Our Daily Bread…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the Lord’s Prayer which can be found in the KJV of Matthew 6: 9-13

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”


Winter has blasted the central plains states since Phil the groundhog came to visit. It’s cold in Nebraska. Sunday night (after a week of having lows below zero), we topped out at -29 degrees. Many of our ranchers are calving, and our feed yard crews continue to care for cattle outside in the cold weather. I remember those days well.

Despite having a heater, my horse water tank froze early Monday morning and that’s not unique with these types of temperatures. I think it’s hard whenever it gets this cold. But, this time is particularly difficult because we have already had a couple of months of winter and almost a year of the pandemic to wear us down. It is also unusual for us to have roughly 10 days in a row where our low temperatures are below zero.

Karyn laughed as she showed me this meme last weekend…

The weather is a heavy influencer on my attitude. I don’t know if it stems from growing up without winter on the sunny Florida beaches, or if I struggle with a mild form of seasonal depression; but I have to be very intentional about looking for the rainbow as the cold, snowy days prevail. There are a variety of things that help me to find joy amidst the arctic πŸ˜‰ It struck me the other day that these things are all provided to me by my heavenly Father as my daily bread.Β 


Sometime this summer I began ending my daily morning prayers by reciting the Our Father. I grew up in both the Episcopal and Catholic churches, so reciting the prayer has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But, studying it as I study the Bible is relatively new to me. When I recently thought of the phrase “give us this day our daily bread”, it occurred to me that asking for the gift does not ensure the receipt of it. God may give it, but I still have the intentional choice of whether or not to open my heart to receive it.

Getting *stuck* in a downward spiral, whether it is fueled by sadness, self-pity, anger, frustration or some other usurping emotion is very real. When I find myself in this place, it often is easier to cling to that negative emotion rather than to work to change it. In those moments, God provides me with daily breadΒ but I don’t accept the gift. I’m not sure that it is even always a conscience decision to refuse the gift. It is more like a poor habit that I move through without thinking. Over the past several years, I’ve committed to intentionally work to ground myself in the One that allows me to rise up and accept the bread. I’m slowly developing a new habit.

I still have days that I struggle. But, I can feel Jesus filling me with light and it makes a difference in my heart. It doesn’t make the cold go away, but it does help me to better rejoice and be glad in the day πŸ™‚

 

 

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The Refuge…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Revelation 22: 17

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’. Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come’. Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”


During the school year, I volunteer at “The Refuge” on Wednesday nights as a small group leader for middle school girls. This is my third year discipling and loving the kids that God brings us. It is difficult to describe the experience of this weekly ministry. If I were to create a “word mosiac” to describe our time together, it would be a unique blend of words.

I don’t know what I thought it was going to be like when I volunteered to join the team, but after three years of serving I can say that it is MORE than I ever could have comprehended. The first year that I helped was the year that Joseph joined our family. I think that year was the first time in my life that I deeply understood that Jesus loves through me. My eyes were opened, as this kind of blind love knows no boundaries and it brings with it a different kind of raw vulnerability. When Jesus moves in your heart to allow you to see through His eyes, it is impossible to ignore the needs of others. As you look in their eyes, you feel what they feel. Sharing someone else’s emotions while you help them to find light is a different kind of hard.

Psalm 62:8 says, “O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” Before I said “yes” to this call to serve, when I was on the outside peering in, I felt fear and doubt. My mind was full of questions: Can I handle this? Will I empathize and see the world through their eyes? Do I trust that Jesus will be there so that they can see him through me? As I worried over all of these things, I realized that this was God asking me to live in faith — to not immediately have the answer, yet to trust in his leading. I discovered that finding refuge is not necessarily about finding answers. It’s about developing trust. I have a mantra. It is something that I often tell myself as well as the kids that God brings into my life. It is simply, “Pack your faith”.

God doesn’t necessarily call the qualified.

Rather, he qualifies those whom he calls.Β 


The book of Revelation ends the Bible with a look at heaven, and the urgent message that all are invited to “come”. God has a variety of ways of delivering this message, and one of them is through us. Do we value the invitation enough to respond? Do we trust that Jesus will lead us through the journey? The work that we do on earth has eternal consequences. Heaven is intended to be a very crowded place. Crowded in the sense that it is designed to welcome anyone, with enough room for everyone πŸ™‚

We don’t need to worry if we are qualified. Christ is bigger than any crisis. When He calls us, He will lead us. And, it will change our hearts. It’s hard to describe, but it is the beginning of a beautiful life.

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Grappling with “not knowing”…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the following verse from Deuteronomy 29:29 as well as study in the book of Revelation:

“The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all of the terms of these instructions.”


I am nearing the end of the New Testament study that I started last spring. A couple of weeks ago, I delved into the book of Revelation which is the last book of the Bible. Revelation has historically been hard for me as I struggle with both the language and some of its’ messages. I’ve read the New Testament in its entirety several times over the past five years, finding more clarity each time that I read it. So, this time I made a goal to approach Revelation with a desire to look past my fear in order to gain understanding.

Both our teaching pastor and our discipleship pastor encouraged me to “not get stuck” on the questions that Revelation does not clearly explain; but rather, to ask the Holy Spirit to help me discern the messages that God wants to make known to me. That was really good advice. Not just for reading Revelation, but also for studying the rest of the Bible. I have a bad habit of both “grappling with not knowing”, and also fearing what I do not understand. This distracts me from searching out the message that the Holy Spirit is trying to put on my heart.

Let me offer a metaphoric example: I love to run. Before I broke my leg, running was a daily safe haven for me. It was a time when I could let my mind be free and drift. I often prayed while I ran the gravel roads by our farm. One day I headed off for a long run. A couple of miles into it, I got a rock in my shoe. The discomfort of the rock interrupted and dominated my thoughts. While the rock was in my shoe, it was the only thing I could think about. I got “stuck” on the rock and was unable to attain the normal mental calmness that I get while running. Eventually, I stopped to remove the rock. As soon as I did, my mind was free again.


The above verses from Deuteronomy point out something incredibly valuable for me. I believe that they serve as a reminder of our heavenly Father’s expectations. As God’s children, we are accountable for what He has revealed to us. We are asked to follow the instructions of the Holy Spirit as we study the Word of God. There is no expectation that we will know everything, and God will not hold us accountable for those things that we are unable to discern. There is a freedom for me to be found in that. I’m a good “worrier”. I dislike making mistakes and that makes me very cautious. This is a trap for me as sometimes it keeps me from moving forward.

I think that God wants us to bring our questions to him. And, I believe that He helps us to find enough of the answers that we are able to continue to grow in faith as long as we keep our focus. What I’ve come to understand more fully over the past several weeks is that obedience to God is a clear path. I don’t need to worry that I am going to miss a turn as long as I focus on what Jesus puts in my heart and the Spirit puts on my mind. There are details that I don’t need to comprehend today in order to continue to live faithfully. Letting those details go gives me freedom to focus on what I do understand instead of getting “stuck” grappling with the things that I don’t. When I remove those “rocks”, then I can find peace “running” in faith and trusting that I will be led in love and righteousness.

 

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A Heart To Serve…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 20: 25-28 (also found in Mark 10),

Jesus called his disciples together and said to them, “You know that the rulers of this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

And also, 1John 3:11,

“This is the message that you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”


2020 provided a strange year. A time when community, service, and safety all came together in a way that caused tremendous confusion for me. Amidst the Covid pandemic, I felt the conflict between “stay home/stay safe” and Jesus’ persistent call to serve others in love. What did God want me to do in this strange, new environment? It was clear to me that I was called to continue to serve, but what did that really mean?

My brain batted this question around repeatedly during the spring months as schools canceled and the overriding cultural message was stay home to flatten the curve.Β I prayed for wisdom, and I prayed for patience. I postponed swim team practice, and I worshiped via the internet on Sunday mornings. And, my heart cried as I watched our country disconnect from each other and our kids flounder as their daily support structure crumbled away. Our community felt the wrath of the disease in a multitude of different ways as those we loved were sickened or lost, and possibly all of us in some way struggled to gain insight as to how to love as a servant loves.

Summer came and God made it possible to have local swim team practice. We also were able to meet again as a church family to worship each week and this brought a sense of community back that became a lifeline for me. In the fall, school reopened and Youth Group began again, and I learned to wear a mask. It felt strange, but God told me that above all else I needed to be a servant and to be a good neighbor. Leading in love meant sacrificing for others. When the kids that I coached asked me to mask up to protect them and to protect their season, I found clarity in God’s Word (Romans Chapters 12-15:6) and learned to make it work. As I wrote last week, in Our Covid Story, I still have more questions than answers. But, winter has brought some important revelations that have shaped my heart, my thoughts and my actions as we finished up 2020 and moved into 2021.


The first revelation is it is okay to have a servant heart. This is a core part of who I am, and it is directly aligned with my heart for Jesus. I love our church dearly because being surrounded by a church family who is dedicated to serving provided a light to me as I stumbled around in the darkness of 2020. Our pastors reminded me weekly of Jesus’ call to disciple, and inspired me to find ways to intentionally respond to that call. I learned that although details were important, when your core is in Christ that it is okay to lessen your grip and just trust and follow.

The second revelation is that a pandemic does not lesson the need for service, it amplifies it. I’ve seen a loneliness, a sense of “being lost” in the eyes of many (myself included) over the last ten months. Some looked lost because they stopped looking for ways to serve, and some because their need to be served was so great. There is a tremendous physical, mental, and spiritual need as we move into 2021 and I pray that we will all respond when God asks us to move.

The third revelation is something that I’ve learned to cling to. Love is what “moves mountains”. It saves and it binds us together as a family. Goodness is rooted in love, and God is love. We can come up with impressive and detailed theories, but it really is simple. When we serve in love, then Jesus is able to move in and bring change because He is the ultimate display of God’s love. He is Grace, a Grace that is meant to be shared.

I don’t know what all 2021 will bring, but I pray that each of us will reconnect with community and obey Jesus’ command to love one another in service.

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Our Covid Story…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Proverbs 3: 5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”


Covid-19 found our family over the holidays. Meg was the first to decide that she didn’t feel very well. Ashley Grace and Matt were quick to follow. For the girls, it started with a sore throat and headache that came and went for days before escalating into full-fledged illness. As it progressed, they got pretty sick and we realized that it wasn’t just a cold. Matt was blessed and experienced a much milder infection. Honestly, if the girls hadn’t gotten so sick I’m not sure that we would have realized that Matt had Covid. All three of them rounded out the journey with a loss of taste and smell. Karyn and I ended up moving into the basement and wearing our masks all the time. As the other three came out of isolation at the end of their illness, Karyn and I both tested negative with neither of us developing any symptoms.

It was a strange time. A time with lots of uncertainty as we navigated sickness in addition to testing, CDC guidelines, and trying to figure out how to be a good neighbor. Β For me, these same days were also filled with moments when my heart swelled with gratitude as I watched God take care of us – little things each day that kept hope and peace in my heart, and inspired us to move forward in faith. Β I spent time in prayer, and walked lots of miles with both my family and our dogs. I am a firm believer that each day requires the “3 F’s”: faith, fresh air and fitness. “Coach Anne” melded with “Mama Anne” and Team Burkholder held it together.


There were many things over the course of the adventure that were unclear and perhaps even confusing.

  • Where did Meg get exposed to the bug?
  • Why did the older girls get much sicker than Matt?
  • Why did Karyn and I remain healthy?
  • Why was Meg’s testing experience inconsistent and more complicated than the rest of ours?

I could go on with the list, but what I learned over the past two weeks was that my own understanding, that human understanding, was not going to materialize. Our family has more questions than answers regarding Covid-19 even after going through the experience. The folks from the Nebraska Health Department were awesome to work with and super kind and patient with us, but they added to the list of questions rather than providing answers to ours. We are a house full of intellectuals. Truly, each of the five of us could easily be called “a nerd”. As my brain kicked in filling itself with “why’s”, I quickly realized that I needed to be intentional about “God’s Part, My Part, Other’s Part”.Β  As I did that, it became clear to me that I could trust in the Lord with all my heart instead of depending on my own understanding.


I spent a significant portion of my early adult life fighting against my need for Jesus. At critical times, I chose to stiff arm the faith that I felt in my heart in order to try to persevere on my own. I am so very thankful that I don’t do that anymore as this “covid journey” would have been much, much harder.

Recently, someone asked me why Jesus matters to me. The answer is simple: my life is better with Him. He makes me different. No matter what this earth throws at me, it’s better with Jesus. He’s my coach. He’s my Savior. He brings me hope as He carries me through this life and prepares me for Heaven.

I’ve found peace as I realized that I don’t have to understand, I just need to trust in the One that does πŸ™‚

 

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Burkholder Family Christmas Letter – Long version 2020…

While I sent out a few paper Christmas cards this year, the “letter” included with them is fairly abridged.

So, in honor of the 24th annual Burkholder Christmas letter tradition, I am including here a longer version for those inclined to read it 😊


As I reflect on 2020, what God places firmly on my heart is the rekindling of a deep gratitude for our farm, our community and the place that we get to call “home”. I think that both Matt and I would report that our ability to “work the land” and live in the midst of “God’s country” frees our hearts and brings peace to our minds even in the midst of chaos and upheaval. We are closing in on 25 years of marriage and 24 years of farming! Matt’s hair is a little bit grayer and I seem to develop more wrinkles with each year that passes, but we are so blessed to have each other – our family – and all those whom God brings into our daily lives.

Matt continues to manage the farm and “play in the dirt” as the girls and I like to tease him. He loves studying the soil and figuring out ways to better care for our land. He uses his “engineering problem solving skills” to help his crew harvest alfalfa and create alfalfa dehy pellets that feed animals all across the United States. In addition, he works with partners to grow a blend of rotational corn, soy beans, wheat, oats and cover crops to ensure good long-term soil health. In his spare time, he serves on several community boards, water skis like he is still 18, and chases determinedly after his girls πŸ™‚

I “retired” from my animal (cattle) welfare job with the Beef Marketing Group on May 1st. I’m keeping busy helping Matt on the farm and taking care of our grass cattle during the spring and summer months. I also continue to coach swim team and cross country, serve as a small group leader for local middle school girls through our church, and added on substitute teaching at our local public middle school this fall. I’m finding that 6th-8th graders are just as ornery as cattle caregivers, but they bring a new sense of hope to my heart as I shake my head at their antics. I am truly enjoying this new door that God has opened in my life.

Ashley Grace is a Junior at Notre Dame University. She is a dual major in Political Science and Theology with a minor in Public Service. In her “free time” she works as a writing tutor for the university, and spent the fall tutoring football players. She is very proud that “her boys” are in the running for the National Championship title. She also is learning the sport of boxing and continues to run a bit on the side. She heads to Milwaukee, Wisconsin next summer to work as a summer school teacher before completing her final year as an undergraduate at ND.

Megan began her tenure at Davidson College this fall. She plans to be a STEM major of some sort – likely either chemistry or physics – with a long term goal of being a teacher and coach. She is a member of the track team where she pole vaults and is looking forward to the winter and spring season! Covid made for a difficult transition to college, but we are very proud of her tenacity. We are also incredibly thankful for God’s blessing of helping her to find a supportive group of awesome young Christians to “do life with” during her time in North Carolina.

Karyn is surviving living as “an only child” with Matt and I. She adopted an “emotional support kitten” this summer right before her sisters both left for college, and persevered with greatness through both the Nebraska State Cross Country Championships and the Nebraska State One Act Championships this fall. She is currently keeping busy with basketball and claims chemistry and math as her favorite subjects. We are extremely thankful that “in-person” school and activities persevered across Nebraska this fall. Our local school board, administrators, teachers, coaches, custodians, and bus drivers are a beautiful set of humans who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the children of our community are loved each day.

We wish each of you the peace and love of Jesus this Christmas Season. As always, our door is open for those who travel past the farm.

Matt, Anne, Ashley Grace, Megan, Karyn and all the 4-legged members of the Burkholder family πŸ™‚

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Two wrongs don’t make a right…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter 1Thessalonians 5: 12-22

Paul’s Final Advice:

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.Β 

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.Β 

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”


Sometime during my journey of motherhood, I found myself reciting “Two wrongs don’t make a right” at fairly regular intervals. When my girls were little, it would cause them to stop and think before lashing out in anger. As they grew into teenagers, one of them decided that sarcasm was the appropriate response to my words of wisdom. This new phenomenon was often preceded by an eye roll, and followed by “Yeah, but mom three lefts do.” The eye roll cost the guilty party “push ups” and over time my girls became famous for their upper body strength πŸ˜‰

We’ve got a full house in preparation for Christmas with all three girls back home. It is a joyful chaos. The other day, their actions inspired me to chorus “two wrongs don’t make a right”. By now, I get only a word or two in before they begin to say it along with me. It seems that after two decades, they are well-trained in their mama’s thoughts! Regardless, the words stop whatever shenanigans are brewing and replace them with laughter.


It’s always pretty cool to find wisdom in the Bible that supports your “parental teachings”. I didn’t spend regular time in God’s Word when the girls were little so they were quite a lot older by the time that I found the above verses in 1Thessalonians. I greatly value all of the guidance that God offers through Paul, but it brings a special smile to my face when I read the verse:

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”Β 

I regret that I went through a significant part of my adult life without spending time each day in the Bible, yet I am so very thankful that God still found ways to speak to me and to reach my heart. He is steadfast, and His grace and mercy walks with our family each day. Over the past 5 years, I have come to truly value my time in the Word. It brings me clarity and confidence as it shapes my heart. It allows me to understand more fully that love is the evidence of faith, and Jesus is love.

As we reflect and ponder on the eternal gift of Jesus Christ, I pray that each of us will do as Paul suggests: take a breath, choose joy, and lead in gratitude, love and prayer as Jesus uses the Holy Spirit to guides us on the journey. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right, so we must hold onto what is good and stay away from every type of evil!

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What kind of hope is in your heart?

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:18

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called — his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”


In my mind, there are two kinds of hope. A hope that creates a wish, and a hope that inspires a confident expectation. If you take a moment to think about it, they are not the same thing. A wish is passive, while a confident expectation requires both trust and action. For example, our family has many Christmas traditions beginning with cutting down a tree on the day after Thanksgiving. In my girls’ minds, the hope to get to do these traditions together as a family is one of confident expectation. They don’t just wish to do them, they prioritize and set their schedules so that they happen.

Another tradition that we have is placing the home-made star (that my sister-in-law made us 24 years ago) on the top of the tree. For the past 20 years, Matt lifted one of the girls up to perform this cherished chore. Last week, the girls decided that it was Matt’s turn. They created a plan to work together to lift him up so that he would get a chance to place the star. The tree our family chose to cut down this year was over 9 feet tall so the girls had to get him quite a ways off of the ground. Their hope was not simply a wish, it was a confident expectation and they never doubted their ability to get it done. Matt never doubted it either. The trust that they had in each other and the value that they placed in achieving the commonly held goal ensured that they were successful. There was a beautiful joy created by this shared hope as they completed the task. I managed to get a video of it, and you can watch it here:


I think that sometimes our culture defines hope as more of a wish and less of a confident expectation. While that is likely a safer interpretation as it doesn’t really require either trust or work on the part of the believer, the effects of considering it that way severely restrict the benefits that it can offer. I don’t believe that Jesus intends for us to receive only wishes from our faith relationship with him. Rather, I think that Jesus calls us to share his active passion for love. He promises the endless supply of living water and light that will move through us to bless both ourselves and others.

There are many references to hope in the Bible and it seems clear to me that they all revolve around a confident expectation, one of belief, trust, and loving action. God’s definition of hope is not synonymous to a wish, rather it came to us in the form of the ultimate loving action: His gift of Jesus (Immanuel). As a result, it carries with it a need for the kind of trust which believes in a certainty of fulfillment.

What kind of hope is in my heart? What kind is in yours? I’ve thought about this often over the past three weeks as I’ve been substitute teaching at our local middle school. Do I carry the hope of Jesus? Is my heart flooded by the light that brings the confident expression of love? Do the students know how much I care about them? Do I have the kind of deep belief and complete trust that allows Immanuel to lift me up in order to place His star on the top of my tree?

These are the things that God is placing on my heart as we begin the start of Advent. I *hope* that as I celebrate the birth of our Savior, that I will trust and understand more deeply the ultimate spiritual gift that we celebrate on Christmas Day πŸ™‚

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