Tag Archives: discipleship

A visitor to the farm…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John as Jesus addresses the first disciples: John 1: 35-50

In these 15 verses, Jesus invites the first disciples multiple times to

“Come and see” and “Come, follow me”.


We had a fun visitor last week on the farm. Ashley Grace’s boyfriend bravely ventured to Central Nebraska for a few days before heading back to Notre Dame for the fall semester ๐Ÿ™‚ It was great fun to introduce him to life on the farm. We visited our fall calves on the grass pasture, our yearlings on feed at a local feedyard, and toured the crop farm and alfalfa dehydration plant. In addition to “farm stuff”, we had a wonderful time hiking and messing around at the lake. Luke learned to water ski and knee board, and Matt was super excited to have another man in the house for a few days! We are so thankful that he wanted to come and seeย where Ashley Grace grew up.

We’ve had a lot of visitors to the farm in the 25 years since Matt and I moved back to the prairie. My social media work regarding cattle and welfare tended to bring us quite a few extras in addition to the regular flow of friends and family that wanted to come and see the farm where the city girl from Florida landed after college. If I had to choose five words to describe our lives, they would be: rewarding, purposeful, busy, all encompassing, and challenging. I don’t know if we effectively communicate that to all our visitors, but I hope that we offer a friendly glimpse into the care, team work and intentionality that goes into working the land and caring for God’s creation.


I love the Gospel of John. The imagery, depth, and foundational truth found in the first chapter is both beautiful and amazing. I pulled short quotes above to highlight, but I would truly encourage reading the entire chapter. In verses 35-50, I think it is really interesting how Jesus called visitors to become disciples. His invitations strike me as both genuine and humble in nature. Jesus waits until they curiously seek. Then, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the stairway between heaven and earth, casually asks them to “come and experience”.

Every time that I read those verses, I am awed at the naturalness of the words. They are issued without the weight of guilt, without the distrust of an outsider, and without the component of impatience that I often find in myself. Jesus was so neighborly.ย One of them, Andrew, not only decides to come and see but to go and get his brother Simon (Peter) so that he can also share in the experience. Two others additionally accept the invitation when Jesus asks them to not just come and see, but also to follow.

In the midst of these interactions, Jesus gives them purpose, builds them up with praise, and promises both truth and hope as they prepare to journey together. The psychology major and “coach” in me just marvels at how easily Jesus turns visitors into family.

Sometimes I can be a stubborn and slow learner, but I hope that I continue to evolve into a more gracious and natural host. I pray that I allow Jesus to soften my heart and the Holy Spirit to guide my actions so that visitors can feel accepted and valued when God brings them into my life. Ultimately, I strive to be a disciple – to not just come and see, but also to follow in order to lead others. Together, we can persevere in faith on our journey into the arms of Christ ๐Ÿ™‚

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awkward Grace enables us to thrive in chaos…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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.ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Progress not Perfection…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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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?

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WayMakers…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Proverbs 3: 27

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.”


I draw on the above verse often. I believe that we are called to be Jesus’ hands and feetย to others, to share His love and light as we go through each day. There’s a part of that calling that is very uncomfortable, and yet a larger piece that is just plain beautiful. The kind of heart-pulling beauty that promises an overriding purpose regardless of daily circumstance. It inspires me to want to do my part while also trusting that God has always and will always do His part.

Although it is closing in on two years ago, I remember very clearly when the Holy Spirit asked me to bring Joseph home. Our family wrestled for days with the uncertainty that revolved around stepping in to help him. Proverbs 3:27 is the verse that led me to follow the call despite our fear of the enormity of it. What right did I have to say “no” when a young man so very clearly needed the love of our family? We had the power to give, it simply involved opening up our hearts to share God’s grace. I don’t know exactly what Joseph learned during our time together, but I learned to trust Jesus to fill my heart each day with love to share. For fifteen months I loved Joseph like he was my son. And, every morning Jesus showed up to help wipe away the challenges of yesterday in order to love today and have hope for tomorrow.

While my heart wishes that Joseph’s story with our family had worked out differently, I am truly thankful that I got to love him. I think that if you asked my favorite farmer and our girls, they would respond the same. The girls hung their Christmas stockings on the mantle Saturday night, and they carefully hung Joseph’s next to theirs. Each one of us clings to the hope that someday he will enter our lives again. We are continuing to learn to trust in God’s plan and timing in addition to Jesus’ steadfast love.

Joseph was a WayMaker for me. As I loved him, I realized that I was not called to walk alone. Just as the Holy Spirit led me to share life with Joseph, Jesus promised to hold my hand as I took each step. As I took those steps, my faith deepened in ways that I could never have imagined. I pray that we were also WayMakersย for Joseph. A light during a dark time, and a source of love through a season of loneliness.


A legacy is something that a person leaves behind. Legacies create pathways that guide others as they move through life. Joseph’s presence in our family opened not only our hearts but also our eyes to a need that exists in our community (and likely in every community). In a very real way, he created a legacy that changed our hearts. I’ve always known the importance of love, but I now have a new understanding of just how important it isย to love as Jesus loves – without any strings and with an unlimited reservoir.

Every child has a story. Every child matters. Every child deserves to receive love, to be taught to love, and to understand that they never walk alone. This week a new group will begin at our local middle school. A friend and I are starting a Friday morning -before school- student prayer group called the WayMakers. It will be similar to the daily devotions and character lessons that our swim team kids share on the pool deck each summer, but with an additional overriding theme:ย 

Understanding that as we are called to walk with Jesus, we never walk alone. His love, felt and shared through each of us, unites us in goodness and fills the gaps for those in need.

Please pray for us as we begin this new journey – That God will fill our hearts with Jesus’ love and bring the students that most need to understand just “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18

For those FYF readers with middle school students in Cozad, WayMakers will meet in Mrs. Kostrunek’s room at 7:30 every Friday morning for the remainder of the school year ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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