Category Archives: General

Resurrection Witness of Spring

Dianthus

I love spring and always look forward to seeing what will come back for another year in my gardens. This year I discovered plants that I forgot I’d moved; plants that I thought I’d moved and didn’t; and even plants coming up from the seeds of parent plants. All remind me of God’s promise to make all things new.

Teresa, my Georgia golf buddy and budding gardener, sent me the above photo of some dianthus she’d left in a pot in the back of one of her gardens. She commented, “These stayed outside over winter. I thought they were dead…but surprise!”

She also told me she had tossed two more out in the woods after they died. Now, with a full understanding of “perennial,” she scurried into the woods to retrieve them. The plants–still alive– are back in their pots and enjoying a lot more attention now.

That’s the beauty of perennials, isn’t it. They come back from the dead and are enduring, constant, and everlasting.

Jesus promised His disciples He would come back from the dead too, but they didn’t believe Him until they saw Him again either. Over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus and talked with Him. His disciples even ate with Him. They enjoyed His presence for 40 days before He ascended into heaven so He could multiply His presence on earth through the outpouring of His Spirit into the hearts of believers everywhere.

His presence in our lives begins with just a small seed of belief; and like our plants that bloom where they are planted in our gardens, Jesus comes alive and blooms in the garden of our hearts when we plant Him there.

The glorious blooms we see in our gardens now bear witness to the resurrection glory that awaits us in God’s eternal garden. Let’s nurture His seed.

Change

Change 2

Change has never come easy for me especially when I’m happy and content where I am. So, a couple of weeks ago when my pastor talked to us about change, I was reminded of a change I had to make 10 years ago–a change I was none too happy about at the time, but a change that turned out really well for me.

I was a productive member of an active church in Rome GA, growing spiritually under the preaching and teaching of a self-proclaimed good old boy with a doctorate in theology; singing in a huge choir; and coordinating the prayer ministry. I had retired from 20 years of coaching and teaching tennis, and my days included long walks with God and my dogs through the woods on our property out in the country.

My walking trail ended at what I called my “prayer tree” that stood beside a fenced pasture where I could see sheep on one hill and cattle on another. As I sat beside my prayer tree and looked in the distance, I was always reminded that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and these were just two of them. At that time in my life, I was content and at peace with the world.

But circumstances change, and peace flew out the window when my husband came home from work and announced that he was retiring at the end of the month, and we were moving to Tims Ford Lake. It didn’t matter to me that we had already built our retirement home there or that we had discussed and planned the move for 12 years. I just thought that day would never come. But it came, and he was adamant. And, I was angry.

I’ve heard that all great changes are preceded by chaos, and that’s where my mind was–in chaos. As my situation changed, so did my attitude.

Those peaceful walks in the woods turned into three weeks of stomping through the woods; and the Lord let me stomp until I was worn to a frazzle and confessed my anger.

Knowing that I couldn’t change my fate, my attitude would have to change. So I said, “Lord, if You really want us to make this move, You’ll have to change my heart about it because it is not right with this move.”

I could almost hear Him say, “No kidding.”

Confession changes things, too. So does praying in God’s will.

Immediately, the burden lifted, and I was at peace as I walked out of the woods and back to the house in a much better humor. That Sunday when I went to church I told my Sunday School class we were moving, and I put our house and property on the prayer list for a quick sell. God must have been sitting on ready for that prayer. We had a buyer before I returned to church that night.

My next conversation with God went something like this: “Okay Lord, You know I don’t want to do any church hopping, so where do You want me to go to church when we move?”

Since the Lord had obviously approved our change in residence, I felt sure He had a church in mind, too; and He did. He called me to Marble Plains Baptist Church located inside Tims Ford State Park.

Church 1

Now I’m celebrating, yes celebrating, 10 years at the little white church in the wildwood where the church family is welcoming and loves others the way Christ loves His church; and the pastor always preaches under the influence of the Holy Spirit and pastors his flock much like the Great Shepherd pastors His.

I am blessed with a spirited neighborhood brunch bunch that supports each other all year long.

My peaceful walks in the woods have been replaced with long walks along lake roads and hours on the water with my dogs, my camera, and my Gheenoe. So you can see how God changed my heart about change.

Only He knows the plans He has for us and the path He wants us to walk; and when we walk it with Him, even when it includes change, we discover it’s lined with blessings.

God changed my heart about change. It isn’t all bad. Change is all good, if God is in it.

 

Beyond the Sky

Sam's morning sky
A Sam Stoltzfus photograph.

 

Being a positive and upbeat person, I’m rarely brought low by the weight of depression. But recently I felt a gradual pervasive darkness trying to set up house in my mind. Although the darkness took me by surprise, God wasn’t surprised at all. He knew it was coming and had already laid out a path before me that would lead me back into the light of His Presence.

Several days before, a friend had given me a Fernando Ortega CD called “Home.” I first heard Ortega’s music at an Anne Graham Lotz speaking event several years ago where he opened the evening for her. His music spoke to me, so I bought one of his CD’s.

His music still speaks to me in a haunting, other-worldliness way that often just whisks me away into the heavenlies, and on this particular day that’s where I desperately needed to be. His words in “Beyond the Sky” described exactly how I felt.

“When darkness falls over me,
This promise, it’s like a fire inside
Burning the dark away.”

If your spirit needs a lift, if you need to have the darkness burned away, if you need to be reminded of the tender transforming love and care of the Father and the home that awaits His children, listen to this beautiful beckoning into the light of God’s love and refuge beyond the sky. Perhaps this song will lift your spirits and lead you back into the light of God’s Presence, too.

Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny0TSPpMd3k&list=RDNy0TSPpMd3k to read the lyrics and hear Fernando Ortega sing Beyond the Sky.

Mystery at the 165 Mile Marker

Mile Marker 165

Have you ever seen something that you weren’t sure if it was real or not–something that made you wonder if you were seeing things? I experienced such an occurrence recently and would like to know the truth of the matter. Perhaps you could help solve the mystery for me. Here’s what happened…

A dark overcast sky hung low over town before I left for a week of vacation. I felt as if the dark cloud enveloped me too and found it difficult to look forward to the trip. The thought of traveling the same road that Earl rode on his last motorcycle trip left me with an eerie feeling. Yet I felt compelled to travel that road and face whatever the trip had to offer.

Thankfully, as I left town, I could see where the dark sky ended and blue sky began. I felt as if I were coming out of a pervasive darkness and into the light. My mood lifted immediately.

When I hit the 127 down ramp onto Interstate 24E I decided to document the drive because it was Earl’s last trip. I wondered what he saw and how he might have felt. Somehow, I thought it might help me understand what happened between the time he left that morning until he rode into heaven an hour later.

Traveling east toward Chattanooga, Earl’s path took him over Mt. Eagle, home of Sewanee and the University of the South, and down across the Sequatchie River before heading into the valley. Once past the huge Tennessee-Alabama Fireworks located in the median between the east and westbound lanes, he started a long downhill stretch before heading back up again to the lengthy bridge crossing the Tennessee River and ending at the 161 mile marker. It was the last river Earl saw on this earth, but in four more miles–or minutes–he would meet his Maker and enjoy his first view of the beautiful river that flows from the throne of God.

At the 162 mile marker, the Interstate began a winding, rustic drive typical of the terrain in middle Tennessee—a good motorcycle ride even for the Interstate. I wondered if he enjoyed leaning into the curve and seeing the train trestle high above.

Traffic picked up as I got closer to Chattanooga. At the 164 mile marker there was another overpass, and in one more mile…

I wondered if he felt okay, if he experienced chest pains, or if he just wanted to get where he was going and rest. I wondered if he had any inkling of the massive heart attack that would be his ride home.

Evidence of construction that had slowed traffic that day lined the shoulder of the Interstate. Still thirteen miles from Chattanooga, I saw the 165 mile marker where Earl went down.

Oh my goodness! There’s his name. It’s painted on the shoulder of the road! EARL WINN. Capital letters. White paint. First name stacked on top of the last.

I can’t believe it! I drove by it so fast, I don’t know if it was real or if I just imagined it. Or maybe…was his name there just for me to see? I don’t know.

When I returned home, I called Timer and his wife, Doris, to see if they’d been to Chattanooga since the accident. I wanted to know if they’d seen Earl’s name in the vicinity of the 165 mile marker.

Doris said she’d seen something but wasn’t sure what it was because traffic goes too fast to see it clearly. So it’s still a mystery to me.

Perhaps you can help solve the mystery. The next time you drive I-24 E toward Chattanooga, would you keep an eye out for Earl’s name written in big white block letters on the right shoulder of the Interstate anywhere close to the 165 mile marker?

Even though knowing one way or the other will generate another whole slew of questions, I’m ready to know the truth of the matter. For now I’m just pondering the fact that God works in mysterious ways.

From Rescue to Redemption

 

Kissing Mac (2)

My dear sweet Mac entered his final sleep last month. He was my love.

Mac bounded into my life as a happy, energetic rescue. Along with Bo, Mac was one of the dogs I wrote about in Happy Tails: Inspirational Stories for Dog’s Best Friend.

At the heart of Happy Tails is the story of their rescue, restoration, and adoption and how it parallels the testimony of all believers who have been rescued, restored, and adopted into God’s family and the permanent, loving home He has prepared for us.

Their stories mimic ours in other ways too. Bo was chained to a tree for five years before his owner turned him over to English Springer Spaniel rescue. His message is one of freedom with his master.

bo_s_beatitudes_7xkf

Mac’s story of rescue began with his being hit by a vehicle and left on the side of a busy street in Atlanta with a broken hip. A “good Samaritan” took him to the vet for hip repair and an owner search. When no one came forward to claim him, Mac was offered to us. We discovered right away that Mac was a runner and usually found trouble, so his theme is one of forgiveness.

mac_s_message

Bo and Mac both found a permanent loving home us, just like the one promised to us on the other side of eternity. And maybe when “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21), I’ll be united with them both again. Till then I have wonderful memories of the unconditional love and faithfulness we shared together.

Rest in peace, boys. Mama loves you.

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To order Happy Tails, a gift book from Thomas Nelson, in paperback or the Kindle edition, click or copy and paste http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Tails-Inspirational-Stories-Friend/dp/1404175741/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418262565&sr=1-1&keywords=Happy+Tails%3A+Inspirational+Stories+for+Dogs+best+friend.

To order a signed hardback edition, email me at lhwinn@comcast.net. $15 includes free shipping.

 

The Rosary

rosary

I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Exodus 23:20

Do you believe in angels? I do. Not the chubby little cherubs with little white wings protruding from their backs that we see depicted on cards and in magazines, but the spiritual beings God created as His messengers to assist, protect, and deliver His people.

Psalm 91:11 says, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” I believe God did that for Earl… and for me.

Every time Earl left on a motorcycle trip, I wondered if it would be the last time I saw him. But this time, it never crossed my mind. Odd when I think about it.

With all my heart I believe that God blocked those thoughts because He knew Earl was going to ride his motorcycle all the way to the other side of eternity.

I believe that God spared me the anxiety of anticipating the reality of his death.

I believe He orchestrated the events of that day to ease Earl’s transition from here to there without causing harm to anyone else.

And I believe He surrounded me with His hand-selected people to comfort me and ease my transition from life with Earl to life without him.

I can’t imagine that God’s handling of Earl’s passing from this world to the next could get any better than that; but it did. As if to assure me that He ushered Earl all the way home, God sent Earl’s riding buddy, Mitchell, back to tell me about an interesting occurrence after Earl went down.

He said a little black lady appeared out of no where and placed a rosary on Earl’s back and prayed for him as he lay sprawled on the Interstate. Then she simply disappeared. He didn’t know where she came from and didn’t know where she went.

The Bible says that sometimes we are not aware that there are angels in our midst. Could she have been an angel? We may never know; but the medics, hospital personnel and funeral home folks made sure that the evidence stayed with him until I received it with the rest of his belongings.

To me, that rosary represents God’s faithfulness to Earl in sending an angel ahead of him to guard him all along the way to the place God prepared for him.

And I believe with all my heart, as a friend reminded me, “Earl is no longer seeing through a glass dimly but has a full view of God and His glory.”

That full view of God and His glory awaits all of us if we only believe.

 

I’m So Thankful

For over a year now, I’ve been praying Deuteronomy 33:25, one of Moses’ blessings, for both Earl and me.

“The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days.”

God answered that prayer for Earl, and for that I am thankful.

Earl had been through a rough patch for months with A-fib and said he didn’t want to live like that. He tried all the meds available before insurance would approve an ablation procedure to correct it. The procedure worked beautifully, and Earl enjoyed his active life again and looked forward to getting off the clot-preventing blood thinners so he could resume his motorcycle rides. He’d been riding for six weeks when he and Mitchell planned a trip to Florida for a motorcycle show.

The morning he left, our conversation was different from the usual. In the past, he always told me his itinerary, where they had reservations, and when I reminded him to be careful he always responded, “That’s the plan.” But he didn’t have this trip mapped out; he had not made reservations anywhere; and I don’t remember his saying, “That’s the plan” when I told him to be careful. He seemed distracted when I reminded him to call me when they settled in the first night. He didn’t respond with even an, “Okay,” so I said, “Call me tonight.” Still no response.

Two hours later when the Tennessee Highway Patrol car parked in my front yard and the sheriff pulled into my driveway, the expression on their faces told me that they were not bringing glad tidings of great joy. They simply said, “There’s been an accident.”

I’ve been told many times that I don’t respond to situations the way most people do. This time my mind fast-forwarded beyond the overwhelming sadness of Earl’s death to my concern for Mitchell, his riding buddy, and for the two officers who had to deliver the bad news. That couldn’t be an easy job, but they were so helpful and said Mitchell was not involved in the accident.

I’m so thankful for the many kindnesses shown me by the law enforcement officers. They called the hospital and put me in touch with the medical examiner who saw Earl when he was brought in; made arrangements with a local funeral home to bring Earl’s body back home; and even called to find out where Earl’s motorcycle was taken.

I’m so thankful for the kind medical examiner who answered all my questions and comforted me with the information that Earl had a massive heart attack before the crash, and there wasn’t a scratch on him. The medical examiner even called to check on me later that afternoon.

I’m so thankful that my dear friend Teresa arrived while the officers were still here and stayed with me all week until my family came.

I’m so thankful for Mitchell who had to ride back home alone after seeing Earl go down on the Interstate; and I’m so thankful for his visit that afternoon when he shared what he knew and his later phone calls to check on me.

I’m so thankful for Earl’s good buddy Timer, who came as soon as he heard and continues to call and check on me.

I’m so thankful for Jeff and Mitchell who drove 60 miles to retrieve Earl’s motorcycle and bring it back to Jeff’s shop to repair and resell.

I’m so thankful for my brunch bunch friends who fed my entire family the whole time they were here.

I’m so thankful for my church family, Earl’s church family, his long lost cousin, and all his motorcycle buddies who roared in to his memorial service on their motorcycles to pay tribute to their friend.

I’m so thankful for good neighbors and men friends who continue to meet my needs before I even know that I have them. They’ve reminded me to close the vents under the house, cover the outdoor spigots, and check the antifreeze in the car before the big chill hits. They’ve recommended getting AAA roadside assistance, flashlights for all rooms, and jumper cables for the car.

I’m so thankful that Earl sat me down two months earlier to tell me where all our important documents are and to make a list of things to do when he died.

I’m so thankful that God gave Earl strength for the number of his days and was merciful in the way He took him home. In doing so, He was merciful to me, too.

I’m so thankful to know that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.

I’m so thankful to know Earl’s spirit was in heaven before his head hit the highway.

I’m so thankful that I’ve learned to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances.

And I’m so thankful to You, Father, for the life and the love of Earl Winn.

Juggling Chain Saws or Praying God’s Will?

Juggling chainsaws

Have you ever been afraid to pray “God’s will to be done?”

A guy in our Sunday School  class commented on that question. “If you’re gonna pray for God’s will, you better be sure you’re ready for it.”

It sounded rather ominous the way he said it; and I guess I have been a bit afraid to pray God’s will at times. In the past I thought that I knew what was best for me, so I’d just keep God out of it. He was more of a Plan B kind of God. You know: if my plan doesn’t work, I might try His.

But then I realized that I’m just like the guy watching a man juggling chain saws. “Gimme one. I got this. Come on. Gimme one.” And if he actually tossed a chainsaw to me, it would shred me a lot worse the rose bush that put me in wound care for a couple of months.

Although juggling all the aspects of my life overwhelms me sometimes, God already has it all worked out. All I have to do is ask what to do, or better yet confess, “Thy will be done,” and then get out of His way.

Why would I do that? Because as one of His children, He has made me a lot of promises that sound a whole lot better than what I could muster. So turning my choices and decisions over to Him, or praying God’s will, all boils down to trust.

So, who do you trust for help in solving your problems and dealing with the concerns in your life? Yourself? Are you really ready to catch that chainsaw?

Your spouse or best friend? Of course they have your best interests at heart, but sometimes their will for you may be what’s most convenient for them. Ouch!

Or will you trust God whose will for your life is good and perfect. After all, He is the One with the BIG picture and understands all the ramifications for all the solutions you could possibly come up with. And He even knows how to see you through the consequences of trying to catch that chainsaw.

Trust Him. There’s no other way that measures up to His power, wisdom, and resources.

God's Will

Anointed with Purpose

You-Are-Anointed-for-Service

 

What if you were handed a parchment to stand and read to your congregation on Sunday.

As you read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to …” how would you fill in the blank?

Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath and was handed the scroll of Isaiah to read.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor,” (Luke 4:18.)

The good news included freedom for prisoners of sin, guilt, and shame; sight for the blind that would open their eyes from darkness to light; release for the oppressed and hope for the downtrodden; and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor–the beginning of the Messianic Age or the Age of Grace.

Did you know that the Spirit of the Lord who anointed Jesus to preach is the same Holy Spirit who saved you, indwells you, and anointed you with a purpose? Have you discovered what that purpose is? Are you fulfilling that purpose?

“Yes but, Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy,” you say.

Yes but, you and I are to fulfill God’s plan for our lives too.

“Yes but, my purpose wasn’t written in the Scriptures,” you say.

Oh but it was. Jesus told His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The end of the age draws nigh, friends, making God’s gift of salvation, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins the most pressing issue of our time. Since we have the greatest gift to share, we must step out of our comfort zones and go, make disciples, and teach them before it’s eternally too late for the lost. Only then will we be able to sit down and say, as Jesus said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Now it’s time to set about fulfilling our anointed purpose with the same power and passion that Jesus displayed in fulfilling His. Jesus started the Age of Grace, and we just might be the generation that sees it end.

It’s time to go.

Scarecrow in a Pumpkin Patch

Scarecrow in pumpkin patch

“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved,” (Jeremiah 8:20).

My pastor said, “That’s the saddest verse in the Bible.”

The hearts of the people are the same now as they were in Jeremiah’s day. People worship their idols–the things they value most. Back then, their idols were carved out of wood with eyes that couldn’t see, ears that couldn’t hear, mouths that couldn’t speak, and legs that couldn’t walk. They were like scarecrows in a pumpkin patch that could neither help nor hurt.

It sounds pretty silly to worship an object like that, doesn’t it? And yet today one of the most prevalent commercials on TV is of a man loving his red car so much, he won’t let his best friend and neighbor touch it. In other words, he has forsaken his friend for his car.

Ridiculous you say? Look at your own life. With whom or what do you spend most of your time? Your smart phone? A hobby? That big screen TV? Where does God fit into your day?

The next time that red car commercial comes on, take a good look at the owner’s friend. He’s hurt, forlorn, yet persistent and ever hopeful of their restored friendship. That’s the way God feels when we spend more time with our things than we spend with Him. After all, He is the One who created all the materials that went into making that thing. Doesn’t it make sense to spend more time with the Creator than the created?

Unfortunately, the dissent of a few spread like cancer through this Christian nation. Now the Bible and prayer are no longer allowed in any school or government program. We have sown the selfishness of humanism and are reaping the destruction of our country.

“While you were doing all these things,” declares the Lord, “I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer,” (Jeremiah 7:13 NIV).

Now, the summer has ended and the people around us are not saved. Why? Because faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and we have allowed ourselves to be silenced. We’ve become a nation of parched souls from a lack of Living Water.

The good news is it’s not too late to return to God. Tell the people it’s not too late to let Him have His way in our hearts, our schools, and our government. He’s on stand-by to restore this great nation that was built on the foundation of His Word, and He will restore it when “we the people” seek His forgiveness and turn from our ways that are so repugnant to Him.

Out of God’s great love for us, He waits patiently with restoration in His outstretched arms ready to welcome His prodigal nation back home.

Donnie McClurkin wrote in his song, Days of Elijah

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MtdyRDy4fU

“These are the days of the harvest (The time is now!)

The fields are all white in the world; (People are ready to hear God’s Word.)

And we are the laborers in Your vineyard (We are the workers God uses.)

Declaring the Word of the Lord. (Share the Good News of the Gospel.)

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds; (Jesus is coming soon.)

Shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call (He’s the Light of the world.)

Lift your voice, (it’s) the year of Jubilee (Hallelujah! Redemption is drawing nigh.)

Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes. (Jesus Christ brings salvation.)

God Almighty stands on the threshold of time with a promise for all of us. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” (Malachi 3:7).

That is a promise worth sharing.