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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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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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Forgiveness is our Super-Power…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


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.Β 


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 πŸ™‚ Thank you, John and Julie, for loving, guiding, and supporting our family as we journey in faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Daily Bread…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


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

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


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

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

Karyn laughed as she showed me this meme last weekend…

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


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

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

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

 

 

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