A LIVING SANCTUARY

2 Corinthians 6:16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

I Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I was looking at some old memories and came across a video of my daughter singing, “Sanctuary”. It is one of the most precious videos that I have of her. I won’t share it here because she would probably not like that, but I think it’s awesome. She was only nine years old and had just finished taking a bath in our big old jacuzzi tub. I was going about my normal busyness of preparing to close the chapter on another day when I heard this sweet little melodious song coming from my bathroom. My daughter has a beautiful singing voice that is a gift she received from God, and not from me. I tend to make a happy racket rather than a joyful noise, but that doesn’t stop me from making noise! However, the reason she doesn’t like this particular video is because she had found her “princess voice” at that time. As a mom, I didn’t care if she couldn’t care a tune in a bucket, if she sang like a princess, or had the most beautiful voice ever heard, I thought
her singing was fantastic! It wasn’t how she was singing, but rather what she was singing that made me so happy. (Side note: she grew into that princess voice, and now she sings like an angel.)

The words to the song “Sanctuary” remind us of who we are to be as Christians. “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You. It is you, Lord who came to save the heart and soul of every man. It is you Lord who knows my weakness, who gives me strength, with thine own hand. Lead me on Lord from temptation, purify me from within. Fill my heart with You Holy Spirit. Take away all my sin. Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”

What does it mean to be a living sanctuary for God? On Sunday mornings, we get all gussied up and go to church to sing songs of praise, and we worship our heavenly Father. I get excited about going to church, and I hope that you do too. I love the praise and worship music. I can’t help but wiggle around a bit while singing. Praising God excites me. I may sit on the back pew at church, but I am not one of the “frozen chosen”. The praise and worship music gets us geared up for the Word of God, and helps us to prepare our hearts and our minds to receive the Word. I listen intently while the pastor preaches, and I take notes in my Bible and on the bulletin. Sunday morning service is a great time for refueling the heart of a Christian as we prepare to take on another week, but that’s not it. That’s not being a living sanctuary. That’s part of it, but that’s not the whole enchilada.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:19-20 to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When he gave us these words, he didn’t say for us to sing hymns and songs only on Sunday mornings. He didn’t say make music in your heart only when you gather together in the church building. He didn’t say give thanks to God the Father only while you are dressed up pretty and attending church services. Notice the last part of his statement: “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ALWAYS!

Paul said we are supposed to do these things always! Some of us can’t even seem to get excited for Sunday morning worship so how in the world can you get excited always? Well, Peeps, that’s where the living sanctuary comes in. We can’t just live in Christ in the sanctuary of our church buildings. For goodness sake, we all know that God is all knowing, everywhere, and all powerful. Why in the world would we think that we are to only worship Him while we are in a building sanctuary? He didn’t create us to praise Him once or twice or maybe even three times a week on a good week. He created us to glorify Him, and in order to do so, we have to actively be a living sanctuary for Him. We can’t just keep talking the talk. We can’t just show up for appearances, We can’t be the “frozen chosen”.

We become disgruntled and disheartened with the state of affairs of our country, but we need not wallow in the muck and mire of it. If we want things to change, we must first change ourselves. We must first truly become living sanctuaries for God, and begin living for Him, not ourselves. We can’t just keep showing up. We must started showing out, and by this I mean showing outwardly who resides within us: Christ! We must start worshiping and praising on a whole new level. Sunday worship is awesome, and I’m so grateful that I live in a free country which allows corporate worship. Corporate worship is a wonderful part of who we are as Christians. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us of what we need to do. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Don’t give up on meeting together, but we must encourage one another. Today, I am encouraging you to be a living sanctuary for Christ. Your body is the temple where the Holy Spirit of Christ resides. YOU are carrying Him around with you all day long. Are you having “church” all day, always, or are you just another pretty temple? Be a living sanctuary for God!

OH MY HEART!

Ephesians 3:16-19 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As a family nurse practitioner, I listen to a lot of hearts every day. It doesn’t matter to me if the person is has a complaint of a sprained finger or a simple case of sniffles, I am going to put a stethoscope to the chest. I’ve caught some abnormal rhythms in the past and diagnosed new murmurs. The heart has always fascinated me. Early on in my career, it was my favorite organ to study. I loved teaching the pathophysiology of the heart and teaching others to read EKGs and cardiac rhythm strips. I love the design: electrical impulses and muscular contraction working together to produce a regular rhythm and peak cardiac output. God really put a lot of thought into that design.

About 12 years ago, a little four year old boy was sitting on my exam table. He looked a little frightened, but he soon made my heart so very happy. I placed my stethoscope on his chest, and I listened as I have done thousands of times before, but this time was different. When I removed my stethoscope, he looked at me with those big brown eyes and asked, “Do you hear Jesus in there?” Y’all, he stopped me in my tracks. No one had ever asked me that before in all my years of practice, but I knew the answer to his question was a definite yes. I said, “Well yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” He began grinning from ear to ear, and I couldn’t help but smile the rest of the day as well. So today, I ask you my friends, is Jesus in your heart?

There are many days in this crazy, chaotic life that we feel overwhelmed and tired at the end of the day. We may even feel alone, and sometimes we wonder if Jesus is there. As a Christian and child of God, we have asked Jesus into our hearts to be the ruler and king of our hearts, but sometimes we feel empty, and we have to ask, “Jesus are you still there?” I’ve heard the answer loud and clear oh so many times. Jesus never leaves us, but sometimes we keep him out. Jesus wants to be the Lord of our hearts…our whole hearts, not just little rooms that we decide to let Him in, However, we tend to close the doors on the places that we don’t won’t Jesus to see. We put “Do Not Enter” signs on certain rooms that we think we can handle ourselves. Oh, you know those rooms: rooms of hurt, sorrow, confusion, anger, bitterness, or betrayal, or perhaps it’s that one little bitty sin problem that we just can’t let go of. We tend to close those doors up, but in reality those things are separating us from a relationship with Jesus. Keeping those doors closed keeps Jesus at a distance. It is not He that is distanced from us. We are the ones who are locking the doors and keeping Him out.

Jesus wants to be the Lord of our whole heart, not just the parts that we want to let Him control. Jesus wants to go into those rooms of hurt and sorrow and fill them with His love and comfort. He wants to go into that ugly room of past transgressions, and forgive our sins and wipe the slate clean. He wants to take away the hurt, the bitterness, and the anger. He wants to help us overcome that little bitty sin problem and the great big ones too. He truly wants to be the Lord of our whole being. Why do we keep closing and locking those doors?

The Holy Spirit of Jesus can and will dwell in your hearts if you will only allow Him to reside there. Then you will be rooted and established in love and have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness. Even a four year old knows that Jesus needs to fill our hearts!
KK Hodge

STORMS

Mark 4:35-41 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the and the waves obey him!”

The meteorologists are closely watching the waters for development of tropical storms and hurricanes. It’sthat time of the year. Everyone gets a little stirred up waiting and watching for possible hurricanes. We’ve experienced the devastation, but here is south Mississippi, we’ve learned that you can’t avoid the storms in life. They are going to come when they come. Nope, we can’t wish them away, but we can prepare. We can watch and wait, keep necessary supplies on hand, and do what we do for all of the other storms in life, we pray! We must remember that no matter how great the storm is that we are facing, we know the One who calms the storm.

One day after a long day of teaching, Jesus was weary and ready for a good night’s sleep. He told the disciples to cross over the sea to the other side. They loaded up in the boat, and Jesus went to sleep. While Jesus slept, a terrible storm developed. Four of the disciples were very able bodied seamen with a great deal of experience in the sea, but this wasn’t an ordinary storm. It was fierce. Perhaps it was like an August hurricane in the Gulf. This storm scared the disciples, even the experienced seamen. They went and woke Jesus up. And the asked Him, “Don’t you care that we are about to die?” They thought that they were surely doomed.

I find it strange that these fellows were with Jesus, up close and personal, witnessing the many miracles that He had performed, and yet they still didn’t recognize that He had the full power and authority of God. The disciples panicked, but notice that Jesus did not panic. Jesus knew before He got in that boat that a terrible storm was on the way. After He was awakened, He went to the front of the boat and commanded the wind and the waves to be still, and the wind and waves obeyed.

Jesus told the disciples, let’s go over to the other side. He knew the storm was coming. He knew they wouldn’t crash and sink. He knew they would make it to the other side. The disciples didn’t think they would make it, but Jesus knew that they would.

We seem to be sitting in the middle of some mighty big storms lately. We’ve had the COVID pandemic, a suffering economy, riots, deaths, political disagreements, floods, tornadoes, and now we wait for storms to develop in the Gulf of Mexico. Storms in life are inevitable, but what separates us from the crowd is that we know the One who calms the storms. We know the One who commands the winds and the waves. Our Lord and Savior already knows what kind of storms are on the way. He already knows the conflicts and circumstances that we are going to face, but He is not panicking and neither should we. He is the calm in the storm. We only have to trust in Christ completely, and He will see us through.
KK Hodge

WHAT ARE YOU CHASING?

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Jeff and I are always chasing things. We both love to chase sunrises and sunsets. I’ve probably taken thousands of photos trying to capture the beauty but have failed in comparison to the real thing. We love chasing waterfalls and fall leaves. We got married under a waterfall, and we’ve been chasing waterfalls ever since. We have seen pretty much every waterfall there is to see in the Smoky Mountains. We’ve flown to the New England states, rented a car, and chased waterfalls in that area, and a few years ago, we tried to see every single waterfall in the state of Washington and a few in Oregon while on a trip to the Northwest. Those were some magnificent sites, but my favorite waterfall of all is Rio Celeste in Costa Rica. I’m sharing a photo of this one today. It is quite magnificent.

We have chased a lot of things in our day. Besides the sunsets, sunrises, waterfalls, and fall leaves, we have chased the everyday things like children, dogs, goats, sheep, and pigs. I’ve even chased a pig while in my Sunday dress and high heels. We’ve chased all kinds of critters, and we’ve chased dreams…many dreams. As we’ve grown older, and closer to Jesus, we’ve experienced a new chase. We’re trying to get better about chasing Jesus and things of Christ because we have slowly come to the realization that all the things we are chasing were all created by Him. If we don’t recognize His glory in all of it, we are missing the BIG picture.

In Ecclesiastes chapter 2, King Solomon wrote his memoirs, and in his old age, he recognized that he had chased a whole lot of emptiness in his lifetime. He considered the meaning of life in these memoirs, and basically took an inventory of his days. King Solomon lived life to the fullest. He actually overdid things. He inherited a whole kingdom from his father David, and he was wise enough to ask God for wisdom. God was so pleased with this request that He not only granted Solomon with immense wisdom, He also gave him much wealth. He was likely worth about $100 billion by today’s standards. That dude showed very little restraint. He married 700 women and had 300 concubines. (Can you even imagine trying to keep up with 1000 women? LOL)

Basically, Solomon had every single thing that his heart desired. Take some time and read the entire chapter of Ecclesiastes chapter 2. Solomon completed an inventory of his days. He said that laughter is madness, and pleasure accomplishes nothing. He told us that he tried wine, took on great projects, bought servants, amassed great fortunes, and became greater than anyone in all of Jerusalem and probably the earth. He chased it all and acquired a plenty, but King Solomon came to the end of his days realizing that even good things like wisdom, hard work, wealth, pleasure, and diligence, apart from God, will only leave us in despair. He said, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

King Solomon gives us a narrative in Ecclesiastes of a fallen world. He acknowledges that the temporal pleasures are just that . They are temporary. Our hope and pleasure comes from things eternal. If we look around right now, we could probably write a pretty detailed narrative of a fallen world once again. But this is not the end! Oh yes, we may be nearing the end of days on this earth, but it is not the end. We can live in hope and with great confidence because it is not finished yet. About nine hundred and some odd years after Solomon penned these words, Jesus came to earth. He came and walked as fully man and fully God, and He eventually was crucified for the sins of us all so that we may have everlasting life. He came to give our lives meaning, and through His resurrection we have been given the confidence of salvation, eternal life, and a promise of a future…a future that can not compare to anything we have seen or chased thus far.

I’m going to keep on chasing kids, critters, sunsets, fall leaves, and waterfalls because I see the beauty of our Creator in each of these things, but I can’t focus on chasing the things of this earth. I love those things because God gave me eyes to see them and a mind to enjoy them, but He gave me a heart for Jesus. We can’t go chasing waterfalls if we aren’t chasing the One who created them. Although I appreciate and love the beauty I see with my eyes, I’m going to keep running after and chasing the unseen that fills my heart…Jesus Christ! Without Him, I am nothing. I have nothing. With Him, I have EVERYTHING. So I ask, who or what are you chasing today?

KK Hodge

SEA OF FORGETFULNESS

Micah 7:19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Corrie Ten Boom once said, “God has thrown our sins and guilt into a sea and permits no fishing in those waters!” I think that thought possibly originated from Micah 7:19. Isn’t it an awesome thought that we serve such a loving, gracious, merciful God? A God that truly forgives and forgets? Our God throws our sins into the depths of the sea!

When we have sin in our lives, the sin may seem pleasurable at first, but eventually, especially if you are a child of God, that sin will begin to eat away at us, and it will slowly but surely separate us from our heavenly Father and from others that we love. Last year, a patient that I had been seeing for years said that she needed to talk to me about something. She became very serious and somber, and walked up within a foot of my right ear. We were both masked due to the ongoing pandemic, but she seemed to think she needed to be really close to me to say what was on her mind. She told me that she owed me an apology. I had no idea where this was coming from or where it was going, but it was apparently extremely important to her. She told me that several years ago, she came to the office with her granddaughter, and she was unable to be seen at that time for whatever reason. She said she became very angry, screamed and shouted, and said she wouldn’t be back. Yet, she has continued to see me for years now. She said that she was ashamed of her behavior that day, and that it had been eating away at her for all these years, and she needed to tell me that she was sorry. The truth is, I barely even remember the incident. When you’ve been in health care as long as I have, you learn to forgive and forget and not hold grudges. I assured her that we were okay, and that I was not upset with her at all. All was forgiven.

I really didn’t have any hard feelings towards this lady, but the incident was weighing her down. She said it was bothering her for several years, and she felt a need to make it right. This is how sin affects the life of a Christian. When we are living outside of the will of our Father, that little voice in our head starts telling us that we are doing wrong. That voice is the Holy Spirit, and that feeling is called conviction. The Holy Spirit is within us convicting us, and showing us that we are living outside of the will of God. We may lose sleep at night. We may worry over the issue. But then, a spiritual battle begins to occur. Old Satan is going to tell us that what we are doing is really not so bad. He’ll show you that everyone else is doing the same thing, so it must be okay to continue living in this sin. Is it really a sin if the world says it is acceptable? The battle ensues, and the conviction continues. We can’t rest, and we finally realize that we have to confess this sin to the Lord, and walk away from it. Repent and turn away.

Oh, but glory! When we reach this point of true repentance, we recognize that we are living in a sin, we confess it to the Savior, and we are forgiven. It’s almost magical. We are totally and completely forgiven, and better yet, the sin is forgotten. God throws that sin in a sea of forgetfulness. That sin is now at the bottom of a deep, deep ocean, and we are not to go fishing in that ocean! We are to leave it right there at the bottom of the sea. God has forgotten the sin. We should forget it too, but that’s easier said than done. As children of God, I think we tend to be like that patient I spoke of earlier. When we’ve sinned, the sin bothers us. We dwell on it. We feel bad. We fret. We need not do this though. If we’ve truly repented and turned from that sin, all is truly forgiven and forgotten by our heavenly Father. We are free.

God forgets the sin. He doesn’t throw it back in our face down the road. He forgets it. Yet, we never forget, and I think that is a good thing too. We’ve been forgiven, but we need not forget. If we forget, we may allow the sin to sneak back into our lives. Oh yes, we remember, and we have a faithful, merciful Father who loves us so much that He will help us to stay on the right path. All we have to do is ask Him for help. I know some sins seem much bigger than others. Some battles will be much harder to win than others, but when we equip ourselves daily with the full armor of God, that old devil doesn’t stand a chance. As we learn to lean totally on Christ, we slowly learn that He is stronger than any problem that we have. He’s already defeated the devil. He can help us defeat any sin in our lives. If we truly give it to Christ, the battle has already been won!

We must not forget that Christ has set us free. Our job is to let go of the sins for which we have been forgiven and to move towards the finish line. Let go and let God take over. Do not continue to search the sea for your sins. Do not go fishing in that sea! Stay out of those troubled waters, and look ahead to the promised land. When we are forgiven by our Father, we feel a peace that we can’t even begin to understand, but when we feel that peace…the peace of forgiveness…we will want to learn to live right there and never leave. Thank you God for forgiving me!
KK Hodge
funnyfarminspirations.com

CONNECTED TO THE VINE

John 15:1-5 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The fall grapes are ripening here in Mississippi. We have a beautiful scuppernong arbor that my husband built many years ago. He prunes it back every year, fertilizes it when necessary, and that beautiful vine takes off every spring. In August, it brings forth beautiful, huge, sweet, golden scuppernongs. Our crop is still not quite ready for harvesting, but we are getting to taste a few samples on a daily basis. Our suppernongs are large, golden grapes. The wild muscadines are purple in color. They are a bit smaller and a bit more tart, but they make an excellent jelly. We also love to go on a search and find mission for wild fox grapes. My husband and I have so much fun collecting these tiny grapes. We have climbed on trees, pulled on vines, and finally pulled a twelve foot ladder from the house to help us gather those little jewels. When the fox grapes ripen, we ride and walk around the outer edges our our cow fields searching for the fruit. We always have a blast, and what a great reward we receive after sweating our tails while off foraging for grapes. We make jelly. Lots and lots of jelly! Our pantry is filling up quickly with all of God’s blessings.

We really have had a lot of fun gathering our wild grapes. It is quite amazing that a delicious fruit can grow out in the woods without the loving care of a gardener. Our personal vines are tended by my husband with great care, but what about all those vines that we found out in the woods? Well, those vines have the BEST Gardener! Our heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe, created all the plants that we get to see, taste, and enjoy. He cares for those wild grapes with His tender love and care. He provides rain for them in due season, sunshine, and adequate nutrition. God created these vines with a purpose.

The purpose of a vine is to send out fruit to feed the birds of the air and critters of the woods. In order to fulfill its purpose, the vine must be lifted up to send out branches that will bear fruit. The vine’s main function is to draw water and nutrients to provide the branches with everything they need to promote growth. Clusters of grapes are produced. Some are sweet, others are sour, and some are tart which are my favorite.

Under the care of the vine dresser, the vines are prepared yearly to produce crops. This is done through pruning. Pruning is the most important part of the growing process. Jeff prunes our branches down to almost nothing but the root every year. If the branches are not pruned, they become unmanageable and draw energy away from being fruitful. This will lead to the death of the vine. Trimming the shoots and removing the excess allows the branches to produce a higher quality fruit.

In John 15, Jesus tells us that He is the true vine, and God is the gardener. God will remove the branches that are not bearing fruit so that the branches that remain will be more fruitful. We have to look upon God as the ultimate gardener because well, He is. He created each of us with a purpose: to glorify Him. He sent His Son Jesus, so that we may have a direct connection with Him. We see God is the gardener, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. God will prune things away in our lives that are preventing us from bearing fruit. He will also prune people out of our lives that may be keeping us from the relationship that He desires with us. This pruning process is sometimes painful, but as the Gardener (God) prunes us, we become closer to Him. If we remain connected to the Vine (Jesus), the branches (us) will continue to grow stronger in our daily walk, and we will produce much fruit.

If a branch becomes separated from the vine, it will wither away and die. That branch is of no use any more. It has lost its source of nourishment and life. If we as Christians, do not remain connected to Christ, we will wither away. We can not produce fruit if we do not remain connected to Christ. If we remain connected to Christ, seeking Him daily, and abiding in His ways, we will produce the fruits of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22.

Today we must ask ourselves, are we producing fruit? Are we showing the love of Christ to those we come in contact with daily? Do others see the joy of Jesus in us? Are we peacemakers or troublemakers? Do we show patience and restraint? Are we kind? Are we good? Are we gentle? Do we show self control? If you answered no to more of these than yes, maybe you should check your connection to the true Vine. I am not perfect, not by a long shot, and I know that I am truly lacking in the area of fruit production many days, but the good news is that the great Gardener is still watching over me, and I am still connected to the Vine. The Gardener will keep on pruning away the things that are keeping me from producing good fruit, and I will continue to let the nourishing Vine grow me into a branch that produces the sweet, savory (though sometimes tart) fruit that He intends for me to produce.

If you don’t feel that warm embrace of the Father, if you don’t see the fruits of the Spirit in your life, or if you feel like something is missing, please check your connection. The line to Christ is always open. He wants to hear from you today. Call out to Christ, and get connected to the Vine today! There is no time like the present to recline in the presence of our Savior!

KK Hodge
Funnyfarminspirations.com

STUBBORN AS A BULL

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from my last book, “Inspirations from the Funny Farm.” Good Sunday morning from the funny farm. I pray you have a blessed day in the Lord!

Our farm needed some small cows that we could pet. Yes, I know that we have a lot of cows. Those are mostly Black Angus, and they really aren’t pets. I wanted some cows for pets. The little researcher in me jumped on the world wide web in search of the perfect small breed cow. I looked at Dexters and Zebu. We even went out to a farm to look at some Zebu cattle. They are pretty tiny, but not very cute. Then suddenly, I found the beautiful long-haired Scottish Highland cattle. I read online that there were miniature Scottish Highlands also, and I was on a search and rescue mission to bring a pair of Scottish Highland home to Hodge Critter Lodge. I found out that there were only two farms in Mississippi that raised these beautiful cattle, and I promptly emailed them both. I got one response. It was from a judge in Tupelo, MS. He said he wasn’t really wanting to sell any of this herd, but after talking to me, he decided he could part with a young pair. I can be pretty persuading when I get my mind set on something. He said he would sell me a 10 month old heifer and a 13 month old bull. He also informed me that to his knowledge there was no such thing as a miniature Scottish Highland. He said that their legs are shorter than average cattle and perhaps that was where the misunderstanding came from. I didn’t really care at that point. I just wanted what he had.

One fine morning, we loaded up the cattle trailer and drove four and a half hours to Tupelo, MS to pick up our new heifer and bull. The judge had a beautiful herd, and we were tickled with the ones that he was selling us. I named them Merida and McLeod, two good Scottish names. Neither of them was halter broke, but we were determined. Merida halter broke rather easily. McLeod, well he was a whole other story. He was 100 percent bull, and bull headed to prove it. We got a halter on him, but that was about as far as that went. We never were able to train that bull to follow. Merida, however, was terrific. I had her following me around within a week. I even sent a video to that old judge, and he was shocked. He said he couldn’t believe we had her broke that quickly. Merida was a big old baby. There were times when I thought she would curl up in my lap if she could fit. She is the sweetest cow I have ever owned.

From that moment on, Merida was mine. I loved her. She loved me. She grew into a beautiful, dark rust colored cow while McLeod had more of a light rust colored coat. They grew a nice set of horns. Highlands have rather long hair, and they are distinctly different in appearance from our black angus cattle. They stuck out like a sore thumb. We housed Merida and McLeod in our barn and the field area behind the barn initially so that they could get to know us, and so that we could tame them down. Because of their rather long hair, they got really hot during the summer in that barn and lot area. It gets close to 100 degrees here in south Mississippi during the dead of summer. Jeff installed 3 fans in the barn. They understood that if the stood under them when they were too hot, the heat was a little more bearable. We also sprayed water on them from the water hose to cool them off on especially hot summer days. They loved getting sprayed with water. They loved it so much that they actually learned to turn on the water faucet at the back of the barn. I cannot tell you how many times I walked out to the barn to find the water spewing full blast and Highlands dancing around in a summer water faucet shower! Whenever I walked upon Highlands under a spray of water, I pictured a supermodel ad with the model laughingly being sprayed with water. They looked just as happy! We won’t even talk about the water bills.

After a while, we moved them out into the area we had fenced around our pines. They loved it there as there was a lot more shady areas. There is a nice little creek on our property, and this allowed them to cool off when needed, and it saved on our water bill! After another year of growth, Merida was finally bred. We had moved both Merida and McLeod across the driveway into a little rye grass field to let them finish off the rye grass. Merida delivered her first calf on a wintery, rainy night. Cows are generally a little bit skittish in nature, and they really don’t want their humans around when they are calving, but not my Merida. Jeff and I were out in the field with her and stayed with her the whole time. We kept McLeod at a comfortable distance because he was after all still a bull. I’ve never had such a love for a cow in my life. We definitely have a special bond, and she knew that we were there to help.

A few months later, the rye grass was gone, and it was time to move them back across the driveway into the pines again. Jeff was at work offshore. There was no rye grass left. They needed to be moved so that they could get to an area where they would have plenty to eat. I took the kids to school, and after I arrived back home, I decided that I would move them across the driveway. I mean, it was less than twenty feet. How hard could it possibly be to move a cow and a bull twenty feet? I walked up the drive and took the fence down across the drive from the Highlands. I grabbed a bucket of feed, and Merida walked right across the drive without hesitation. McLeod did not. I tried to tease him with a bucket of feed. He would walk into the drive and up to the fence line, but he would not cross the fence. I tried shooing him into the fenced area. He would not budge. I picked up a long stick to try to coerce him to go. This did not work. He darted up the driveway. I quickly pictured my huge bull running free down the road and visiting the neighbors. I finally got him back down the drive, but he still would not go into the area I needed him to go to. I kept telling him that his wife was over there, and that he should be with his wife, but that stubborn bull-headed bull didn’t seem to care. I was frustrated, and I was just about ready to jerk a knot in his tail.

I chased him back and forth, and then he chased me back and forth. After about 30 minutes of running with the bull, he charged at me. I suddenly realized that an 1800 pound bull was probably going to trample my 135 pound self. I also realized that I didn’t have my cell phone with me. I was about a quarter mile from the house. The kids were at school. The husband was overseas. I contemplated for a few seconds how long I might have to lay there in the pines dead or dying before anyone thought to look for me there. I scolded myself for my stupidity, but then I realized that I am as bull headed and stubborn as this bull. I stood my ground. I told him he wasn’t taking me out until the good Lord called me home. It took me close to two hours to get that bull to move a simple twenty feet, but I won. I got the fence back up, and walked back to the house praising God for keeping me safe. I was hot, sweaty, exasperated, and worn out, but I proved to that bull that I’m as stubborn as a bull. I’m stubborn, and God has my back.

Merida had her second calf while they were living in the fenced area in the pines. I was again worried how McLeod would respond, and I was scared that he might accidentally trample or injure the calf. The kids called me at work to let me know that she had calved. I didn’t get off work until 7:00 pm, and I knew it would be dark when I got home. I asked the kids to try to get the calf and Merida up to the barn. Well, they didn’t have any luck doing that. I got home around 7:30, and sure enough, Merida had delivered a beautiful little heifer that we named Annabel. We couldn’t get Merida and the calf to walk back to the barn after several attempts. I finally picked Annabel up, and carried her to the four wheeler. I loaded her on the four wheeler, and my son drove. I led Merida with a bucket of feed along the fence line all the way to the barnyard. That old girl will follow me anywhere, especially if I have a bucket of feed. We arrived at the barn, and I carried Annabel into the barn and put her in a nice stall with Merida with plenty of fresh hay.

McLeod hung out down by the barnyard on the other side of the fence keeping a watchful eye on his wife and new baby. Two days after Annabel arrived, I got home from work to find McLeod in the barnyard. He was no longer on the other side of the fence. He was inside the fence. No one had put McLeod inside the barnyard. I walked the fence line and found that McLeod had busted through the fence. He literally walked right through the fence. My husband put this fence up, and it wasn’t a shoddy job. It was a really good strong fence. I suppose McLeod decided he had enough time out, and he was ready to join his family whether we were ready or not. I don’t think that there was a fence in the world strong enough to keep those love birds apart. Thankfully, none of the other critters decided to leave through the open fence before I got home and before the fence got mended. We never separated McLeod from Merida after that.

Our critters and our children know that I am as bull-headed and stubborn as old McLeod. To work as a nurse practitioner and to help maintain our farm, I have to be tough. I work hard at everything I do, and I do not settle for second best or half-hearted attempts to do a job. Any job worth doing is worth doing right. I am so thankful that I have a husband who never gives up on me, and I am eternally grateful that I have a savior who never gives up on me. I will continue to work as hard as I can by my husband’s side, and I will continue to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit as I share the good news to all that will hear. And I will do so with the same tenacity it takes to defeat an 1800 pound bull! I will listen to the Holy Spirit and I pray that I never squander away the gift that Christ has given me.

We must all stand firm and be stubborn, and not give up. We must endure every challenge that is put before us knowing that God goes before us and will carry us through. I’ve been faced with many a challenge during my walk in this life, but I have to say that not one of those challenges has killed me yet! I know that I can trust in the Lord through any difficult situation, and that the Lord will see me through. Things may not always work out the way the I want them to work out, and there may not always be a happy ending. But with God’s grace and mercy, I will continue to fight the good fight until the day He calls me home. I’m going to finish this race called life. I just pray that I will finish it the way that God has planned for me.

“And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? …You had God’s law handed to you by angels—gift wrapped—and you squandered it!” Acts 7:51-8:13

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

“May the God who gives and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:5-7
KK Hodge

JUST FISHING

Luke 5:4-10 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

I love to fish. Beginning in the early spring, we take the boat out to Old River WMA and fish for catfish among the cypress trees and cypress knees. During the summer, we’ve taken many family vacations to various lakes throughout the south. While there, we boat, swim, tube, and we have so much fun, but we never leave without trying the fishing. We’ve even been known to hit a few of the ponds around here from time to time. I’m not an expert fisherman like Paw Paw J. B. or my husband, Jeff. I just go along for the joy of it. It is quite simply amazing to sit out in a boat in the middle of some of God’s finest creations, enjoying nature at it’s best. I enjoy the bird watching, the beauty of the flora and fauna all around me, and I love just being outside in God’s country. We’ve had some great conversations while out fishing. It is quite relaxing, but oh, man, when those fish start biting, that’s when the real fun begins! When I feel that first tug on the line, my heart skips a beat, and I sit up ready to reel in my big catch. Sometimes, I’ve sat out there all day, and I haven’t gotten a single bite, but I keep going back because I know that maybe they’ll bite the next time.

Simon Peter, James, and John were real fishermen. They were serious about the fishing. This is how they made their living. In Luke 5, we see a story about an unsuccessful night of fishing. These old boys had fished all night long, and they hadn’t caught a thing. Imagine how low their heads must have been hanging as they were ready to call it quits and come to shore. Oh, but Jesus! He showed up and told them to go out to the deep water and drop their nets. The men were already familiar with Jesus, and they knew enough about Him, to follow His instructions. They went out to the deep water after coming up empty handed all night and gave it one more shot. They dropped their nets as Jesus had instructed, and when they pulled the nets up there were so many fish that the nets were breaking. They had to call over some friends in another boat to help them, and the catch filled both boats with fish! Whoa! That’s what I call a good day of fishing.

But then, Simon Peter fell to his knees, and he told Jesus to go away from him. He recognized that only God Himself could have performed such a thing, and when Peter looked at Jesus, he saw the perfect Lord and Master. When Peter looked at his perfect Lord, all he could see was his own sins. He didn’t feel worthy to even be in the presence of Jesus. Jesus didn’t turn away, but instead told Peter to not be afraid, “from now on you will fish for people.” I don’t know if Peter really understood what Jesus meant with that statement, but he trusted Him enough to follow, and he did indeed become a great fisher of men.

I love this story because as I said earlier, I love to fish so it is truly relatable, but I also love it because it is a great reminder to us here, more than 2000 years later, that we too can and should be fishers of men. God didn’t send His Son to earth to walk along side His people and then become the ultimate sacrificial lamb just so that I could experience eternal life with the heavenly Father. He did this amazing thing so that ALL people could come to Him. But how are all people going to come to know the Father if someone that truly knows Him doesn’t share the Good News? Isaiah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Jesus didn’t just call on Peter, James, and John and all of the other chosen disciples to be fishers of men. He calls upon each and every christian to be fishers of men. We can’t keep the gospel all to ourselves! We have to get out there and share it with this lost and dying world before it’s too late!

I’m not the best fisherman, but over the years I’ve gotten a little better. I’ve learned some skills from my husband. I paid attention. I have learned what works and what doesn’t. When we fish for fish, we always have a great time even if we come home empty handed. It’s okay if we don’t bring supper home because God has already blessed us with freezers and pantries full of food. So even though I take my fishing for fish seriously, it’s just for fun. But fishing for men…well that’s a whole other story! I’ll admit that I’m not the best witness for Christ. I’m still a work in progress, but I pay attention to His word. I’ve learned some things, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work when sharing the gospel. And one thing I’ve learned is that I must share the gospel! If I’m not doing my part to share the gospel, it’s not okay. It isn’t just for fun. It has eternal consequences. I don’t want anyone to spend eternity in hell, so I’m going to keep on fishing…fishing for men. Sometimes, I’ve shared the Good News all day, and I haven’t gotten a single bite, but I keep going back because I know that maybe they’ll bite the next time….and when they bite…my heart skips a beat and I can’t wait to reel them in!
KK Hodge

FRIENDS

Job 2:1-13 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhit and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.

“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.

“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet “said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.

“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”

Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All.

Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”

Pooh looked and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.

Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”

“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”

“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.

Because Pooh and Piglet were There.No more; no less.”

At first sight, it looks like this is cited from a 1928 book “The House at Pooh Corner” written by A.A. Milne, but after some further research, I found that it was actually written by an energetic blogger Kathryn Wallace. She writes parodies of encouragement, and these are definitely great words of encouragement.

In the second chapter of Job, we see that Job is in great distress. He didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. Satan thought that Job would turn away from God and stop worshipping Him if He withheld blessings. When taking away all of Job’s material possessions didn’t work, Satan afflicted Job’s body with boils. His wife even told him to curse God at this point, but he did not.

Job sat down in the ashes with boils covering his whole body likely feeling very alone. But look what happened next. Three friends heard of Job’s trouble, and they set out to meet Job. When they saw him from the distance, they cried, tore their clothes in anguish, sprinkled dust on their heads, and sat with Job for 7 days and 7 nights. They didn’t speak. They just sat with him because they saw how great his suffering was. They were being true friends. They showed up and shut up! Now, later on these three guys were a great source of agitation for Job, but for those seven days, they rocked it! They were true friends. They saw a friend that was suffering, and they showed up and sat with him and made their friendship and presence known.

I pray that you have friends like this. We all need great Christian friends making up our circle. We need friends that recognize when we are going through a trial and know when to show up and shut up. We don’t always need advice. We don’t always require an answer. Most of the time, we just need the presence of a friend. I am so thankful for the beautiful, God fearing, faith filled loving friends that make up my crazy circle in life. Each friend brings a different gift or talent to the table. Each friend is a blessing for which I am eternally grateful!

I reflect back on all of the friends I’ve been blessed to know in my lifetime, and I know that my cup is truly running over. God has blessed me with some awesome people. But of all those friends, whom I dearly love, I know that there is one friend that is the truest of all. His name is Jesus. I know that it’s because of Him that I have all my special friends. He has surrounded me with good friends and loved ones that continue to draw me closer to Him. I only pray that I can be the friend that my friends deserve! And because of Jesus, I am confident that I will never ever be alone!
KK Hodge

DO YOU KNOW?

Ephesians 4:20-24 That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

My daddy told me a story that an old black minister friend once shared. He said that he asked a boy, “Are you saved?” The boy answered, “I think so.” The minister then told the boy that the way that you can know for sure is “if you is what you was, then you ain’t.” Hey, I know that is poor grammar, and I’m not even going to try to correct it because it speaks the truth in the simplest form.

Salvation changes us from the inside out, and we become new beings. We can’t change first, and then get the gift of salvation. It is because of salvation that we change.

Paul explains this in Ephesians chapter 4. When we become Christians, we put off the old self that is corrupted and renew the attitude of our minds. We put on a new self, a self that was created to be like God. We don’t completely change the moment that we accept Christ into our hearts, but we sure start wanting to change. We recognize that our old selves are not like God, and we start gradually changing. The change starts when we learn about Christ, but learning about Christ isn’t the same thing as knowing Him. Far too often, we fill our minds with book knowledge that doesn’t transform into heart knowledge. The more we learn about Christ, the more we want to know, but if we never truly give our hearts to Christ, we will never know and experience the life with Him that He intended for each of us. We must ask Christ to be the Lord of our hearts.

When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, and ask Him to be the Lord of our hearts, we put off the old self. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:6. The person that we once were is no more. The old self was crucified with Christ so that sin no longer rules our bodies and our minds. We are no longer slaves to sin because we are free in Christ. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Sin will still try to creep into the life of a Christian, but knowing and trusting and following Christ will help us to recognize sin as sin, and we can and will overcome and defeat the sin with Christ. Conquering those demons will be hard at first, but as we fall more in love with our Savior, learn more about who He is, learn to fully trust in Him, and start putting on the full armor of God every day, we gradually realize that we can win those battles one battle at a time. We have the strength of the Creator of the universe residing within us. John 16:33 tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Christ has already overcome the world.

Once we put off the old self, we put on the new self. We are a new creation in Christ, and we must continually renew our attitude as a Christian on a daily basis. How do we do this? We must study the Word of God, talk to Him, keep Christ in our thoughts and actions throughout the entire day. If our minds are on Christ, then our actions will be right. We can’t grow as Christians if we accept Christ as our Savior and go to church on Sunday mornings and do nothing else. That’s not how God designed us, and that’s not the kind of relationship He wants with us. We must keep our eyes on the goal…eternity with Christ. We must live each day with heaven in mind.

I ask that you ask yourself this question today, “Am I saved?” And if you’re not absolutely sure that your answer is yes, just remember what that old preacher said, “if you is what you was, then you ain’t.” Are you a new person in Christ? Have you turned away from those sins of the past? Do you know without a shadow of a doubt where you will spend eternity? If not, don’t wait one more minute! We aren’t promised tomorrow. I don’t profess to be the perfect Christian. I’m just an old Mississippi gal saved by the grace of our loving Savior. I’m just thankful that I ain’t who I was!