Knowledge and Discipleship…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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?

2 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Even if…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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.ย  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.ย 



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.ย  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.ย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

2 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Forgiveness is our Super-Power…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: 4: 1-3

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”


It’s been many years since the first time that I walked into Parkview Baptist Church. Ashley Grace attended Youth Group and Bible study there with a friend, and had recently begun to attend Sunday morning worship there as well. I was in the midst of a “rut” in terms of my own faith, and feeling a bit lost. My fourth decade on the earth was teaching me all of the things that I didn’t know, thereby eroding the confidence with which I was used to facing life. Amidst all of the unanswered questions, I knew in my heart that God was calling me to share faith with my girls. So, I followed the request of my oldest child and drove 15 miles down the road to Lexington, NE to see what she was inviting me into.

That first Sunday, I walked in the door with quite a lot of trepidation and absolutely no idea what to expect. My background in the Episcopal and Catholic churches did not offer me much of a window into the community of a Baptist church. Two very friendly and earnest gentlemen named George and Randy welcomed Matt and I at the door, and we found seats in the back of the church. I held Matt’s hand as we stood to worship and I spent some time wrapping my brain around a different type of church service. And then, a soft-spoken preacher named John Shields opened his Bible and started to read and share.

I had not spent significant time in my adulthood reading my Bible. It would be accurate to say that I’d done more wandering than journeying in terms of faith. I had gotten *stuck* dedicatedly working to try to earn my way instead of seeking to be in relationship with the Savior that humbly and steadfastly loved me. But, that day Jesus used Pastor John to begin to inspire me to dig into God’s Word to get to personally know the Trinity that was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, praying over and thinking about the message shared each week on Sunday morning began to bring me back regularly until Parkview was not just Ashley Grace’s “home church” but it became mine and our entire family’s as well. For the first time in my life, I intentionally joined Jesus’ church and it changed my heart and my perspective.

I was blessed to be a part of more than five years of Pastor John’s ministry. I have many favorite sermons and hundreds of pages of notes. But, I think perhaps what I hold the most value in are the times spent watching John lead with a heart full of Jesus and a resulting agape love that marks him as Christ’s own. He is what Paul describes above in the passage from Ephesians: humble, gentle, patient, and compassionate. His actions initiate an inspired call for us to unite in the Spirit. One of my favorite “Pastor John” sayings is that forgiveness is our super-power.ย 


On Sunday, John preached his last sermon as head pastor of Parkview Baptist Church. He reminded us that Jesus is the cornerstone, and called us to steadfastly radiate His love as we share the Gospel. Our church family has shed many tears over the past month as we’ve prepared for John and his wife Julie’s 25-year ministry to draw to a close. Honestly, that kind of loving leadership is hard to let go. John now answers a new call to serve and mentor pastors all across Nebraska and Kansas. He and Julie leave a legacy of love, passion, and faithful obedience to Jesus for all of us in the Parkview family to tend and grow on into the future.

I will always carry with me John’s reminder to harness my super-power of forgiveness in order to honor the invitation that I accepted when I joined Team Jesus ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you, John and Julie, for loving, guiding, and supporting our family as we journey in faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Our Daily Bread…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ It struck me the other day that these things are all provided to me by my heavenly Father as my daily bread.ย 


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 breadย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

The Refuge…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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.ย 


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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Grappling with “not knowing”…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

A Heart To Serve…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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.ย 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.

2 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Our Covid Story…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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. ย 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. ย 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”.ย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

11 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom