Cranial Christians…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes from Hebrews 10: 23-24

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”


Good cattle caregivers are good students. They consistently strive to learn more about the animals that depend on them — seeking to understand what they need in order to provide the leadership that brings comfort and good health. Good leadership requires cranial cleverness.

However, *thinking* like a calf takes more than mental understanding, it requires a leap of faith as you must  leave your human tendencies behind to embrace those of the animal. When I handle cattle my very presence needs to change so that we can find harmony as a team. When I find the sweet spot of understanding with the cattle, my leadership creates a magnet that draws them in.

My animals don’t really care how much I know until they understand how much I care. 

What you know is important, but it is what is inside of your heart that inspires you to lead with compassion.


As a cradle Episcopalian, I’ve intellectually known God for more than four decades. I went to church on Sunday and attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. My parents taught me right from wrong and instilled in me a desire to help others.

I grew up a cranial christian. I knew about God — I believed in him. I tried to live my life doing the right thing because that was what I was supposed to do.

But sometimes I got tired as my cup seemed to refuse to refill. As a result, I wasn’t always a cheerful giver. Instead of my heart being grateful for the beauty of sharing, my head compared and judged — like life was a race and the “should do’s” led their way to the finish line.

God was in my head, but I had not yet let Him become a permanent resident in my heart. I was the worker ant who toiled out of duty. It was a hard and exhausting job. Fortunately, God is a good caregiver, and persistently pursued my heart. He knew that what was in my head would not sustain me without support from what needed to be in my heart.

I think it’s normal human tendency to rely heavily on our minds. We want to logically understand things and are quick to shut the door when things get messy. It take a leap of faith to lead with your heart — transitioning from a cranial christian to a heart-felt christian. Just as my animals don’t care how much I know until they see how much I care, God desires a place in our hearts — not just intellectual residence in our heads.

Perhaps that is the answer to inspiring unending motivation for acts of love and good works. With God in our hearts, the cup overflows and we learn that giving for the sake of sharing creates a special bond that not only helps others, but also refills our own hearts.

Through his gift of Jesus, God has the finish line taken care of — life isn’t just a race for goodness. When we trust in God’s promise, we open our hearts and life becomes a journey grounded in sharing the love that He abundantly places in our hearts.

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Making a Masterpiece…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture verse comes from Luke 4: 4

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”


Last weekend, I traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to participate in the 2018 Food Waste and Hunger Summit. In the United States, we waste 40% of the food that is grown while 1 in 6 Americans are food insecure. The summit, put on by DC Central Kitchen and its Campus Kitchens Project, brought college students from across the nation together to brainstorm solutions to this challenge. It was truly an honor to lead a break out session and participate on a panel as a speaker for the summit.

In 2018, we have the best and safest food supply in the history of our nation. My favorite farmer and I are proud to play a role growing it. It is a sad story that neighbors go hungry while landfills are simultaneously filling up with wasted food.

We can do better.

We must do better.

It’s hard, but the road to excellence is never easy or comfortable. I believe that part of the problem can be solved by working to improve the logistics and integrity of food production and delivery, as well as inspiring responsible eating. But, it is bigger than that. While there is an obvious physical link to hunger, food insecurity finds its roots in a larger social challenge. We grow enough food to feed everyone, so why are so many of our neighbors going hungry?


Jesus reminds us repeatedly in the Gospels that we do not live by bread alone. While bread fuels our bodies, love must fill our hearts to heal our souls. Growing food is important and honoring it by limiting waste is critical.

But that’s not the entire story. The rest of the story exists in our ability to end the cycle of hunger by teaching skills and offering jobs — one American at a time – until everyone has a place on the team.

A team that brings love and opportunity.

A team that packs their FAITH to live with GRACE.

My trip home took an unexpected turn and I ended up driving from Minneapolis (that’s a story for another time). As I drove,  I kept thinking about how each one of us is a masterpiece in the making. God asks us to open our hearts so that He can travel the journey with us — impacting our attitudes and inspiring us to offer service and outreach to others. When we let Him in, He fills us with agape love to share. In that moment of joining, our lives become meaningful. The world looks different and our natural internal focus broadens as we look to share and contribute.

Imagine a world where everyone looks to serve instead of to receive.

Imagine a world where we are all members of God’s team.

It is incredibly powerful to realize that while bread is necessary for physical survival, it is truly God’s love and guidance that sustains us in our earthly journey. Our country faces many, many challenges in 2018 — From hunger to food waste to the daily violence that seems to stem from disunity and fear. When I closed my feed yard down 14 months ago, I promised myself that I would intentionally devote more meaningful time to serving others. I felt the call to share — to help the youth in our community to learn to love and to understand that they are loved.

Each one of us is a masterpiece in the making. Perhaps most importantly, all of our masterpieces fit together like pieces of a puzzle in order to heal both our hearts and those of our fellow countrymen. As we progress through Holy Week, I pray that each one of us intentionally opens our lives to share with others. Together we make a difference 🙂

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Perhaps Agape Can Heal Us…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


The inspiration for this post comes from Dr. Tom Osborne and his book Mentoring Matters.

Supporting scripture comes from 1 Peter 3:8-9.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.


About 10 days ago, my favorite farmer and I attended a fundraiser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Tom Osborne was the featured speaker. Anyone who has spent any time in Nebraska is familiar with Dr. Tom. He coached the Husker football team for 25 years leading them to multiple National Championships before becoming our 3rd District Congressman from 2001-2007. While Dr. Tom is famous for many things, I believe that his greatest gift is tied to mentoring kids.

Dr. Tom’s personal mentoring in the classroom and on the football field grew to include the creation of an amazing mentoring organization in the early 1990’s. At this time, Tom and his wife Nancy founded the TeamMates organization. Over the last twenty seven years, TeamMates has grown from a local Lincoln mentoring effort to encompass programs in multiple states that impact tens of thousands of kids each year. TeamMates pairs students with local community mentors in an effort to offer support and guidance to our young people during a critical time in their lives.

Dr. Tom believes that the key to healing our broken country can be found in sharing agape. He defines agape as “unconditional, selfless love for another”. It is willing the best for another person regardless of the depth of your relationship or their behavior toward you. Agape is about what is in your heart, and showing a supportive attitude toward others independent of their behavior / feelings toward you. It takes a tremendous strength in character to show universal agape. Dr. Tom points out that this type of love provides a critical component for a mentor’s success.


When I think of agape, my mind goes to Jesus and his journey on earth. The Bible is full of examples of Jesus turning the other cheek —  loving unconditionally — and sharing blessings with all. He preached that love covered a multitude of sins and demonstrated that purpose came from sharing cheerfully of ourselves in order to help others.

  • It’s hard to be kind – even when others hurt us.
  • It’s hard to show love – to everyone.
  • It’s hard to commit to being selfless – looking outside of circumstances to remain positively supportive.

Although I try, this challenges me daily. The spiritual maturity needed to positively improve takes constant intentional focus. It requires changing what is in your heart and building the habit of sharing agape.

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

I’ve been blessed to spend significant periods of time coaching and mentoring kids in my community. I’ve had moments of inspiration when I found the right words – chose the right actions – and made a meaningful difference in the lives of the kids whose paths intersect with mine. I’ve also had times of mistake when I allowed my insecurities or hurt feelings to affect my level of support. I regret my mistakes and I wish that I could get those times back.

I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus allows for forgiveness. I move forward, always trying to get better, because I know that it matters.

How I share – What I share. It makes a difference.

Each child that touches my life inspires me and brings meaning to my journey. I hope that my support will allow them to believe that their lives hold meaning. That all of our actions – together – can help to build a culture of love. We are all children of God.

When we all strive to share agape, perhaps we will find the key.

Are you willing to open your heart and try?

 

 

 

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The Essence of Hope…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


My favorite blonde cowgirl brings inspiration for this scripture choice– this one is special to her and it comes from Proverbs 24: 16.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.


Our girls are our greatest blessings. There is something truly beautiful about children as they bring an added dimension to life. A child views the world with a unique perspective of innocence as well as an unrelenting fountain of hope. Even as teenagers, all three of my girls possess an ability to nurture their faith through an uncomplicated blend of optimism and forgiveness. This helps them to persevere with grace.

I’ll never forget a spring about ten years ago. It rained. And, it rained. And, it rained some more. It rained so much that we had to move cattle to higher ground. Then we got yet another hard rain that caused localized flooding both at our house and on the farm. I was emotionally defeated as well as physically drained. It seemed like the world was against me and my attitude reflected my failing faith.

The afternoon after the flood, the girls and I were driving around the feed yard. I was bitter, angry and full of judgement. Amidst my grumbling, I heard what could only be described as joyful laughter from the back seat of the pickup. I turned to look and, with a beaming smile on her face, Ashley Grace (age 8) leaned over the front seat and issued precious words of advice.

“Mama, it’ll be okay. We just need to build an ark.”

It was so simple for her. She believed that God was with us, and her faith never faltered. Despite the fact that she was watching her dad and I fall at the farm, she had internalized the important notion that if we behaved appropriately that we would rise again. She knew it was going to be alright, and the optimism and faith radiating in her eyes inspired me to recenter myself and fix my attitude. After that day, we did not receive any more rain for about 30 days which gave us plenty of time to fix the house and get the farm back on its feet. The hard work wasn’t done, but the emergency had passed.


I believe that God, with the Holy Spirit, communicates with us through feelings and experiences. I’ve no doubt that He was present in the pick up that day and spoke to me through my daughter. I also believe that He continuously pursues me in a desire for a meaningful relationship. This helps me to find righteousness in my actions and rise again when I falter. The number seven reminds me that perfection isn’t the goal. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, so he inspires us to keep going – to keeping trying – always striving to live a more honorable life.

It is no surprise to me that Proverbs 24:16 is Megan’s favorite scripture verse. Meg has an innate sense of humility — she is fully aware that she makes mistakes — but she is just as certain that God will help her to rise again each time that she falls.

This is the essence of hope.

This is a cornerstone of faith.

This is the beauty of being on God’s team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gates and Doors…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture can be found in Revelations 3: 20.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.


As a cattle farmer, I spend a lot of time thinking about gates. Gates are essentially doors used for animals and provide critical tools for a cattle caregiver. Sometimes gates are physical, and sometimes they are the metaphorical ones that lead to a mental connection — either way, they are the pathways for forward progress.

I often think to myself:

  • Are the correct gates open to allow my cattle to go where I need them to go?
  • Are the correct gates closed to keep my cattle from going somewhere that I do not want them to go?
  • As a leader, do I correctly manage the gates as I either invite or discourage my cattle?

The simplest way to lead my animals is to cause my idea to be their idea. When we share the same thought, then we find harmony in whatever farm chore is being done. The first part to sharing a thought is gaining attention. While I don’t “stand at the door and knock” — I do the cow equivalent and enter their space until they lift their eyes and grant me their curious attention.  The moment that I become their focus, then I can begin to open the communication gate and guide them to the correct physical gate. 

There is always a choice involved, and sometimes I need to be persistent in the proper position with my animals until they chose to make that connection with me. I must be patient as well as sensitive because if I link up with them at the right moment and in the right way, then the cattle not only follow my direction but they also continue to view me as their trusted leader and caregiver. While I use physical gates and fences to help guide them, finding the doorway to their brains provides the key to having a healthy and low stress experience.


It seems to me that God makes a perfect cowboy. As a tenaciously patient and loving leader, he uses the Holy Spirit to stand at my door and knock. My awareness and willingness to engage drives whether or not we travel the journey together. He persistently pursues — always knocking and waiting for me to respond.

  • I know that there are times that God knocks and I miss it — either letting the chaos of daily life distract me from the call, or ignoring the invitation because I fail to get my priorities in the correct order.
  • I also know that my hours are better – my days are better – and my life is better when I open the door to my heart and mind to answer the call.

Sharing time with God makes life meaningful. It brings peace to the world’s chaos and reminds me of the importance of centering my life with love. Like a good friend, God offers unconditional strength and support as I travel the journey. The trinity makes a remarkably powerful combination and I have come to realize how important it is to be a part of His team.

There are many farming references in the Bible, and I think that my life is most complete when I am both one of God’s sheep as well as a loving shepard to those whom God places along my path.

Love, strength, and purpose all live on the other side of the door — We simply need to answer the knock.

 

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A Culture of Love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from Hebrews 11:1

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.


Of all of the lessons that I have tried as a parent to teach my girls, packing their faith quickly rises to the top of the priority list. Faith allows for hope – it brings peace – and it enables you to live with honor to help create a culture of love. It fuels you with the inspiration to take the time to care and to spread God’s love to others along the journey.

Every time that I read Hebrews, those eighteen words jump off the page at me and inspire me to ponder their meaning. I believe that the heart of this verse is rooted in the Holy Spirit.

When I tell my girls to pack their faith, I mean for them to listen to God’s voice that manifests itself inside of them through the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives that the reality of hope/peace/joy/love can be attained during our time on earth. Our relationship with the Holy Spirit brings closeness with God. It allows for a grateful heart as well as the ability to see the instruction and opportunities that God places along our path. Our eyes cannot see His presence, but our hearts and minds still receive his faithful guidance and support.



Learning to be a caregiver for cattle helped me to develop an attention to detail that aids me in my spiritual journey. It may sound crazy, but cattle are attune to the slightest movement – the smallest sign – and respond to caregiver leadership best when the communication begins with natural subtlety. To be a good cattle caregiver, you need to slow down, pay close attention and search for the non-verbal cues that the animals send to you. This allows you to balance your energy with theirs’ and find harmony.

I best understand God’s direction when I slow down, pay close attention, and search for signs of his guidance. Just as I lead and direct my cattle to ensure that they receive good care, God guides me on a similar journey.


I’m very much a work in progress, but I clearly feel the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life — offering direction and refilling my cup as I look for balance and harmony. There is an awesome sense of peace that comes from making reality out of hope, and finding the evidence of abundant love as we attune our lives’ with faith through the Holy Spirit.

 

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The Gift of Giving…A behind the scenes glimpse of small town America

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from James 3:13

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.


I became a farmer when I fell in love with my favorite farmer. Just as I married into agriculture, I also married into rural America. For a wedding gift, some of my college friends got a large map of the United States, entitled it “Civilization: A Nebraskan’s Guide Out”, and marked lines from Cozad, Nebraska to their home towns thereby showing me how to get back to civilization on the East Coast 😉 . The gift was a tongue in cheek joke stemming from the fact that none of them could believe that I actually wanted to move to a tiny town in Nebraska and make my life there as a farmer.

Twenty two years later, the map (which I framed) is faded and blurred but I still smile every time that I look at it. I knew at age 21 that Matt and I were meant to be together, and I opened my heart to the community that welcomed us a year later when we moved back to the farm. I have never needed “A Nebraskan’s Guide Out” because my adopted home state still holds my heart just as firmly as my favorite farmer.

There is a statistic floating around social media right now stating that 53% of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers actively volunteer in their local and state communities (compared with just 7% of the general public). While I have not “fact checked” this statistic, I can say that my life experiences in Nebraska demonstrate the dedication of Rural America to giving back. I know that my community inspires me to actively volunteer as I view sharing of myself to help others as a top life priority.  

Over the years, I have learned the true gift of giving. It has two components and I truly treasure them both.

  1. An unending well of energy fills your soul when you reach out in faith to help others. Good works are a demonstration of faith — they are the Holy Spirit guiding your life so that your love is shared, your talents are used to honor your neighbors, and your actions provide a living display of God’s loving hand.
  2. Giving in love inspires gifts of love. Good works are contagious as they allow for the spread of faith. Random acts of kindness are not random. Rather, they are intentional acts of love that result from a joyful and faithful heart. God is on the move through each one of us as we intentionally share of ourselves to help others.

Last weekend, our family took a four day trip to Colorado. February is generally a quiet time for Matt on the farm, so we try to take advantage of it for some intentional family time. My favorite farmer loves to snow ski and my girls happily zoom down the mountain in his wake. The long weekend is a time for us to regroup as a family and is something that both Matt and I treasure.

Our second day gone, Matt received word that one of his storage buildings at the alfalfa mill had caught fire. Matt burns sawdust (as a means of recycling) for energy to run the alfalfa dehydration plant during the summer harvest months. It allows us to reduce the environmental footprint of the farm because it uses a “waste product” to create the energy needed to dry and pellet the alfalfa. It is necessary to accumulate and store the sawdust over the winter months to ensure the needed supply for the summer months. Matt’s crew was working in the building on Friday when equipment malfunctioned – sparked – and started a fire.

The local volunteer fire department, along with our farm crew, worked diligently to contain the fire. Their hard work enabled us to continue with our family weekend instead of packing up to rush home to an emergency. Matt spent some needed time on the telephone, and worried rather than sleeping most of the night, but we were able to salvage what will likely be our last vacation before our oldest daughter leaves for college next fall.

Our crew – Our community – banded together to give us a gift. We didn’t even need to ask for it. It was given freely and with generous hearts. To me, this is the exquisite beauty of rural Nebraska. When challenges come, a support network automatically assembles to fill the need. Our community is filled with neighbors – those that help with giving hearts and a dedication to James’ call for demonstrating faith through good works.

Matt and I would like to thank all those that gave of themselves to lend aid. Your selfless generosity fills my heart with the joy of faith, and humbles me with the knowledge that we are loved — cared for — and honored as members of our family of Cozad. The clean up will take time, patience, and much work but you all have given us a reason to be thankful in the face of challenge.

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Find your grit…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture comes via my favorite brunette who blessed me with this verse from Psalms on my birthday last week. Psalm 46:5

God is with her, she will not fail. God will help her at the break of day.


I love this verse for a variety of reasons. It speaks to the grit and determination that a successful life requires while at the same time reminding us that we do not travel the journey alone. I’ve experienced more than 20 years of sunrises on the farm. Each morning, I pause for a moment at the break of day to notice the beauty around me.

My memory book is chocked full of “dawn moments”, but likely the most poignant was the morning that I lost my steadfast partner. I arrived at the feed yard to read bunks and exercise calves a few minutes before six. My cowboy met me at the gate with a grim look on his face. I expected him to tell me that we’d had calves get out, — I never expected him to look at me with a tear in his eye and say, “Studly’s gone.”

There are animals that come into our lives and change our hearts. Studly was one of those. A big quarterhorse with a streak of loyalty that perfectly complimented his goofy personality, Studly brought a daily chuckle to my life. He was a bit lazy, but you could always count on him to take care of you while you were taking care of animal chores.

I loved that horse.

The day that I lost him was a hard one.

It’s been more than four years since that morning and I still blink back the tears every time that I think about it. The afternoon before, we left an apparently healthy and strong horse happily munching prairie hay. That morning, my cowboy found him lying dead in the pasture. With no sign of struggle, the vet diagnosed a heart attack as the culprit and I told myself that I should be glad that he didn’t suffer.

Life goes on — especially on a farm — where daily chores ensure that animals remain healthy and thrive. Death, even the death of a beloved partner, does not stop the chore process so I pressed on. I had a newly arrived group of cattle that I was acclimating, so I pulled my eyes from his unmoving body and forced my feet to walk away.

I exercised calves that morning with tears streaming down my face, telling myself over and over again to focus and move on. I wanted to crawl in a hole and bawl my eyes out, but I packed my faith and let God carry me through the day.


Dealing with loss and disappointment provides perhaps one of life’s hardest challenges. Learning to cope and press on provides a critical step on the journey. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to understand that I do not fail. I persevere because God has my back and faithfully fills the gap for me. He props me up on the hard days, and then sits back with a big smile on his face as I dig deep to find the strength to continue.

He is the master of balance — providing just the right amount of support — with a loving hand and a compassionate spirit.  

Each break of day brings opportunity.

Each sunrise brings the promise of peace and grace.

And as the sun crests the horizon, I remind myself that I only need to reach for it in order to fill my heart with the quiet strength of perseverance and the steadfast grace of walking with God on the journey.

It is particularly meaningful for me for my daughter to chose this bible verse to share with me. Her gift fills my heart with the knowledge that she gets it. And wherever her life takes her as she begins college next fall, she understands the need to grip tenaciously to the knowledge that God will never let her fail. He will help her at the break of each day and together they will persevere with greatness.

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