Tag Archives: love

Radical love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:16

“For God so loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”


In addition to being in the Bible, you can find the above verse on billboards across the country. Its words are both simple and powerful as they encompass the heart of the Good News. God loves. Jesus saves. I don’t know what eternal life fully looks like, but my heart tells me that it is peaceful, joyful, and filled with the agape love that we strive to wrap our minds and hearts around during our earthly lives. Despite the fact that its exact description eludes me, I know that it is where I want to go.

But, I believe that there is more to it than that because eternal life (in my mind) begins today, not the day that God calls me home to heaven. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes up the rest of the message. What is my role on earth? Then, last week my Pastor said the words that allowed it all to come together. He started with the verse from the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that He sent his son Jesus.” But then he went on, “Jesus so loved the world that He sent us.”  The dots connected and the line was bolded and strong. I cried as I sat there, my eyes with a new level of insight and my heart with a deeper understanding of how and why He calls us to love. Not just those who return our love, but also those who do not.

He asks us to be there with our hearts ready and our bodies prepared to act.


Ever since Joseph left twelve months ago, I’ve wondered time and time again why God sent him to be a part of our family. At the time that the Holy Spirit put the request to love him on my heart, I assumed God’s ask brought with it a promise. Why wouldn’t it? Surely an ask of that magnitude came with a multitude of blessings? Visions of happily ever after passed through my mind as I believed that what was once an awesome family of five would become a beautiful family of six. Joe spent more than a year with us. The day he walked out the door, he took a piece of both Matt’s and my heart with him. I’ve felt a range of emotions since then; defeat, sadness, anger, and bits of joy as I remember the memories that we built together. Most of the emotions I am okay with, but the one that has proved the heaviest to bear is rejection.

I think that I finally hung that one on the cross last week as our Pastor’s words sank into my heart.

Jesus so loved the world that He sent us 
     - to love anyone and everyone- 
with no expectations for anything in return. 

It changes your heart to learn to love among and through pain. Rejection is a powerful emotion, and it incites a myriad of reactions (most of which are not rooted in love). It hurts. But, attaining the ability to love through it creates a light in the dark, an unexpected goodness in a time of crisis. Love enables forgiveness. It brings salvation and eternal life, but it also allows grace to permeate our earthly lives. Jesus is the ultimate source of grace, but every one of us has the ability to share that gift as we walk through each day. The more we share, the more it spreads.

I may not ever truly understand why God asked me to love Joseph, but I can understand that it wasn’t about me. It was about sharing. It was about unselfishly loving someone in a time of need. If I’m truly blessed, I’ll get to do it again before my heavenly Father calls me home. If I’m a good student, next time I’ll do it better – more like Jesus. I’ll leave the strings and the expectations out, and just focus on sharing radical love with the courageous boldness of grace.

Joseph gave great hugs. In those moments, I felt the strength of Grace. I took that for granted, and perhaps that’s my greatest regret. As he left, I told him that our door was always open. I’m not sure that I truly meant it at the time, but that’s the beauty of the Holy Spirit. Today I do, as my heart has gained a better understanding of the radical love that we are called to share.

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It takes a team!

For those of you that are not a part of the FeedYard Foodie Facebook family, but are interested in my thoughts relative to agriculture, COVID19, and raising beef 🙂


It takes a team to be successful. Teams are made up of many parts, but each one plays a vital role. Just like it takes 5 to field the court in basketball, 6 in volleyball, and 4 to make a relay for swimming or track; it takes a special group of people to come together to make nutritious beef available. Today, I ask you to join us – farmers, ranchers, feedyard caregivers, and meat packing plant crews as we do our best to combat the challenges of COVID19. Support us, love us, and come together with us in community. Together, we are stronger. Together, we prevail.

#ThankfulToBeEssential #COVID19 #Beef #CattleTales


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Finding Optimism…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord…


I moved from the city to the farm in June of 1997. Over the past twenty three years, I’ve come to know many farmers and ranchers in Nebraska, and (through volunteer work with the BQA program and the Beef Check Off) from all across the United States. A large percentage of our farmers and ranchers are people of deep faith.  Although these faiths stretch across a variety of Christian denominations, they carry a similar level of sincerity that just seems to flow naturally from the heart. At first I wondered what created such a unifying dedication and trust in the Lord, but I’ve now lived it for enough years that it is clear to me.

Living off of the land creates a unique perspective. It’s a life with many uncontrollable components, and one that is fiercely complicated yet basically simple. While the daily chores hold consistency, the circumstances surrounding those chores are ever changing. Sometimes the land yields to human tending, and sometimes Mother Nature chooses instead to teach a lesson in humility. Sometimes the markets move in favorable ways, but often the margins are slim and filled with financial risk. Despite detailed planning, things often change in the moment requiring both good problem solving skills and an innate optimism that ultimately everything will be okay. 

Last week we took steers weighing 600 pounds to grass. In typical Nebraska fashion, one day the temperature was close to 70 degrees but by Easter Sunday snow flurries buzzed about with 30+ mile per hour winds that reminded us of winter’s strong grasp. As winter and spring battled, I bought the cattle from a family with whom I have done business longer than my Karyn has been alive. I value them as friends and partners, so despite the crazy weather and dismal cattle markets I packed my faith and sealed the deal. The risk involved should likely keep me awake at night, but yet somehow I sleep.


The somehow is tied up in the above verses from Jeremiah, and I think it explains the deep faith and inherent optimism that exists within the heart of a farmer. When I care for my neighbors, my land, and my cattle, I believe that I honor the God that created us all. Through these actions, I am tapping into my “inner Jesus” – following the direction of the Holy Spirit and trusting the love that fills my heart. The Lord has plans for His people – for good and not for disaster, that will result in a future and a hope. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I know that God is with me and it’s my job to be faithful. When I pray, I believe that He hears me. When I look with my heart, I can hear a soft voice telling me that it is well.

A good friend has a saying that I often cling to, “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.”

As a country, we are in a time of great uncertainty with a diverse set of challenges. The list of “uncontrollables” is long, even by farmer standards 😉 Fear seems to knock daily or perhaps hourly on our doors. While we can look to science for needed answers and tools, science won’t fuel our hearts. A courageous heart runs off of the hope and inherent optimism that Jesus brings. Today, I pray that each of us can deepen in faith to stay the course with optimism regardless of how difficult things are. Our heavenly Father asks us to believe even when we can’t see, to love with abundance, and to work tirelessly to care for one another!

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The Height of the Basket…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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.”


We’re in the heart of winter across the rural prairie. This time of year, anyone affiliated with small town high school sports spends their free time cheering for the athletes either on the basketball court or the wrestling mat. I never competed in either sport so my knowledge of them is pretty limited, but my favorite blondes love to play basketball so I find myself sitting in the bleachers cheering on the Haymakers several nights a week.

Last Sunday, our pastor told a story that caught my attention. He shared with us a memory from his junior high school years and it went something like this:

One year in junior high, I decided to try out for basketball. I was short and not very good, so you can probably imagine how it went. After several days of try-outs, the coach called me aside and said: “John, I see you struggling and I know it’s hard for a boy your height to make a basket so I’m just going to lower the hoop four feet to help you out.” Well, maybe that’s not really what coach said…

The standards of the game of basketball don’t change to match our individual heights and abilities. All those years ago, the basketball hoop didn’t get lowered for our pastor and today it still doesn’t for any of the rest of us. Some nights I watch my girls and their teammates struggle to put the basketball into the hoop. They’ve got the right idea, but they fall short in execution. Basketball is a moving game with many variables, and it requires teamwork and collective effort to get that ball into the basket. The standards are set, leaving the athletes to figure out how to meet them successfully.

Pastor John’s point was that the game of basketball really isn’t much different than Christian life. It’s hard. It takes intentional focus and work. It requires unselfish dedication to something bigger than just ourselves…When my girls falter, I remind them to look up. The standards may be hard, but Jesus helps us to attain them if we keep our eyes on Him.


The Gospels remind us repeatedly of the new commandment issued by Jesus during his time on earth.

All those who choose to be on #TeamJesus must love others according to the standard of how Jesus loved.

That’s a tall basket. It’s a big ask during the good times and sometimes seems impossible during the hard times. Regardless of our personal feelings at any given moment, the standard isn’t going to change. We are called to love unconditionally, patiently, and with unselfish gentleness and hope. In fact, Jesus goes on to tell us in the Gospel of John that it is our reflection of His love to others that serves as proof of His existence. By sharing Jesus’ love and meeting the gold standard of the new commandment, we actually allow others to experience God through our actions.

Quite honestly, I believe that to be a game changer. During the tough games, the times that our hearts hurt and our minds want to either lash out or give up, Jesus’ message is clear. We are to love our teammates with an agape love. We can do that if we lean into our faith to fuel us for the journey. One of the awesome young ladies that I have the privilege of mentoring mentioned something recently that is worthy of sharing:

We find joy when we look to:

J esus

O thers

Y ourself

Jesus fills our hearts with His love to share with others. We maintain hope when we trust in our hearts. The height of the basket becomes less intimidating when we remember the perk of being on #TeamJesus: We can jump higher than we ever thought possible when we allow the heavenly coach to guide our actions and guard our hearts 🙂

 

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Beautiful, Awkward Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 4:16

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”


The Holy Spirit sometimes has to say the same thing to me multiple times before I figure out His message. Whether I miss it the first time, or don’t listen to understand, the Spirit does eventually get my attention 😉 This week we celebrated my favorite brunette’s 20th birthday. As I sit and think about all of things that I am grateful for, being a mom tops the list. Not just because my children bring me great joy, but also because God uses them to teach me so very much.

Ashley Grace played a huge role in bringing me back to Christ during a time in my life when I faltered and got *stuck*. The work of the Holy Spirit through her opened my eyes to the vastness of God’s grace. It is humbling and beautiful to watch Jesus move through the Spirit in the life of a teenager. It can be life-altering when that teenager is your’s. I had always thought that my faith needed to be perfect in order to honor God. As a result, I worked really hard but constantly fell short. I ended up tired and discouraged. My daughter taught me that grace fills the gap. It is perfectly and beautifully awkward because Jesus promises to always meet me where I am – not where I should be. Grace is what helps me to move toward where I should be, and it’s a good thing that I need divine interference to get there!

When we give our hearts to Christ, we never walk alone. Life becomes a beautiful, awkward journey full of grace.


As we move through the season of Advent, I pray that each of us remembers the gift of grace. It’s available to everyone, and it’s given freely to all those who believe. It never runs out and comes in the form of peace, hope, love, and forgiveness. We can look for it in a variety of places, but we’ll only find it in One.

Our earthly days are sometimes hard, but they are better when we walk in faith. And, (best of all) we are guaranteed a good ending! Jesus did that for us and nothing and no one can take that away. We live as awkward people in an awkward world. The Good News is that we have a gracious God with an unending supply of awkward grace that meets each and every one of us just where we are. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews reminds us to come boldly to the throne of God. There we will find mercy and grace when we need it most – complete with free delivery to wherever we are at the moment!

This year, celebrate the Christmas season with defiant hope because Christ came for us and will never leave us lonely – we simply need to accept that joy comes from what is happening inside of our hearts through Jesus rather than being contingent on the circumstances that we face on earth. That’s the beauty of grace.

As I look back twenty years ago, it seems fitting that my favorite farmer and I gave her “grace” as her middle name 🙂 Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl whose heart overflows with Jesus’ beautiful, awkward grace!

 

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WayMakers…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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 feet 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 WayMakers 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 is 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: 

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 🙂

 

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Hands and Feet…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s Epistle to Romans 12: 4-5

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body and we all belong to each other.”


It’s college football season. My favorite farmer played both high school and college football, so my girls have grown up in a house that understands and celebrates the game. The other night at dinner, Karyn mentioned Army’s football uniforms. She loves the fact that instead of having the last name of the player on the back of the jersey, each team member’s jersey has “Army” printed where their name might be.

My dad was in the Army and I went on a college recruiting trip for swimming to West Point my senior year in high school. Although my heart led me somewhere else for college, I remember the feeling of “team” that permeated the campus. There wasn’t hardly an “I” to be found –  instead it was about “we” and the power of teamwork. As Karyn, Matt and I talked about Army’s philosophy, it reminded me of our call to be on Team Jesus.


The New Testament is filled with verses where Jesus asks us to do two things: Believe and Love. Intermixed with these callings is a clear message of service. I used to think of service as something that I needed to do in order to prove that I was worthy – to become eligible for God’s love and the ability to spend eternal life in heaven. During this time of my life, I did a lot of things that helped others. But, over time, my heart grew weary. I lost sight of the joy of giving as it became more like an obligation than a gift.

I’ve always viewed Jesus as my innate source of goodness, but it has taken time for me to fully understand what it means to be Jesus’ hand and feet. It’s not about an obligation to serve, rather it’s about taking His love into your heart in order to share it with others. It’s about abiding in Him. After all, you can’t be someone’s hands and feet without being a part of them. It is this intentional choice that brings us together as Christ’s body. It inspires us to belong to each other – to look outside of ourselves to share – to work toward the mission – to find the peaceful and joyous victory that our hearts seek.

We could call it by lots of fancy terms, but to me it’s walking with Jesus. He’s the coach and we’re the team. As his Holy Spirit guides us, we follow.  Together we make Holy Moments. 2Corinthians 9:7 reminds us that “God loves a cheerful giver”. Perhaps God loves a cheerful giver not just because He likes to see us smile, but because that is a sure sign that we’ve given our hearts to the One who asks us to be his hands and feet.

Last week I watched one of our Haymaker Cross Country teammates circle back during the “recovery” part of our interval workout to help someone who was struggling. This isn’t an unusual occurrence. Our athletes do a good job looking outside of themselves to be good teammates.  The concept of stronger together holds meaning for them. As I spend the fall season with the runners, I’m reminded of how simple it is to serve others with a joyful heart.

When Jesus takes up residence in our hearts, then our hands become His hands and our feet become His feet. Together we make the Holy Moments that help to keep the light burning.

 

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The Facade…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Mark 4: 21-22

Parable of the Lamp

“Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.”


I recently heard Coach Ron Brown speak. Coach Brown is a successful football coach and Christian mentor, and currently serves as Director of Player Development under Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He returned to the Big Red last year after a few years away from the program. There’s something special about Coach Brown – he wears his faith well – and genuinely reflects Jesus’ love to the athletes that he serves. In short, he’s real.

That night, I bought a copy of his new book, Sports Parables. It’s left me thinking about the value of “the story”. Jesus often taught using parables. The Greek prefix “para” means to come alongside something in order to magnify truth. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ parables as he lived to clarify and define what a life of faith looks like. To me, using stories to teach inspires reflection — I know that as I read them, they stick in my mind as I work to figure them out 🙂


I love the Parable of the Lamp. Forms of it appear in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus is all about the light. He’s it! When we walk with Him, we live in His light and are able to reflect that light to others. It’s like placing a lamp on a table so that everyone can share it. Light allows discernment and opens the door to unconditional love. As it glows, it highlights each one of our stories and declares us children of God.

In my mind, the most beautiful thing about Jesus’ light is that it has no facade. It’s real – it’s genuine – and it is just as awesome on the inside as it is on the outside. It warms my heart like a beautiful sunny fall day. Despite the loving warmth of Jesus’ light, the transparency of the light causes some to shy away instead of drawing near. It brings all that is hidden into the open, which can be a bit unsettling if you’re short on confidence or think you have something to hide.

We can’t fool God. He can see through any facade that we build. And, he loves us anyway. He uses us – and our stories – to share His love and His light with others. He doesn’t expect perfection, he simply asks for our hearts and an earnest faith that inspires us to live for Him. This reminds me that I don’t need to worry about a facade – I simply need to draw near to Jesus as I live my life so that He can use me to make Holy Moments with Him 🙂

I started coaching out of love for athletics. Twenty + years later, I coach because sharing the love that Jesus puts in my heart brings my life joy and purpose. In Matthew’s version of the Parable of the Lamp (Matt 5:14-16), Jesus reminds us that when we serve others by sharing love, then we enable His light to shine . I pray that the athletes that God brings into my path can feel the love of Jesus and the warmth of His light as we travel the journey together.

*You can learn more about Coach Ron Brown by visiting http://www.kingdomsports.online.

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