slimy lumps of clay that landed on her arm or in her lap, but it didn’t take long for her to be almost as frustrated with my efforts as I was.  

“Don’t you feel the difference?” the potter asked as he used my hands to center the clay once more.  

Of course, I felt the difference!  I simply was not willing to wait, so I struggled with the clay instead.  

“When the clay is centered and the wheel speed is right, all you will need is a light, firm touch to make what you want,” he promised.

Having a life that is properly centered is sometimes difficult, too, isn’t it?  There is a tendency to want our dreams fulfilled NOW.  It’s as hard to wait for what we want in life as it was for me to wait until the clay was centered.  

Teenagers find it hard to wait until marriage for sexual fulfillment, hard to wait until adulthood for independence.  Young couples find it hard to wait to have the home and furnishings they’ve dreamed about.  Even middle-aged adults find it hard to wait for the level of financial security they desire.  

Unwillingness to wait often causes us to rush ahead, to take risks, to make choices that are unwise.

Are you struggling with waiting?  

Are you focusing on what you want rather than the things that truly matter in life?  

Slow down and examine your priorities, as well as your methods for obtaining them.  Begin to focus on Jesus Christ and all those “things” will look less important. Before long, you will find that everything else in life will begin to come together.  

As the potter said, getting centered really IS the most important step in determining the quality of what you make – with clay and with life.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mamie and the Ink Stain

Alas, I fear Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy will never be a Wonder Dog. Mamie is still a puppy at heart, and determined to stay in that cuddly, rowdy state. Maturity would help us both, if she would only embrace it.

I had just returned to my computer after lunch yesterday when I heard a crunching sound. "What is that?" I wondered. The sound continued. My next thought was, "It must be Mamie."  I was right.

Mamie had climbed up on a table (as only a determined puppy can do) and found a blue fountain pen. She had carried it to my red couch and used it as a chew toy. As you can imagine, blue ink went every where in a mad Rorschach pattern. 

My heart sank. Blue ink. All over one cushion of my couch. It looked like a catastrophe.

I jerked the cushion off the couch and raced to the kitchen sink, praying every step of the way. Slipcover off. Rinse the ink. Blot. Spray stain remover. Rinse. Blot. Spray. Rub. Rinse. Spray. On and on it went.

All thoughts of the scene I was writing and the direction I intended to take went right out of my head. The only thing that mattered at that moment was dealing with the stain.

Of course, the dark stain on the blood-red cushion reminded me of the stain of sin on our lives and the only thing that can remove it. The precious blood of Jesus.

I'm shocked, but the stain came out completely. I think it was, at least in part, because I reacted so promptly. The ink didn't have time to soak and dry in the fabric.

Quick action with stains makes a difference, but so does quick action with sin. If we would relent and repent at the beginning of our sin, before the stain has set, what a difference God would make.

Let's do a check of our hearts today and respond with the same urgency as we would if ink were on our couch cushions. 

Is there evidence of the ink-blot stain of sin in our lives? Let's relent and repent. Allow our Lord wash us clean in the precious blood of Jesus. 

Mamie may never reach the maturity of a "Wonder Dog", but we don't have to remain in our foolish, childish state. We can choose to become the mature men and woman God intended us to be. If we will.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things." 
                                                                     1 Corinthians 12:11 nasdb

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, 
let us press on to maturity..."      
                                                     Hebrews 6:1 nasb

Follow me on Twitter for "in the moment" tweets about my writing day. It's fun. @leannahollis

#Mamie #repent #maturity #Christian #disciple #Shoutgotitout

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What is the Point of Suffering? Extracting the precious from the worthless

I like Job. This man was righteous and good. Job was a superstar in the God-loving world, and he was one of God's favorites. 

Then, adversity came, as it does to us all, and he didn't feel like a favorite at all. Job got a whopping big dose of trouble, and it was far more trouble than most of us will ever see.

In the span of a few hours, Job lost his wealth and his family in one fell swoop. 

I can't imagine surviving that kind of adversity. I'm not sure I'd want to survive it.

Job had much loss to grieve, but, at the very beginning of his journey, he submitted his will to God's and worshipped Him. (We looked at this yesterday. The link is below, in case you missed it.)

Before he had a chance to recover from his personal losses, another disaster struck in the form of tormenting illness and chronic pain. To make matters worse, his wife was no help at all. "Curse God and die" is not the godly recommendation of a loving wife. 

Do you get the picture? 

Job lost almost everything he cared about. He was left with a disease-ridden body and a bitter wife.

This much stress has a marked physiologic effect and frequently causes depression. Was Job depressed? Probably. In his despair, however, he asked a very good question. It's one we would do well to consider.

What is the point of suffering?

That's not how he said it, of course, but I believe it was the question behind his question. "Why is life given to him who suffers?" (Job 3:20 nasb)  Jeremiah asked the same question, as have many over the years.

God's response to Jeremiah was an interesting one:

Extract the precious from the worthless... (Jer. 15:19)

Not every situation seems favorable, but there is something precious in every situation. Jeremiah said people looked at the adversity he faced and waited for his fall. They expected to overcome him when that fall finally came. That won't happen, Jeremiah predicted.

But the Lord is with me like a dread champion... (Jer.20:11)

Jeremiah was in the midst of a terrible situation, but he was not alone in his trial. God was with him and God was his champion. In a way, those who sought to overcome Jeremiah would have to go through God (his champion) to do it.

Jesus spoke about this very subject. "In this world, you will have tribulation, but take courage, for I have overcome the world," (John 16:33 nasb)

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote about the trials of life. 

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 
James 1:2-4 nasb

At last, we come to the "precious from the worthless". Much of our sin and our ungodliness are burned away in the fires of our trials. 

Suffering is never wasted, because it works in us to make us stronger and more mature. 

Suffering removes the chaff and leaves the good behind. In the midst of it all, God Himself walks through our suffering with us. 

I know this from experience. In my own trials, I have experienced both the presence and the cleansing of God. My suffering was not wasted. Unbelievably, I can look back now and say, "It was worth it." I don't want another refining fire, but what I gained through it was worth the heat, the sorrow, and the pain.

Suffering leaves us closer to our Lord and more like Him. 

No one loves having a trial, but being more like Jesus and knowing Him better is an outcome that makes our suffering worthwhile.

Have you faced a terrible time of testing? Are you there now? Take courage. You are not alone. God goes through it with you and, on the other side, you will emerge closer to Him and more like Him.

One fact make Jeremiah's journey easier, and it will ours, as well, so let's post this truth on the walls of our heart:

Our God is with us like a dread champion.

He is with us and He will see us through.

My Amazon Author page is now live. Be sure to check it out and follow me.

#suffering #darknightofthesoul #surrender #Christian #Job #ChronologicalBible

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Embracing Our Personal Gethsemane

It was one of those sunny spring days with a cloudless blue sky and crisp, clean air. The azaleas were covered in a glorious riot of blooms. Dear friends were on their way to my house for dinner. God was on His throne, and all was well. 

I heard a car pull up and my heart brightened. Perfect timing. My preparations were complete and my friends had arrived. I hurried out the door to greet them. 

But it wasn't my friends. It was someone else, even more dear than the awaited friends. With terrible news that would change my life and that of my son forever. It would, ultimately, end my marriage. I listened, dumfounded, and knew that nothing would ever be the same again.

God was still on the throne, and all was still well, but for a brief time, I felt completely alone. 

Abandoned. Crushed. Devastated.

I was shocked, but I tried to put on my happy-girl face and pretend that I was still fine. Still alive and filled with joy. A few minutes later, my friends arrived. We ate our meal and laughed and talked. I smiled and faked it the best I could. 

After dinner, we went to my little country clinic. In the prayer room, my sweet friend said, "Tell me what's wrong." And I did.

Together, the three of us laid on the floor, face down, and wept. We begged God to intervene. Finally, hours later, I began to thank Him for what He would do through the painful situation he had allowed. Somewhere in the dark night of my soul, I found my place of Gethsemane. 

It was my "Thy will be done" moment, and the rest of my journey through the pain depended on that one pivotal time.

We had prayed until I could "do it". 

There were horrible times ahead. More pain than I could imagine. I asked God and everyone else around me "Why?" and "How will I make it?" and "When will God move?" In the midst of my grief, however, God surrounded me with His love and peace. The body of Christ surrounded me with support and loved me when I was pitiful and unlovely. Our Lord carried me through. 

I didn't know it at the time, but it was the same pivotal moment that Job experienced. Right at the beginning of his trial, when he received the news that his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, three sets of servants, and all ten of his children were gone, Job worshipped. He shaved his head and tore his robes and fell, face down, on the floor. He worshipped God there, and found his Gethsemane. (Job 1)

"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord."
                      Job 1:21 nasb

That one "Thy will be done" moment made Job's survival through the rest of his trial, faith still intact, possible. 

It's the kind of Gethsemane we all must face eventually. The moment when life comes crashing down and we see no way to survive the trial God has allowed is the one moment of critical opportunity. It is the moment when we allow God to strip every pretense away and leave us bare before Him. 

It's the moment when we allow Him to touch the core of our hearts and purify us as with hyssop and fire. 

Our personal Gethsemane is the place where we abandon our will to His and arise a new creature. We are transformed by surrender and equipped to do battle, shaky and tearful though we may be.

Job had more than forty more chapters worth of story and suffering to go, but the battle was won at the very start, on his face, on the ground, in his surrender.

Our personal battle through the dark night of our soul can be won. It can be won, but not by arguments or begging or demands. It is won only by surrender to the One who is still on the throne of heaven. It is won when we allow God to strip away everything else to which we've clung, cleanse every sin, and cling to Him. 

It is won by the prayer of Gethsemane. Thy will be done.

We never want surrender. It seems like foolishness to embrace God's way of pain, but it's not. The foolishness is in clinging to the tatters of our own will. 

Peace can be found in the pain, in the cleansing, in the surrender. Peace can be found when we embrace Gethsemane and accept His difficult and terrifying will. 

Years later, I can look back and see that the prayers of my Gethsemane were answered in tremendous ways. God used my pain to transform me. He brought me through. 

Gethsemane is a precious place to our Lord, and time spent there is never wasted. Not mine. Not yours.

If you haven't faced your own dark night of the soul yet, you will. We all will. When that time comes, embrace your personal Gethsemane. Begin your journey as Job began, with worship and surrender.

"Not my will, but Thine be done."  It's the way of Gethsemane. It's the way of Christ. It's the way that changes everything.

My Amazon Author page is now live. Be sure to check it out and follow me.
In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links: The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted SuicideThe Opportunity in Trials The Monarch Migration Badge,  The Sermon Without Words,  A Matter of Perspective, and Living in Goshen: God's Best.

#Gethsemane #darknightofthesoul #surrender #Christian #Job #ChronologicalBible

Monday, January 18, 2016

Living in Goshen: God's best

Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary to the Auca (or Huaorani) Indians of Ecuador. He and four other missionaries were killed by the Indians they had gone to serve on January 8, 1956. His wife, Elisabeth, continued his work with the Aucas after his death, and many people turned to Christ because of their ministry.   
His life was short, but not without a lasting impact. Three of his quotes have significant meaning for me. I think you'll appreciate them, as well. 
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." (from his journal)
"Wherever you are, be all there. 
Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God."
"God always gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him."
The last Elliot quote is my personal favorite. I was reminded of it today as I read about Jacob/Israel and his family's move to Egypt. They were shepherds, with large herds of goats, sheep, camels, cows, and donkeys. (Gen. 32:14,15)
 There was one problem with their move to Egypt. The Egyptians didn't like shepherds. They considered shepherds "loathsome". (Gen. 46:34) 
I freely admit that I'm not as nice as God. If seventy people I thought were "loathsome" decided to move to my town, I would not have given them my best land. 
I'm also not as bold as God. If I'd taken my flocks into a place that hated people like me, I'd have asked for their worst land, just hoping they'd let me stay. 
Fear would have given me less than God's best.
But God. God is not like us. 
Jim Elliot was right. "God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him," as Israel soon found. 
When Israel met with Pharaoh, he told him that he and his family and flocks had come to sojourn in Egypt. "Please let us live in the land of Goshen." 
It surprises me every time I read it, but the Pharaoh said, "Sure. That's the best land we have. Of course you can have it. Even though you are loathsome in my sight." (That's the Leanna paraphrase, but you get the idea.) There was no reason to give the best land to these "loathsome" people, except for the orchestration of God. 
In our culture, aggressively pursuing what we want is valued, but that's not what Jim Elliot did. He was "all there" where God placed him. He gave his life for Christ, and that sacrifice helped trigger a modern mission movement. God's best wasn't what we'd have chosen, but Jim Elliot's life had more impact in a few short years than most of us will have in twice that time. He left the choice to God.
So, too, Israel followed the direction of God to Egypt and left the choice to God, who gave him the best land in the only place with food. 
It's not easy to wait for God's best. Sometimes, fear has convinced me to accept second best, thinking God's best will never come. Sometimes, I've been unwilling to wait. In both situations, I've ended up with what was clearly less than God's best. Looking back, waiting would have been so much better.
Relax. God is still on His throne. He is still active in the lives of His people, including yours and mine. 

Leave the choice to God. Allow Him to work in His way and His time. It's the only way to be sure we have His best, His timing every time.
My Amazon Author page is now live. Be sure to check it out and follow me."
In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links: How to Live LongerIs Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted SuicideThe Opportunity in Trials The Monarch Migration Badge,  The Sermon Without Words, and A Matter of Perspective.
#JimElliot #Godsbest #waitonGod #wait #Goshen #Israel

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Matter of Perspective

In my multiple decades of life, I've had stunning successes and equally stunning failures. I've experienced both great joy and tremendous sorrow. On the whole, though, it's been a wonderful life. The good has far outweighed the hard times. The joy has far outweighed my sorrow.

It's a matter of perspective. Even in the difficult times, I've learned to find cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Sometimes I forget that not everyone sees life this way. Today, I read the story of Jacob/Israel's arrival in Egypt and was once again surprised by how he viewed his past.

You probably remember Jacob's story. Jacob/Israel was his mother's favorite child. He successfully stole both the birthright and the blessing of his brother, Esau. When conflict came, he was sent to live with his uncle, Laban. While there, he met and married his beloved Rachel and became a wealthy man. He also married Leah (although this was the result of a trick by Laban). His two wives and their maids bore him twelve children. 

Eventually, he made peace with Esau and the rift was healed. His favorite son, Joseph, long believed to be dead, was restored to him. Joseph, and his  boss, Pharaoh of Egypt, provided generously for Israel and his family of seventy persons, plus servants. 

On the whole, Israel had a good life. He was loved and he loved. He was blessed by God, protected from those who would cheat and kill him, and even his greatest loss was restored.

When Jacob met Pharaoh, however, he described his life in less than glowing terms.

"Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life..." Genesis 47:9 nasb

There's no doubt that he, like most of us, made bad choices and encountered difficult consequences. Life wasn't always easy, but, on the whole, his life was good. He left a lasting heritage and he is still remembered and loved today.

How would you describe your life? Would your focus be on the good times or the bad, on the joy or the sorrow?

The Apostle Paul looked back on his life and rejoiced in the difficulties. He rejoiced that his circumstances of imprisonment, beatings, loss, and trials had turned out for the greater progress of the gospel and had given the brethren greater courage. (Philippians 1)

Paul looked back with thanksgiving and it filled his days with peace and contentment.

"Give thanks in all circumstances," he wrote. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 

Giving thanks helps us see our circumstances with a different perspective. It allows us to be joyful, no matter what we face. Joy, regardless of circumstances, softens the rough edges and smooths the difficult paths.

If your life looks like a symphony of sorrow and failure, try a change in perspective. Give thanks for what you learned in the failure. Give thanks for the comfort you found in your sorrow. Give thanks to God for bringing you through.

In every circumstance, give thanks, and the peace of God will be your guard.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 
            Philippians 4:6-7 nasb

My Amazon Author page is now live. Be sure to check it out and follow me."
In case you missed one of this week's posts, here are the links: Does God Know When I Will Die? Part 2How to Live LongerIs Longer Life Worth the Cost of Obedience?The Changing of Our Culture: Physician Assisted SuicideThe Opportunity in Trials The Monarch Migration Badge, and The Sermon Without Words.
#perspective #lifeisgood #givethanks #disciple #Christian