Fan the Flame

Fire is fascinating. My husband and I love to sit in our back yard around the fire pit in the evening and watch the flames. They are mesmerizing. Maybe deep in our DNA we recognize fire's importance. It's probably safe to say that without fire, our ancient ancestors would have perished.

If you've studied survival techniques our watched survival shows on television, you know that fire is one of the first requirements of surviving in the wild.

Starting a fire isn't easy without matches. Even expert survivalists can struggle to start a fire. If conditions are wet or if there is a lack of tinder, it's next to impossible.

No matter how it started, one thing is certain: without fuel every fire goes out. Fires must be tended. In a survival situation, once you get a fire going, you do everything you can to keep it going. That means it needs to be stoked every night before going to sleep. It might mean adding fuel during the night. It certainly means adding fuel every morn…

Keeping On

"LeAnn, get out of this barn and out of my life!"

My brother, Pete, on his way down to do chores, heard my sister Carla scream those words from inside the barn.

Carla had reached the boiling point. She just couldn't take any more. Something had to give. She had been slogging along, doing her barn chores, trying to finish distributing the grain prior to bringing the cows into the barn for milking.

LeAnn was a pet cow.

While a pet cow might sound like a nice idea, in this instance, it wasn't so nice. LeAnn's problem was that she had no respect. Not for other cows. Not for my brother. Not for my sister. LeAnn was having the time of her life, having once again escaped the confines of the pasture and munching along in front of the cow stanchions, eating the grain my sister was so faithfully putting out for the 69 other cows who would soon be coming in to get milked.

Making things worse, LeAnn was leaving a trail of cow pies behind her.

My family often laughs about the…

A Fresh Start

Every New Year's Eve, thousands of people flock into Times Square and elbow-to-elbow, wait for the dropping of the ball. When the ball drops, confetti rains from the sky, noisemakers raise a din, and couples kiss enthusiastically.

Why does everyone love the New Year so much? Why all the hoopla?

I think it has something to do with starting fresh. Whether we want to do something better, or break a bad habit, the beginning of the year is a dividing line; we put away yesterday and look toward a new, and better tomorrow.

There is something within the heart of man that wants a fresh start. I think it has something to do with how hopelessly flawed all of us are. As Jeremiah put it, "the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
a puzzle that no one can figure out." (Jeremiah 17:9, The Message)

Even one of the greatest giants of the new testament struggled with human weakness. "I do not understand what I do," the Apostle Paul said. "For what I want to do I do not d…

A Quiet Christmas

Into a Spiritual Winter
The first prophecy that Jesus would come to save mankind was given way back in Genesis, right after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. God did not wait long to tell them that a rescue would be coming. Right after He dealt with Adam and Eve about their sin, He told the serpent:
"And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15)

Jesus was the promised offspring of the woman, who would "strike the head" of the serpent.
Although there had been many prophecies about the coming Messiah, it had been 400 years since a prophet had spoken in Israel. God had been silent.  It was a spiritual winter. Almost like the Narnia of C.S. Lewis, where it was always winter but never Christmas.

Into this silence, a messenger arrived with a startling announcement for a young, Jewish girl.
Mary was young, probably between 12 and 14 years old. Th…

Trusting Daddy

I grew up on a dairy farm, and as a kid, we often had to go out and fix the fence that held the cows in. We used barbed wire - four strands attached to fence posts every few feet.

It wasn't uncommon for Dad to ask us kids, "want to go fencing?" We were expected to say "yes," and we always did.

Dad had an old manure spreader that he used strictly for fencing. It was a rusty old contraption that he pulled behind an old "Model A John Deere" tractor. The spreader contained rolls of wire, a wire stretcher, fencing staples, clips, posts, post-hole digger, and post maul.

Dad drove the tractor and us kids perched on the sides of the manure spreader, our bony little backsides bumping along as Dad drove over the rough ground.

When we got to a place that needed repair, Dad would pull over and us kids would pile out of the spreader to help. Sometimes we were replacing staples that had fallen out. Sometimes we had to splice wire or fix gates. Other times, we had …

Love. Love. Love.

"Love, love, love," sang the Beatles. "All you need is love."[1] The song's  message is deceptively simple.

Is that all we really need? Surely there's  more to it than that.
I think we all recognize the need to be loved; it is one of the most basic, and deepest of human desires. You can have virtually everything in life, but if you don't have love, what good is it? So that part of the Beatle's song is true. 
But I think we need to differentiate something here. There is human love, and then there is God love. 
Most of us have experienced human love at some time in our lives, whether the love of a parent, a friend, or a spouse. Human love is a beautiful thing, but it can fail. Just look at all the marriages that end in divorce. 
That's where the Beatles song is deceptive. There's a little more to it than just needing love. Human love can fail, and when it does, it hurts. Real bad.

While human love can be fragile, God's love is not. In fact…

The Four Gardens

When we think about a garden, we think about a place of beauty, refreshment, and rest – a place where delicious scents and bright colors delight the senses. 
The Garden of Eden
Of course, God was the first gardener. He planted the first garden in Eden – a place of utter perfection. That first garden was created before sin, before weeds, before blight – it was indescribably perfect.
God could have kept it as a place of pristine beauty for all eternity. But he had another plan. God formed man out of the dust of the earth, giving him shape with his own hands and crafting him in his very own image. The Lord gave him dominion over every created thing.
Genesis tells us that Adam walked in the garden with God in the cool of the day. It is hard to imagine what that would have been like. Adam and Eve were the only humans who ever had that privilege. 
Tasting the forbidden fruit changed things forever. The world, as Adam and Eve had known it, was gone. The Lord had to banish them from the Garden he…