Tag Archives: God

Love…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚

Inspiration this week comes from a variety of scriptures that draw on each other as we ponder how love is a mark of a Disciple of Jesus!


Deuteronomy 6: 5 “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”

Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself…”

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'”

John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 “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.”


We have a new head pastor at our church! Pastor Keith Strasburger and his wife Kristine joined our church family a little over a week ago. Keith and Kristine are known for their hearts for Jesus and a deep devotion to building relationships as they work to mentor disciples. They hale from Real Life Ministries in Idaho and, in a time span of less than two weeks, Nebraska has welcomed them with zero degrees, 70 and sunny, and most recently snow and ice. Perhaps it’s March on the prairie??!!

On his first Sunday preaching, Keith shared with us that we are not called to go to church, we are called to be the church. God created each one of us with a desire to be loved, valued, listened to, and to live with meaningful purpose. In order for this to happen, we must be the church as we live in love as described in the above scripture verses. I think it is very powerful to see how the Old Testament provides the foundation for what we are able to live out through Jesus’ teaching, discipleship, and sacrifice for us. The two commandments that create the basis for how we are asked to live as Christians can be traced back to the five books of Moses. God asked us to love Him, and to love each other.

God asked us to do it, and then Jesus came to show us how to get it done.


It’s hard to love genuinely. Genuine love requires a risk, a vulnerability, and an openness to others that takes courage. When we love as Jesus loves, we give others the power to hurt us. But, we also give them the power of Jesus. Spend a few minutes looking at how God defines love in 1 Corinthians 13. Then ask yourself some questions:

  • Am I truly kind?
  • Do I have an unending supply of patience with those that God brings into my life?
  • Do I think of others more than I think of myself?
  • Do I hold grudges?
  • Do I celebrate others?
  • Do I love the values that God loves?
  • Do I love regardless of circumstance?
  • Do I love with a hope that inspires belief?

I’d like to think that I do these things well, but the truth is that sometimes they are simply a goal that I fall short of. The better I walk with Jesus, the more that I find the courage and freedom to live this way. But, it challenges me daily. Proverbs 4:23 tells me to “Guard my heart above all else, for it determines the course of my life.” I don’t think that this means to guard my heart against others, rather, I think that God is asking me to do something very different.

God is asking me to anchor my heart to Him and to allow it to be broken, so that His love — the love that is described in 1 Corinthians — can determine the course of my life.

A few years ago, I started to pray asking God to allow me to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. I’m not sure that when I started praying this prayer that I really understood what I was asking. But, God kept putting it on my heart so I kept praying it. As God answered this prayer, he has allowed me to see parts and pieces of this world through a very different lens. Seeing these things breaks my heart, and it changes my life. It makes me cry, but more importantly it gives me the freedom to find a deep and meaningful purpose as I try to love as Christ loves.

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Holy Moments, take 2….

Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 13: 34-35

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”


I first wrote about Holy Moments back in July of 2019. At that time, I was in the middle of coaching swim team for the summer and reading a book called The Biggest Lie In The History Of Christianity by Matthew Kelly. The kids and I spent some quality time that summer learning about and practicing “Holy Moments”! God has recently put the topic back on my heart through both the Experiencing God study that I completed last fall and an online course that I am currently taking through the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). Since the Holy Spirit keeps placing it forefront in my thoughts, I am choosing to share it with you all this week 😊


Matthew Kelly describes a Holy Moment as a moment where you open yourself to God – make yourself available to him – and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit to reach out and share Jesus’ love with others. Another way to describe it is those times throughout the day when you let God move through you in order to share Him and His love with others. I believe that God is always reaching out to us. The Bible tells us that He steadfastly pursues us. Sometimes this occurs as God moves through obedient believers as they allow themselves to be a conduit for love to bless those in need.

Creating a legacy of Holy Moments 😊

I learned a new deeper concept for this type of action last week in my online course through AACC. The term is Ministry of Presence and the idea is that others (especially those who are hurting) are able to experience God as we become the channel through which God’s presence is manifested to them. In simpler terms, as I allow God’s love to move through me, His presence becomes real to the person that I am helping. In these moments, the individual no longer feels alone because I am able to share God’s presence and love with them. It reminds me quite a lot of the scripture verse above from the Gospel of John.

Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

We all have many, many different interactions with people as we go through the day. Do we take the presence of God with us in those moments? Do we participate in a daily ministry of presence to live out the above command from Jesus? Sometimes it is little things like complimenting someone and “building them up” or sharing a greeting and a smile as you open a door. Sometimes it is much larger as you sense a deep hurting in someone and are able to come alongside them to share a compassionate and gentle presence that comforts and reminds that God is always with us.

I am coming to realize what a gift it is to be able to be a conduit for God’s presence to others. What a blessing it is to know that God is using me to share Himself with someone else! What a beautiful responsibility that we can embrace together as we love, in the presence of God, in order to show the world that we are disciples of Christ and instruments of the Spirit. That is Koinonia – the sweet spot – that we talked about last week. God with us and in us, in order to be shared with the world — Holy Moments 😊

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I Saw God Today…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


I’ve been to church
I’ve read the book
I know he’s here
But I don’t look
Near as often as I should
Yeah, I know I should
His fingerprints are everywhere
I just slowed down to stop and stare
Opened my eyes and man I swear
I saw God today


In January of 2015, George Straight’s song, “I saw God today” came on the radio early one morning when I was reading bunks at the feedyard. I’d had a hard fall season, and was really struggling to hold my life together. It seemed like 100 different people needed 1000 different things all in the same moment, and I was crumbling – bit by bit. This was not an acute moment of stress, it was the toll of a long standing grind to run our cattle farm and lead my peers in an effort to improve cattle welfare. Managing those demands in addition to raising a family and serving in my community left me in a seemingly permanent state of exhaustion.

In those days, God was starting to work heavily on my heart and planting the seeds of change. On this morning, as I heard George Straight’s words, I started to listen.

Here is the original blog post from January 13, 2015 (on what would have been my dad’s 70th earthly birthday):

https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/i-saw-god-today/



Fast forward almost seven years, and one of the things that the Experiencing God study that I am currently doing talks about is “seeing God”. God is at work all around each and every one of his children, but do we pause to see it? Then, just as importantly, do we move ourselves so that we can participate with Him in it?

As I finished up the 4th week of the series a few days ago, it got me thinking back to that morning, that moment when I intentionally decided to pause and look for God each day. A lot of things can happen in 7 years, and I have to admit that God has taken me on an interesting journey in those 2500 days! In all honestly, it’s been a journey full of uncertain “Yes’s” as my heart told me to obey the soft, quiet voice of the Spirit while my head told me that it was crazy… In typical “Anne fashion”, my heart and my feet were hesitant, but intentionally obedient.

  • In 2017, I made the difficult decision to close down my feedyard.
  • In 2018, our family adopted a 17 year old boy who needed a loving home.
  • In 2019, I prepared to leave the “cattle animal welfare” professional circle to serve more in our church and community.
  • In 2020, God brought me a long list of kids to love and mentor through coaching and substitute teaching as the corona virus changed our lives.
  • In 2021, I stepped in to lead our Student Ministries program at our church when our Youth Pastor was unexpectedly called to serve somewhere else.

I did not expect any of those changes to happen. But, God did. And as I looked, I was able to see Him. When IΒ  saw Him, I could then see His work and have the opportunity to change my life in order to become a part of it.

My life is not a fairy tale. Many of those things listed above have not gone the way that I thought they would go. But, I feel Jesus in my heart and that soft, quiet voice keeps talking to me and asking me to listen. Finding the courage to trust and follow God through the hard things takes faithful endurance, perseverance, and the willingness to believe that He is able to work in and through us. Some days I do well, some I falter. But, I know that God loves me the same on both of those types of days, and that His mercies are new with each sunrise. And, I know that what He really desires is a heart that listens.

I have a verse written on a notecard on our door that heads out to the garage. It is from 1Corinthians 15:58.

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and unmovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”


God’s fingerprints are everywhere. When Jesus softens our hearts and God opens our eyes, the Spirit is able to allow us to see them. In those moments, when we do what George Straight suggests: slow down to stop and stare, we are able to see God each and every day 😊

Did you slow down to stop and stare today?

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Time…

Wednesday Wisdom 😊


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace.


My favorite farmer turned 50 yesterday. We *celebrated* his birthday earlier this month before our older two girls went back to college, but the actual day of the BIG 50 left me a bit pensive and whole lot thankful. I happened to be reading in Ecclesiastes and the above verses just jumped off the page at me. My heart warmed as I was reminded just how beautiful the gift of time is. We all spend our time in different ways and feeling a myriad of emotions, but it struck me how truly blessed I am to not just have the gift of time, but the ability to spend it with those that I love.

Matt and I have loved each other for 28 years, and we’ve been married for more than 25. That’s more than 10,000 days and a whole lot of minutes 😊 We’ve spent that time doing many of the things listed above. Some of them were hard, but they were all meaningful. The seasons continue to pass on the farm and we still get to experience them. That is God’s gift of time. It blesses us, it grows us, it reminds us of the One who created us and delights in us each day.


We are all “a work in progress” that God faithfully improves upon over time 😊 Life is a journey and growth happens little by little. Matt is good for me. He is a goofy clown with a huge heart, and brings so much joy into my life. God knew this and that is why He brought us together. Matt reminds me to accept peace, to choose joy, and to rest in the moment knowing that God made everything beautiful for its own time. Today, I am so very thankful for my favorite farmer, the God that unconditionally loves us both, and the time that we are blessed to be able to spend together ❀️

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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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Grappling with “not knowing”…

Wednesday Wisdom πŸ™‚


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.

 

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