What if…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Colossians 3:13-14

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves in love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”


There are several things in my life that are causing me angst right now. I am living in the above verses of scripture to help myself be grounded in faith as I walk through them. Karyn and I played a game of “what if” the other day as I tried to help her work through some hard stuff, and it got me thinking about how different our world could be if we all truly lived the above message from Colossians. The New Testament clearly states that Jesus wipes the slate clean and cleanses us from our sins when we repent and ask for forgiveness. It also clearly states that God requires us to do this same thing with others.

With each day that passes, the Holy Spirit keeps placing this message more and more firmly on my heart:

If Jesus forgives me and allows me to “begin anew” each morning, and the Bible tells me that I am supposed to live like Jesus, how could I turn my back and not do the same with the people that God brings into my life? How can I not lead in love when that is what Jesus does for me each day?

And, as I ask myself these questions, the Holy Spirit reinforces the answers that my heart already knows… “Anne, this is the gift of Grace. A gift that is meant to be shared with all.”Β 


I think these words are easy to read, but hard to live. Human nature seems to push us toward judging or retreating inward instead of forgiving, loving, and accepting others as we try to “meet them where they are”. I know that this is something that I wrestle with, and also something that God keeps trying to teach me as I learn to disciple. My heart knows what Jesus gives to me every day. My heart knows what Jesus asks of me every day. But, it takes constant reminders for me to truly endeavor to live this mantra. Fear of the unknown has a way of trying to thwart my heart as I go through hard things.

Today, I would like to ask all of you to keep our family in your prayers. I’d also like to challenge us as a “virtual family” to play a game of “what if”.

  • What if we intentionally choose to love first? Not just when it is comfortable, but every time.
  • What if we all were able to have glimpses of our world “through Jesus’ eyes”?
  • What if we all came together as a spiritual family to support, guide and grow together?
  • What if trust and faith trumped fear in our daily journey so that Jesus could truly live in and through us?

Some hard thoughts to ponder on this sunny Nebraska Wednesday 😊 Thank you ❀️

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25 Years…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from 1 Corinthians 13: 1-7

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”


A good friend read this scripture passage 25 years ago at our wedding. Back then, I think the words in the reading were an “ideal” that I strived for, but did not really understand. I knew in my heart that I loved Matt and he loved me. However,Β  I’m pretty sure that neither of us truly realized the value of a love like what is described above. I’m certain that I had no real idea how toΒ live it out.

I believe that God brings people into our lives to help us grow. I was 18 when I met Matt, and we’ve spent more than a quarter of a century growing together. We’ve got a lot of stories – some that make us laugh and some that make us cry. But, we’ve embraced it all together and I cannot think of a greater blessing than getting to “do life” with him.

I could say a lot of things, but I think the Apostle Paul said it best. Love is the cornerstone, the evidence, the essence of God’s purpose for our lives. It is sometimes hard, but so are all things that hold meaning in life. Love makes the difference. It allows us to faithfully endure together.Β  There is abundant hope to be found in that. The kind of hope that inspires perseverance ❀️

Today, I am simply thankful for the love that Jesus puts in our hearts each morning to share. And, I pray that God will bring each of my girls a soulmate who will complete them and inspire them to start each day by looking up to receive the Grace that enables precious love to bloom πŸ™‚

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Time and Love…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 21:18-19

Jesus says to Peter: “‘I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and other’s will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.’ Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, ‘Follow me’.”


This scripture reading provides a foundational basis for me as I deepen in my walk with Jesus. In all honestly, I read this passage many times before I understood it and I’m still digging in to comprehend it more fully. I blogged about it almost a year ago when I did a deep dive of study into it, and the words came back to me last spring when I was able to listen to Davidson College Men’s basketball coach Bob McKillop speak. Coach McKillop was addressing a group of Christian athletes and sharing “his most important life lesson”. Interestingly enough, his “most important life lesson” was not wrapped up in coaching Steph Curry, rather it was about the value of giving the gift ofΒ  “time” and “love”.

** I intended to write this blog post right after I heard Coach McKillop, but I got drafted to finish the school year for a middle school English teacher who was on maternity leave so the blog got put on hold as God placed one hundred and twenty five 6th and 8th graders into my daily life. Instead of writing myself, I got to help them hone their writing and their “life skills” πŸ™‚


I believe that God desires our hearts and our time. In fact, I think that as humans it is almost impossible to fully separate the two. Our hearts tend to determine how we spend our time. And, as a result, how we spend our time reflects what or whom we love. Coach McKillop could have visited about many things, but he choose to talk about the value of sharing time and love – with our Creator and Redeemer – and how that “shared time” works to fulfill God’s purpose and brings meaning to our lives. Prayer, reading the Bible, and serving all glorify our heavenly Father because He desires to walk our earthly journey with us and through us. When we submit our hearts to Him, we are inspired to give the gift of time and love.

It’s been more than a year since I left my full-time job in the beef industry. For several years prior to that, I had been internally battling with whether working to improve cattle welfare was the continued life path that God asked of me. I felt him pulling my heart other directions, and asking me to yield that career in order to better give the gift of time and love. It’s hard to give up something that you worked tirelessly for over the span of more than two decades, but I repeatedly felt the Holy Spirit telling me to let it go. Some days it felt as though I was uncomfortably stretching out my hands as I gave up control. But, I promised Jesus that I would continue to follow as long as He guided me, so I left my routine and ventured further into the realm of the unknown.

Leaving my job was the not the first time that the Holy Spirit clearly directed me away from what was comfortable. Our family’s adoption of Joseph into our hearts and our lives provided that inaugural moment. Today, I still am actively engaged in both of these “Jesus journeys” as well as coaching and working with kids. And, God continues to use them to deepen my faith and bring purpose to my life. I’m not the Apostle Peter. But, as I journey, I better understand that I am a valued and inspired child of God.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve realized the importance of who I “worked for”. And, as my faith continues to mature, I better comprehend Jesus’s ask for me to joyfully share my time and the love that He places in my heart. I used to “work for Anne”. Today, I “work for God”. There are moments that He dresses me and takes me to places that I am not sure that I want to go, but I am finding that deep meaning and fulfillment exists in the midst of those times. As I continue to obey the command to follow me, Jesus leads me to greener pastures where He is able to use my gift of time to share His grace and love.

 

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awkward Grace enables us to thrive in chaos…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Proverbs 14:4

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”


My favorite blonde cowgirl’s college track coach recently talked to the team about being able to thrive in chaos.Β They are in the heart of the outdoor season and finish right before they take final exams in May. Meg is super excited to be pole vaulting again, and I continue to be very proud of how she is handling her life as a college freshman 2000 miles away from home. “Chaos” levels on college campuses are peaking at a high level during this 2020-2021 school year. Ever-changing covid regulations create an added stressor just as many normal support structures are not available to the students due to pandemic restrictions. It’s a tough combination that reminds me of the tremendous need for awkward Grace as we live in a realm filled with shortfalls.

When Meg left for college last August, I starting praying every day that God would surround her with people that would love her as Jesus loves. Those first weeks were very hard and I knew that she was lonely and struggling to figure out God’s plan. My heart broke for her, but deep down I knew that God would guide her as she held Jesus’ hand. A couple of weeks into the school year, the student president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter on campus stopped her and introduced himself when he saw the faith message on the back of her old swim team t-shirt. Through FCA, she was able to find a local church and then ultimately get involved in a “Young Life” chapter. She dug into her faith and God delivered blessings.


Meg’s story reminds me that Grace finds us when we steadfastly pursue Jesus. Grace is tied to faith, not circumstance and it fills our hearts when we lean in to persevere amidst chaos. There is an innate sense of strength in the “awkwardness” of Grace. The ability of Grace to be awkward allows it to reach us in the midst of the messes that exist around us.

Proverbs 14:4 delivers a similar message that truly hits home in my “farmer’s heart”. Without oxen, the stable stays clean. It doesn’t have to be mucked out everyday because no animals live in it to make it messy. However, a large harvest needs a strong ox and the stable actually exists to house the oxen so that they can do their work. What if this faith paradigm shows us that the harvest is our part, and that the necessary cleaning of the stable is Jesus’ part?

  • What if we are called to live in the mess of the crowded stable in order to create a light in the darkness?
  • What if Jesus promises to muck the stable everyday if we courageously promise to let His light shine through us?

Sometimes I think that as Christians we can get tripped up trying so hard to keep the stable clean, when what Jesus asks us to do is something actually very different. He asks us to fill the stable in order to make heaven a crowded place. We don’t need to get wrapped up worrying about keeping the stable clean. Jesus will do that. We thrive when we trust Jesus to do his part while courageously committing to do our part. Our earthly world will never be perfect, but we can bring perfection into it as we share Jesus with those that He brings into our lives. Grace becomes awkward in order for us to access it and use it to bring others to faith.

As Meg is figuring out this year, if God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it. The stable may get dirty but that’s okay.

At the end of the day, Jesus will wash it and anoint its occupants with enough Grace to thrive again tomorrow πŸ™‚

 

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Grass!

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Romans 8: 28:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”



Six weeks ago, fire raged across half of our pasture ground and I was left wondering what taking cattle to grass would look like this year. I thought about all of the things that needed to line up correctly in order to make it work in the aftermath of the fire. The list of logistical hurdles was fairly long, and included “others” outside of our farm since part of the fire-destroyed fence was owned and maintained by the state of Nebraska due to the Interstate 80 right-of-way.

Right as my mind began to worry about the details, my heart clung to the knowledge that God would make everything work together for good.Β God knows me. He understands how much it means to me to have cattle on our farm when the promise of spring turns the grass green. Although my role as a “cattle farmer” continues to evolve, I still believe that God means for my life to involve time spent with my favorite bovines 😊

Over the past 25 years, my favorite farmer and I have faced many challenges and met them with a varied degree of success. This time, I think that we got it right. As I intentionally remembered – “my part, God’s part, other’s part” – the logistics came together. Through prayer, work, and a whole lot of Grace, this morning we went to grass with 117 steers. We’ve cross-fenced off the burned sections of the pasture, and look to have enough grass to thrive through the spring.

And, my heart is filled with gratitude and hope! Thank you to everyone for praying through this time with us!


 

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Progress not Perfection…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to Philippians 3: 12-14

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”


I have this note attached to a binder that sits on my desk. I got it from our discipleship pastor almost a year ago. As he handed it to me, he said “Anne, I want you to have this because I think that you need this message.” Since then, I’ve heard him say the words many times and I have gotten to where I intentionally listen for them. I seem to need that regular reminder of Jesus’ goal for me, and both Pauls (the apostle Paul and pastor Paul) do an awesome job of delivering πŸ™‚ I am my own worst critic. As such, I sometimes fall into the trap of not moving forward because my own high standards leave me fearful that I will make a mistake. In those moments, I mistakenly get hung up on my own “earthly performance” rather than forgiving myself in order to “press on” in love with my eyes on Jesus.

As a swimming and cross country coach, the phrase “perfect practice makes perfect performance” seems to pop out of my mouth with regularity. I say it because of it’s reminder of how important it is that we bring our very best try to each opportunity that God places before us. Whether that is improving technique on the butterfly stroke in the pool, hitting splits on the cross country course, or simply being a good teammate, I know that a heart full of try is what leads to progress. This same principle applies to our faith journey. We don’t actually achieve perfection in our earthly life, but intentionally focusing to press on to make progress enables us to grow.

My goal as an athletic coach is to encourage – to give courage to my athletes – so that they continually grow and improve. I know that perfection is outside of their potential, but I ask them to work hard in order to progress and be the best that they can be. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Jesus holds that same goal for me as a Christian and as a disciple.


When progress is the goal, forgiveness plays a key role. The apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that he focuses on forgetting the past to look forward to what lies ahead. If we get bogged down in our mistakes, or if being concerned with being perfect in our earthly life leaves us cautious and unconfident, then we are unable to fully answer God’s call to disciple. Focusing on our mistakes distracts us and keeps us from truly being aware of God’s purpose for our lives. Jesus forgives us, so we must also forgive – both ourselves and others. The expectation is that we give our hearts, our try, in order to press on in faith toward the heavenly prize.

God uses faith to bring us courage. He uses truth to guide us. He uses grace to steadfastly pursue us and grow us. Our job is to show up – to be aware of who God brings into our lives – and to live in loving relationship as we travel the journey. A good disciple is FAT: faithful, available and teachable. A good disciple is not perfect. That’s Jesus’ job, and He leads us toward perfection when we offer our hearts and our effort πŸ™‚

 

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Knowledge and Discipleship…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from 2 Peter 1: 5-7

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.”


For the past few weeks at the Refuge, our Youth Pastor has been preaching in 2 Peter. I love spending Wednesday nights hanging out, learning and praying with the middle school students that God brings us. The *added bonus* is a mid-week sermon that always seems to leave me thinking. One of the themes that we’ve been studying throughout 2 Peter is knowledge. Through this series of sermons, I’ve been personally challenged to both rethink my definition of the word and also my ability to attain it in my faith journey.

Peter makes it pretty clear in his epistles that we are called to be both a people of hope and a people of faithful action. Our hope stems from God’s promises, and our faithful action from Jesus’ presence in our hearts. Peter’s letters read a bit like an elderly coach trying to make sure that his mentees are reminded of and truly understand what it means to be on “Team Jesus”. He discusses not just how to get on the team, but also about what being a teammate entails.

I don’t know why, but I had never fully understood what Peter describes as knowledge. In particular, I had not thought of knowledge as something that naturally builds and flows from a deep, personal relationship with my Creator and Redeemer. It is so beautifully simple, and yet my “humanness” wanted to make the word so complicated that I’d previously dismissed it as “unattainable”. God offers us many things, knowledge is one of them. It, like all of God’s promises, requires our choice to move forward to accept it.

Proverbs 2: 6-11 reminds us, “For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you, Understanding will keep you safe.

What if attaining knowledge is intrinsically tied to our willingness to honor God by giving him our hearts and our time?


When I look back on my life, I can see moments when God asked me to do something and I turned him down because I did not feel qualified – I did not think I had enough knowledge to succeed, so I said “no”. I realize now that in those times I missed both a learning opportunity and a loving opportunity. Through the years, God has brought many people into my life to help me move closer to Him. As they were “Peter” to me, I learned that prayer, time reading the Bible, and intentionally searching for that intimate relationship with Jesus could lead me to knowledge and fill me with confidence.

I’m not the same person that I used to be. Every day, Jesus grows and shapes me. That’s a good thing. Along the way, I’ve learned to trust more and to say “yes” to that soft, quietly persistent voice that asks me to be “Peter” to someone else. When I choose to lean into my faith to disciple, then my heart is open for God to fill it with the knowledge and understanding that I need to be His hands and feet to someone that He enables me to love.

How are you pursuing knowledge as you answer God’s call to disciple?

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Even if…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Psalms 37: 23-24

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”


My favorite farmer got a text a little after noon on Thursday March 4th telling him that our pasture ground was on fire. I was teaching English at the middle school, so he and our farm foreman headed down to check it out. It turned out to be a big fire and all three local volunteer fire departments (Gothenburg, Cozad and Lexington) were called to help fight it. Our pasture ground runs right along the southern edge of Interstate 80, and a grass fire started in the center median and jumped to the south over the eastbound traffic and spread onto our land.

The fire fighters worked selflessly and tirelessly, but at the end of the day half of our pasture ground had burned. Matt and Doug were able to keep the fire away from our well-house and corrals as it burned quickly across the west half of our land.Β  When the top of the grass is dry, it does not take much to cause a fiery blaze. As I drove down to look at the damage after school, my heart hurt and I felt saddened and discouraged.

We typically graze our Willow Island pasture from April 15th to late August. It is a blessing that the fire occurred when we did not have cattle grazing on the land. There was no loss of life – either human or animal – and for this I am so very thankful. All but one of the paddocks that burned had very little grass “fuel” left over from last year, so the fire moved quickly across the ground. This limited the damage to our internal fences for which we are also grateful. There is much work to be done, but we are remembering the message in Psalm 37 —though we will stumble, we will never fall for the Lord holds us by our hands as he directs our steps.Β 



Sometimes I fall into the trap of dreaming that Jesus’ love will keep me (and my family) from walking through hard times. I find myself thinking that if I pack my faith well, then I won’t stumble. In those moments, I forget that a big part of faith is embracing the notion that God loves me even if, and He asks that I love him back – even if.Β  It occurred to me the other day when I was reading Psalm 37 that God loves me so much that He delights in every detail of my life — from the joyous celebrations to the frustrating trials.Β  Perhaps if He delights in every detail, then I should too. That thought brings me pause because I often don’t do that well.

“Even if” is hard for me. The weak point in my faith is daily trust. Ironically, I trust Jesus fully with my eternity, but as I get caught up in the day’s chaos I struggle to trust him with “today”. That is when anxiety trumps peace and worry gives into fear. In those moments, I know what I need to do, and still it eludes me. Over the years, God has used our farm and our family to teach me to trust. Some of the lessons have been hard, but I can see His hand in them and feel His love in my heart. I’ve come to learn that He delights in every detail because He delights in me. As I let Jesus take hold of me, I am better able to delight in that as well.

We received almost three inches of rain over the weekend. God’s hand is in that too. The burned grass will green up, likely greener then before. It’ll come back stronger, just as each one of us does as we trust through the challenges to step into the hope of tomorrow. A faithful perspective provides the ability for “even if” to bloom into a daily promise of grace πŸ™‚

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