Presence of the Gardener

Presence of the Gardener

A gardener’s job is to care for the land, the soil and plants. A good gardener is always in tune with what’s taking place in the garden and carries pruners, always prepared to take care of broken branches, spent flowers, or unruly and unwanted growth. The gardener is in constant relationship with their garden. That’s the kind of Gardener the Father is…

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Continual Worship

Continual Worship

As Christians, we can comfortably fall into a rhythm of attending church on Sunday to worship and listen to a sermon, but nothing in between. Box checked, good for another six days or until next month. Perhaps offering up a simple prayer every now and again between visits.

But we are called in a relationship of Continual Worship.

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Are you a Rainbow Chaser?

Are you a Rainbow Chaser?

Are you a Rainbow Chaser? God has made so many promises to his people, and acting on those promises is what we call faith. One of God’s greatest promises was stamped with a rainbow as a visible reminder for us. What is the purpose of God’s promises, and do you chase after them?

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Berries & Bible Study

Berries & Bible Study Promo

Berries & Bible Study Promo

Hey, Friends!I've been super quiet on the blog lately, it's just that time of year. So, I'm officially giving myself permission to press pause here for a while because our life take a certain focus this time of year, and it's our berry farm.If you've followed me for any length of time or personally involved with our family, you'll know that we have a small u-pick berry farm here in Mid-Missouri. Our farm is host to blueberries and blackberries along with several hives of honey bees, 8 at the moment with 3 more at another location. So summer takes on a new level of fullness.That being said, I'm pressing pause on the blog but not on my walk with the Lord and pressing in to what I believe he's called me to do - teach his Word. So, we're going to try something new and incorporate two loves - growing things and Scripture.Ladies, this one is for you; Berries & Bible Study! See the link for all the juicy details. If you want to join us but would like to pay at the farm, please contact me directly and I'll reserve a spot for you. Looking forward to a lovely evening!With Gratitude,Amyhttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/berries-bible-study-tickets-61139726568

Donkeys for a Crown

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, and completely enthralled with portions of the Bible that previously seemed null and void, but mostly boring. However, that knee jerk reaction that “the Old Testament is boring”, I couldn’t find further from the truth.Captivated, the story of Israel’s cry for a king unfolds dramatically as Saul takes the first throne of Israel in 1 Samuel, or shall I say attempts to assume the throne. Saul goes looking for a couple of lost donkeys as any good young son would do, and comes back with a changed heart and anointed as Israel’s king! Could you imagine?!How often do we go out looking for one thing, only to come in with something completely unexpected? I can think of more than one occasion. Saul had a different response than most typically have. Rather than busting through the back door with a, “You would never guess what happened to me today.” Saul took the safe route in response to his uncle’s questioning as to his whereabouts, telling about the donkeys being found and omitting his anointing to kingship!I’ve spoken to several people over the course of the past few weeks in regards to God’s calling on their life, all of which came unexpectedly and seemingly out of left field. Personally, as a young person I never aspired to be a writer or teacher of God’s word. I was focused on growing flowers and my family. The calling to teach and write came very unexpectedly. And for a while, I sat on it. All of the hesitations and their explanations could fill a novel, but when all was said and done - they were excuses. Rather than stepping up and out, I hid and waited. Now, I’m grateful for the learning process God has so faithfully and gently had me on.I can’t imagine the experience Saul had, meeting the prophet Samuel and being anointed only to begin prophesying, and then being called before all of Israel. But as Samuel summoned the people of Israel and had each tribe come forward, Saul was nowhere to be found among the tribe of Benjamin. The people searched and inquired as to Saul’s whereabouts. Some verses are just better in the King James Version, take a look at God’s response.“And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.” 1 Samuel 10:22 (KJV)Saul went and him himself in the supply closet – among all the stuff. Sounds like my daughter playing hide-and-go-seek.Saul seems less than enthused about assuming the throne of Israel. And I can’t say I blame him! He went out looking for donkeys only to return with an unexpected crown. God’s favor rested on him for a period of time. Saul was an answer to prayer, though something tells me he didn’t see it that way. And as he is brought before the people, Samuel announces, “Do you see the one the LORD has chosen?” (CSB)“Do you see the one the LORD has chosen?”Saul was chosen. Just as you are chosen. It can be easy to hid and ignore our callings. But what would shift if we stepped back and allowed our self to “see the one the LORD has chosen” and act on it? Would you do anything different?We are all chosen by the Creator of the universe. God cares deeply about his children, his chosen children. What might you be hiding from? What excuses might you be living with? Personally, I can think of a few for myself. Let’s offer it to God with a heart of repentance and accept his grace in return, turning in our “donkeys” (excuses and hiding) to fully wear the “crown” (God’s calling on our life). No matter how unexpected that calling may be.God doesn’t make mistakes. We all need each other’s unique gift and calling, presented in the only combination possible – wrapped up inside you and partnered with God.With gratitude,Amypro-church-media-477814-unsplash

Sturdy Branches

Spring ushers in an incredibly full time for my family’s life as our berry farm wakes from winter slumber. Like a ravenous bear waking from hibernation, the farm calls for everything to be done at once. Acres of berries require pruning, fertilizing, irrigation connections, weeding, and more.Our main goal is to produce as many berries as plants will allow, as we strive towards healthy growth in order to do so. The first couple of years we kept every single blackberry cane, painstakingly tying every little bit of growth to the trellises. Our focus was to keep as many blackberry vines as possible in hopes of having as much fruit as possible. We obsessed over tying up little scraggly twigs, wrestled with 15’ long branches, and dared to prune anything that might produce a yield.Having and caring for a berry farm is a long-term commitment, and each season brings with it a new set of lessons and tests. We no longer strive to keep every scraggly twig and 15’ vine alive. Our pruners get a workout as cut branches are removed into massive burn piles. While pruning a long row of blackberries one afternoon this season, my thoughts were focused towards nurturing strong branches that could support fruit to come. It required me to be more aggressive in deciding what to prune and what to leave. Every bit of unhealthy growth or weak canes were trustingly pruned and removed.It’s easy to get wrapped up in fruit production – after all, that is the desired end result. The Bible speaks to fruit and its production quite often. We read in Galatians 5 about the fruit of the Spirit and in John 15 about bearing much fruit. On our farm, and with Christians, it’s easy to get focused on fruit production and lose sight of the health of the plant, or the body of Christ. In general, our culture and some Christians are mainly concerned with fruit production. Energy is often focused on attaining the highest productivity possible, no matter the cost.As I pruned blackberry canes that warm afternoon, my measuring stick for pruning adjusted from ‘how many fruiting buds were available’ to ‘can this cane support the expected fruit’? The later question took the first into account, but ultimately determined each cut. What would happen in our lives if we evaluated our hearts and minds in regards to this?As Christians, are we focused on building a platform, a financially successful church, notches in our souls saved salvation belt, or quantity of attendees at ministry events? Or, are we more focused on a healthy, vibrant, and growing body? I can say with confidence that when we put our energy and focus towards growing a healthy body, the fruit will come. With healthy plants, balance in what it going on, fruit is inevitable; they can’t help but to produce a crop.The gospel has produced some serious fruit over the centuries. Jesus was diligent in discipleship during his time walking in flesh and bone. I believe he was not only living the example, but taught others he came into contact with. He pulled aside twelve, focused his attention, and poured in to them. Jesus’ life touched more than just the twelve, but he knew those twelve would have significant impact on the spread of the gospel message. It’s almost as if Jesus was focused on growing the canes to make sure they would be capable of supporting the fruit they would bear.Just like our blackberry canes, the Twelve would need to be strong and able to weather the storms.As we move forward, let’s be mindful and honest with our intentions. Are we more interested in producing mass quantities of fruit, or growing our roots deep and our shoots sturdy to support whatever fruit God chooses to produce through us? It begins with our personal and intimate relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It takes guts to be honest. Thanks for letting me go there with you, and for going there with me. It’s an honor. Let’s be strong and focus on Him today.With gratitude,Amynine-kopfer-313608-unsplash   

Anointing of Jesus

* In just a few days, Christians will be celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. This time of year is holy for all who follow the Lord God. It’s a time to reflect and celebrate life, death defeated! This week marks so many pivotal moments in scripture – the betrayal of Jesus, his death on a cross, and his resurrection. This week also holds witness to other accounts in scripture which may seem less obvious such as Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land and a woman who anointed Jesus in the most honoring of ways.The account of Jesus being anointed is found among the gospels, tucked into Jesus’ final days walking earth as Son of God clothed with flesh and bone. Just a few days before Jesus’ death on a cross he was in Bethany, seated at a table with his disciples, when a woman approaches Jesus and anoints him with precious oil. This wasn’t just olive oil, found in abundance, but costly and extravagant pure nard.“So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3As the fragrance of this costly oil began to permeate the room, it would have permeated our Savior too. Bathing was not a daily habit in the culture, that fragrance very well could have lingered with the Lord several days, all the way to the tomb.Some responded with indignation as the alabaster jar of expensive perfume was broken and poured out as act of love, adoration, worship, and devotion. With human eyes it was seen as a waste, finances that could have been liquidated and used to feed the poor. Jesus responded with gratitude and honor, while knowing his earthly death was near. She had anointed Jesus in advance for his burial.I wonder if the fragrance of that anointing lingered on Jesus as he prayed to our Father? And perhaps as he walked into the room before Pilate or the Sanhedrin for judgement. Then, as Jesus carried his cross while being mocked – did that sweet fragrance of anointing linger even then? What about when his glorious light rose up to darken the door of the tomb? An eternal shadow over death. Did that fragrance of anointing linger even then?Today, I have a two questions for you.The anointing permeated our Lord Jesus, and the fragrance filled the house. We are called to be temples or homes to the living God, built firmly on the foundation of Christ. Are we allowing his “scent” to permeate us?Lavish love and adoration was expressed as the jar was broken and poured out on Jesus. In what way might you be allowing yourself to be broken and poured out in worship to him for no other reason than because you love him?Would you join me in reading the following scriptures this week and dialoging on those questions with the Lord? Let’s praise him in lavish worship this week through His Word as we celebrate His resurrection!With gratitude,AmyMatt 26:6-13 | Mark 14:3-9 | John 12: 1-8*A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a friend’s church and listen to a visiting pastor, Joh Nelson from Soma Community Church in Jefferson City, MO. I tell you this because the original idea behind this post is not mine, but another. The general thought of the fragrance of anointing oil lingering with Jesus through his crucifixion was so compelling that it lingered with me and wanted to share it with you.roberta-sorge-142255-unsplash

Fit Faith

About a year ago, I began attending a class at our local YMCA called Body Combat. In my quest of better health and with the encouragement of some friends, I joined one Wednesday morning. The name should have been my clue; it was brutal, in a good way.Being right-hand-dominate was no news to me. However, until that class I never realized how dominate my entire right side was! We did punches, jabs and kicks on the right then switched to our left. As we switched to the left side, all control left my body and my brain struggled to make semblance of what was taking place. I laughed out loud! My friend, and teacher, began calling extra instructions, trying to clarify what my body was supposed to be doing. She provided encouraging smiles between hefty breaths, but the struggle was clear. My left side, was my weak side.I had no idea how much the right side of my body dominated everything. It was uncomfortable as I focused hard with each step. However, I appreciated the challenge and new awareness. My lop-sidedness was not prominent until I needed to use my left side, then it became blaringly obvious.This experience lead me to a question. Can we get lop-sided in our faith?Jesus’ brother writes in James 2:26, “faith without works is dead.” We can be wrapped up, studying scripture and worshiping God all day; that is honorable. However, faith is an action word. Our faith has feet when we put it into action with works for Him, and guided by Him. Likewise, always ‘doing’ for the Lord, without faith, is just checking a box. It’s like my left side being faith, my right side being works – they must work together. Exercising our faith through works is key.There are a million ways to “workout” our spiritual muscles - prayer, scripture, worship, thanksgiving and serving to name a few. It’s important we don’t get stuck using the same muscles. I recently learned this exercise class teaches new movements every three months so that we don’t get cemented into a routine and neglect portions of our body.Would you take some time today and reflect with God, on your spiritual ‘body’. Are there areas that need to be exercised a little more? Are you cemented into a religious routine that’s keeping you from experiencing God in a real and intimate relationship? It takes being intentional and in-tune with Him.For further study, James 2:14-26.bruno-nascimento-149663-unsplashWith gratitude,Amy

God's Blacksmith Shop

As believers in Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are instructed to take up the full armor of God in Ephesians 6. We are to take a stand with the belt of truth around our waist and feet sandaled ready with the gospel of peace. We’re instructed to pick up the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word. A fruitful walk with the Lord requires us to do this, it is obedience sourced in Love.Some believe the Old Testament is just full of irrelevant stories, but those bits of history are packed with lessons which can be applied to our life today. While reading 1 Samuel 13 I learned that at that time in Israel’s history they would have to take their swords, spears, axes, sickles, and other agricultural implements to the Philistines to be sharpened. This meant Israel would have to take their weapons to their opponent in order to have sharp weapons for battle. How would you like to venture in to enemy territory in order to have your sword sharpened? Or what about your pitchfork for the coming harvest season?This dynamic is interesting and we learn a lot from what takes place. Despite a probable lack in sharp weaponry, the Israelites prevail over the Philistines because God fights for them. That being said, it got me thinking about today and our culture. I wonder how often we walk through the doors of our church or into a Bible study and asking someone else to sharpen the spiritual sword we carry. It’s tempting to allow others to do the work, but it’s not sustainable. While fellowship is necessary in the sharpening process, everyone’s spiritual sword is unique. God does fight for us, but we are called to join him.Sharpening our spiritual swords takes time, skill, and commitment. Stepping into the blacksmith shop of God’s Word is intimidating when we don’t know where to start. It’s easy to go to church, Bible study, or a small group to be spoon fed God’s Word. Please don’t misunderstand me, these things are vital to our walk with the Lord! Proverbs is a good reminder, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron. That means I need to have others around me who are sharp iron tools, willing to step into the blacksmith shop and do some work both on their own and together.My family enjoyed watching the first season of Forged in Fire via Netflix this winter. The show covers different types of weaponry and the processes of how each are made. My favorite part was the final round where contestants were sent home to their own forge. It was interesting to see each man’s tools, unique shop, and approach in working the metal. After a period of time, both contestants brought their forged weapon for testing before the judges.In this particular show the process of fire, pressure, and other factors were the same but forging was unique. Each bladesmith faced unique challenges, just as each person does. We are all tested and face trials, we each carry a spiritual sword for a unique purpose. My question is this – Are you willing to step into the blacksmith shop of God’s Word to allow transformation and sharpening to occur? How can you become that sharp iron who helps to sharpen another brother or sister in Christ?If you’re new to the Bible it’s easy to be intimidated by God’s Word, not knowing where to start. We’ve all been there at some point, so no judgement. But can I recommend starting somewhere in the New Testament gospels like the book of Luke?If you are a little more seasoned in God’s Word – where would you start? And, how are you being sharpened right now?God is so faithful to those who pursue him. Let's be brave together as we step in. We will not be forsaken stepping into the blacksmith shop of God’s Word. We need the specialized gifts God has equipped you with for battle, and we need you sharp in order to help sharpen others.Further study: 1 Samuel 13:16 – 14:23malcolm-lightbody-698733-unsplash.jpg 

Running Into God's Presence

It feels so good to be in a rhythm. Our farm has a seasonal rhythm, but it keeps us moving on the fly a good bit. I appreciate little windows of scheduled time for things like regular exercise and school days. One morning, I took a detour from the normal routine and decided to go for a run in a different place and at a different time. It seemed to work a little better given the schedule we were facing for that particular day. Bundling up due to cooler temperatures, I headed out and followed the school bus down the road after making a stop at the neighbor’s.The air was crisp, the sky holding both the sun and moon simultaneously. Over halfway through my run, I was facing due west with the sun at my back. A long shadow was cast before me, evidence where the source of warm light was coming from.At some point in time we all find ourselves in a season of uncertainty. Whether it’s with our job, home, finances, school, or relationships with family and friends. Uncertainty has an uncanny ability to disorient us. Evidence of this in my life typically looks like no movement forward, I just stop without a certain direction to go. Stopping is not always a bad thing, it can keep us from getting lost. But for me, it’s easy to get distracted then lose focus and become lazy if I stop for too long. How about you?Running towards my shadow that morning brought to mind the understanding that in God there is no darkness. Running towards that shadow, it was blatantly obvious where the source of light was located – directly behind me. There was certainty in the direction I was going.When we are faced with uncertainty in our lives. I’m confident that in those seasons we can do one of two things, open ourselves up to the enemy’s attacks by getting distracted or sidetracked, or we can diligently and patiently seek for a source of light in the darkness. Darkness is simply the absence of light.  We are never absent from the Lord who is light, and in Him there is no darkness.What would happen if we focused on Him when we felt feelings and seasons of uncertainty rise up in the situations around us? Focusing on the Lord and seeking light may allow us to move forward well. It may be one little bitty step at a time with one faith-filled prayer. Perhaps by doing so, we will not get stuck or tempted to veer off course in an attempt to control or force those uncertainties into certainty.We serve a God who is mighty and strong, He is in control and we can trust his steadfastness. What if the seasons of uncertainty and shadows in life became evidence of God’s presence rather than enveloping darkness. Let’s fight well by staying focused on the One who was, who is, and is to come – in Him there is no darkness, just pure light and love for his beloved children.Here are three verses that keep coming to mind. Perhaps they will be good reminders for you too.“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17“This is the message that we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.” 1 John 1:5 (CSB)My detour that morning and shifting shadow along the way became a good reminder that God and his light are always present, even in the discomfort of the unknown.As believers in Christ Jesus, we are promised His presence. How has God reminded you of His presence lately?holly-mandarich-324638-unsplash

Poured Out

As a woman, I believe we have an innate tendency to run ourselves ragged. Getting burned out is common as we continually pour out for others in giving of our time and energy to work, volunteer, school, church, family, our spouse, children, friends, and so much more. There’s a never-ending to-do list which seems to grow like it’s been on a continuous drip of high-powered fertilizer.While visiting with a friend the other day, we discussed the break I’ve been taking from teaching a Sunday school class at my church. She too had stepped away from commitments at her church, completely dried up from pouring herself out. My friend commented on how long it had taken to get re-hydrated. We were in agreement as to how important it was for those in ministry to be continually tapped in to the Lord and soaked by the Holy Spirit so we could pour out to others.“We’re kind of like sphagnum peat moss!” I said. She looked at me inquisitively. I went on to explain that peat moss is a base ingredient in potting medium to grow plants. It has a wonderful water-holding capacity but when completely dry, it repels water. The water rolls off as you attempt to moisten the soil, not soaking in at all. In order to re-wet the potting medium, you have to rough it up a bit and add much more water than expected. It takes time and energy.On the other hand, if the peat moss gets too wet it then becomes in inhospitable place for a plant’s roots to grow. The best way to treat the potting medium is to keep it moist, at all times. Not too wet and definitely not dry. In order to grow plants, you need good drainage - both breathing space and moisture.All of us must be filled by time with the Lord in personal relationship and rest in him. Before we can ever pour out effectively, we must be filled. We’re a vessel, used by the Lord our Creator. He pours out through us and for us. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves dried up like dehydrated potting soil.Whether you are in ministry to an official capacity or not, this is important. Every day, we minister to our families and friends, co-workers, and the check-out clerk in the market. It may be through the simple gesture of a smile, or an extra hug for our kids, but it makes a difference.Are you taking time to rest and be filled by God’s presence? Not out of obligation, but because you want to? Its o.k. to step back from commitments if needed, just don’t wait too long. In order to bear fruit, we must have that Holy Spirit river flowing through us. I know no better way than to spend one-on-one time with the Father through prayer, His Word, and worship.What pours out when you aren’t “full”? How do you stay filled up, so that you can pour out the good things God intends?“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13Pouring out for others 

Fruit From a Root

Spring seems far away as the days of March, well, march along with cloudy and dreary days. History and experience tell me that lush, green grass isn’t far away. I know it’s coming. Roots, deep in the ground, will provide proof-of-life as they spring forth and bear leaves, flowers, and eventually fruit over the coming weeks. That’s the goal – to bear fruit. Everything at some point will bear fruit. It may not be easily seen, but seeds will be produced in order to perpetuate the next generation.Go with me to the Exodus story in the Old Testament. As the Israelites leave Egypt, we bear witness to their journey through nations not their own. They witnessed idols and images of other gods throughout their 40 years in the wilderness. Temptations due to lack of food and the unknown were powerful. We read about the challenges Moses faced in leading God’s people. Frustration and concern were mixed with a deep love for the Lord and desire to see God’s people fruitful and obediently prospering.As Moses’ life nears the end, he summons Israel in Deuteronomy 29. God’s covenant promises and evidence of faithfulness are recounted as Moses pleads his case with warnings to reciprocate faithfulness to God. Moses warns Israel to keep their hearts towards the LORD their God and worship only him. And with a heart fully postured to God, Moses exclaims, “Be sure there is no root among you bearing poisonous or bitter fruit.”Moses was aware of what may be rooted deep in the hearts of Israel, and with God’s revelation he knew what fruit would be born in future generations. Loving, worshiping, and abiding in God would bear desirable fruit. Not fruit in the sense of apples and pears, but fruit in the form of love, joy, peace, and patience. Actively removing and guarding themselves from sin, and the seeds of sin, would be necessary to living an obedient life to the Lord. It is necessary still.Every heart is rooted with something. Whatever root has taken up residence in our heart will bear fruit. Our thoughts, actions, and reactions are evidence. Living in this world, we have all sinned (less Jesus) and passed through temptation. It’s part of being human and living post-fall from Eden. But we do have a choice in how we cultivate the deep roots in our heart. We have a choice to love the Lord and actively remove any root that grows poisonous or bitter fruit. God is love, and choosing to be rooted in Love will bear good, sweet, bountiful fruit.Eradicating deeply-rooted things is hard work. It’s uncomfortable and messy. But it is honorable and good work. Doing this work a form of actively consecrating ourselves to the Lord. Over and over, the Lord tells us to consecrate ourselves in preparation for wonders. (ex. Joshua 3) As we do the hard work of rooting out what is not from God in our hearts, whether it be bitterness, selfishness, or unforgiveness, I truly believe that we will bless God and he will bless us. Sweet and healthy fruit will be enjoyed by all.Would you join me in asking God to reveal any sin in our heart? Then actively seek ways and do the hard work of removing whatever might be revealed? Sin becomes a barrier in our relationship to God and others. As we actively root out the poisonous and bitter fruit in our hearts and minds, it allows space for deeper love and closer walk with the Lord and those we love. I’m so grateful for you. Let’s be brave together and do the hard work, and be expectant of good fruit to come.With gratitude,Amyluke-michael-27050-unsplash

Our God Who Hears

Our family has a small u-pick berry farm in Central Missouri, blueberries and blackberries. In our quest to continue learning and growing our farm in healthy ways, my husband and I recently went to Blueberry School the end of February. We hated to leave with our son not feeling well, but placed him in the capable hands of grandparents. The last night we were gone, our son’s ear drum ruptured. Don’t worry – he’s on the mend and back to baseball practices and pestering his little sister as usual. But with a ruptured ear drum comes limited hearing.Last week on the blog we looked into Genesis 16, the story of Hagar and our God who sees. In the midst of what I would consider a bit of chaos, we discover two complimentary facets God’s character. In verse thirteen we witness God as El-roi, God who sees. And in verse eleven God is revealed as a God who not only sees us, but hears our cry to him.God had promised Sarai and Abram children, as numerous as the stars. After ten years with no children, Sarai and Abram took matters into their own hands. According to the custom of the day, Sarai gave her slave, Hagar, to Abram in order to provide her with a child. Needless to say, once Hagar became pregnant there was a bit of tension between the women. In her heart pain, Hagar flees to the wilderness where she encounters God and his character.I believe God was so intent on Hagar (and us) knowing that he hears us, he named the son she was carrying, Ishmael, God hears. The name Ishmael comes from the two Hebrew words, shâma and êl. Shâma being to hear intelligently[i]; and êl being our strong and powerful, Almighty God.[ii] Ishmael’s name would be a permanent reminder not only to Ishmael himself, but Sarai, Abram, Hagar, and generations to come.Our hearing is delicate and human in every sense of the word. In sickness my son’s hearing was temporarily impaired, but God’s hearing is perfect all the time. Despite what we think or believe, God always hears us. He does not have selective hearing or limited in listening to one person at a time. Contrary to what we may think at times, he does not misunderstand when we communicate with him.We are repeatedly told through Spirit-inspired scriptures to pray, communicate with our God who hears. We can take that as a promise from a Father who listens to his children. Psalm 66:16-20 is a beautiful example of our God who hears, but take a specific look at these specific verses.“If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would have not listened. However, God has listened; he has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. Blessed be God! He has not turned away my prayer or turned his faithful love from me.” Psalm 66:18-20It’s tempting to turn from God when we believe our prayers have not been answered in the way we desire or ask. But friend, our call is to not be satisfied with our own desires but to bless him and trust. We are called to pray and communicate, then to trust him. Surrendering to his timing and firmly stand on the promise that our God hears us. Trust that God does all things well and he has not turned from you.Can I challenge you to read Psalm 66 and bless God with your prayers as you worship him this week? Trust that he hears you, loud and clear.With Gratitude,AmyPsalm 66_20[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 118). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. [ii] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. 

Who Do You See?

Do you ever want to get to the bottom of something? Knowing all the details? While studying the book of Joshua for the Bible study Courageous Faith, I wanted to get to fully explore all there was to Joshua. But as I continued through the study process there was the constant reminder I would never get to the end of God's Word - it's alive and active! It's a text that contains mysteries meant to keep us coming back for more.As Christ-followers, we are called to continually seek God in order to know Him and reflect his likeness. God's word is an invitation to see and hear who he is, not just what he does. What he does is perfectly reflected in who he is. Much like our spouse, parents, children, friends, and even ourselves, we are always learning facets of our character. The minute we stop discovering, we put them or ourself into a false box of being fully known and discovered; we put God’s creation in a box. Neither God nor his creations belong in a box.We are called in a relationship of constant discovery and curiosity, with ourselves, others, and our Creator. When we begin to see and understand, in part, who God is, we can begin to see and understand who we are created to be. We can then begin to walk in a deeper relationship with the Lord, and with others. As image bearers of our Creator, surrendering to God’s refining allows us to more clearly reflect God’s creation.God reveals characteristics of himself throughout his word. We find God to be El-roi, God who sees, in Genesis 16:1-15. During Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the LORD, she proclaims she has seen the God who sees her. There in the wilderness, Hagar names the nearby well Beer-lahai-roi, which means well of the Living One who sees me. This encounter of being seen changed her perspective.You are seen. Not one day that goes by where you have not seen by our Creator. You are seen in the wilderness just as clearly as you are seen in the fruit-filled fields. When you feel invisible and unimportant, the truth is – you are seen. When the world seems to be falling apart, your legs knocked out from underneath you – you are seen. You may not understand what’s going on, but you can trust that you are seen. There is not one atom of a detail that sneaks past our Father’s eyes. When you feel as though you are sneaking through life – you are seen. Or perhaps you are sneaking around in the darkness. Guess what – you are seen. We are seen, and known.What does the knowledge of being seen provide? Our relationship with God can be positively enhanced as we grow and mature in our understanding of El-roi. We are created with a deep desire to be seen and known; it provides a structure for trust and connection. Being seen may lead us to feeling vulnerable at times, but when we understand we are seen by a loving Father it can become a source of comfort.Freedom occurs when we openly present ourselves to be seen by El-roi. Walking in freedom, we are positioned to reflect more clearly God’s character to others. Seeing others becomes opportunity for ministry. God ministered to Hagar in the wilderness; El-roi ministers to us as well. As Christ followers, we too can minister to others when we learn to be God’s servants-who-see.Understanding God's character is vital to fully trust God and walk in deeper faith. He sees our pain and suffering, mourning with those who mourn. El-roi sees our earthly victories, rejoicing with those who rejoice. We can trust we are always seen by El-roi; therefore, always known. Another part of being known, besides being seen, is to be heard. (We'll explore this revealed character of God next week.) Let’s rest and take comfort in knowing that we are clearly seen by the Creator of the universe.The following questions are not meant to condemn by any means. I'm asking myself these same questions, desiring to grow deeper in relationship with El-roi. Let's not take on any condemnation, but rather allow God's light to shine into any darkness we may have in our hearts and minds. Let's use the understanding of God being El-roi to be a deep well of life with the Living One.Is there anything you might be attempting to hide from El-roi?What would it take for you to bring it into the light before him?What do you risk by doing so? More importantly, what might you gain?El-roi (1)Abba, help us to see you clearly and know without the shadow of doubt that you see us. Unveil and give us eyes to see your activity around us. Help us to see ourselves and others as you intend. Help us to cast aside judgement, partiality, pride, and anything else that may be clouding how we see you and others. Speak to our hearts, letting us know how you see us. Refine and clarify our vision so that we would walk more closely with you, serving others and giving you glory. In Jesus name, amen.With Gratitude,Amy 

Where is your focus?

What do you do with a story that leaves you slack-jawed?I was faced with this very circumstance while reading Numbers 16 as the earth opened its mouth and swallowed Korah and all of his people from the tribe of Levi. I was shocked with the dramatic and traumatic events of scripture, and wide-eyed to the reasoning behind such an event.In brief, let me set the stage of Numbers 16 for you. Korah, joined with three others, assembled a co-hort of 250 prominent Israelite men for the purpose of coming against Moses and Aaron. Their accusation? Moses and Aaron were exalting themselves above the assembly of LORD. It seems as though Korah and friends were seeking to not only demean Moses and Aaron, but sought something higher – the priesthood and leadership.I believe Korah, the ring leader, lost sight of God’s words to his people. “Speak to the entire Israelites community and tell them: Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Korah seems to have forgotten that he too was holy, not because of what he did but because he was part of Israel, called to lead a holy and blameless life.Korah lived during the Israelite wilderness travels and building of the tabernacle. Korah was in the tribe of Levi, from lineage of Levi’s son Kohath. This lineage is important because the Kohathites, Korah’s people, were entrusted with transporting the most holy objects as the tabernacle was moved from place to place. (Numbers 4:1-20) Korah would have been among the few Israelites granted access to come near the holy objects for purpose of transport. Perhaps this opened a door of temptation to priesthood. It seems as though Korah became blinded by the discontented and prideful desire of more.Pride and discontentment are desires that can grow like a dangerous reef under the surface of our mind and soul. Our unfocused eyes gradually becoming clouded, as our attention turns toward being elevated in power and prestige. Scripture is clear, we are to seek God above all else. According to Colossians 3:1-4, that looks like keeping our minds set on Christ.With our minds focused and set fully on Christ, we can experience a contentedness that is not lazy but one that is secure and at peace resting in the Lord. As a Christ-follower, how are we able to be content with Him rather than chasing power? How can we hold our gaze on Jesus?Perhaps a couple of ways we can be contently focused on Christ is with a heart full of gratitude. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.” (Psalm 100:4) Am I praising God for my own good, or because He is good? Praise can help to check our focus.We can seek to serve, rather than to be served. If you are a woman, serving others may be or seem to be your full-time job. That being said, why are you serving? Is it out of obligation? Or, is it from a sincere desire to serve the Lord through serving others? As Jesus spoke to a crowd in Matthew 23, he said, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11) In going to the cross, Jesus modeled servanthood to the highest form.Let us not seek to satisfy our own pride, but rather to be satisfied by God. Over the coming days, would you join me in memorizing Colossians 3:2 as a way to guard our hearts for God and be satisfied by him? Also, perhaps you would share below how you guard yourself against those temptations Korah faced.For further reflection, read through Numbers 16. But, let us stay focused on Jesus, keeping our minds set on the eternal.With gratitude,AmyColossians 3_2

Waiting with Expectant Hope

Recently, my mom took several flights traveling throughout the south-east and mid-western United States. There were many delays due to weather, airport shutdowns, and various other factors. Needless to say, she experienced plenty of waiting and ample displays of humanity in distress. Waiting well is hard. Stress and fear have a way of crashing over us in the blink of an eye, especially if we aren’t paying attention and mindful. We lose our marbles! Guilty!Waiting is part of life. I don’t know a single person who isn’t waiting for something. We’re waiting for our flight to take off, waiting for a phone call, healing, to finish school, retirement, or the next step – Whatever that looks like. Maybe we’re just waiting for lunch time! It can be tempting to look at waiting as a waste of time. Waiting can present time for anger and fear to grow in our minds, occasionally spilling out and on to others.If waiting were viewed through the lens of God’s providence, our waiting goes much deeper. What if the practice of waiting became an opportunity for us to trust God more and grow in relationship with Him? Rather than grow impatience, we grew expectancy and trust?Waiting well. Tony Evans talks a bit about waiting well in his book, Detours. (It’s an encouraging, easy read. And personally, very timely.) Take a look at his list on waiting well, and being patient with detours.“With anticipation.With hope.With longing.With expectation.With desire.With faith and obedience.These things, and more, dissipate doubt. It dissolves despair.”[i]I appreciate how Dr. Evans presents us with the fact that waiting well dissipates doubt and dissolves fear. Waiting with faith puts our focus on to eternal things, rather than the earthly and temporal things. That being said, our waiting is almost always with the earthly and the unknown. Though mysterious, God’s character is known and revealed through His Word – His goodness surpasses all. That is what we can put our hope, longing, desire, and expectations in.

“I wait for the LORD; I wait and put my hope in his word.

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning –

more than watchmen for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD.

For there is faithful love with the LORD,

and with him is redemption in abundance.”

Psalm 130:5-7 (CSB)

As watchmen on the wall of a city, I can imagine that it would be easy to let our imagination run rampant during the wait for dawn. Those wee hours before daylight, darkness doesn’t seem to have an end. It’s always coldest just before dawn. We grow desperate for light. If you’ve ever waited in the wee hours of the morning after a long night with a sick child, you know the feeling. Desperation and exhaustion.Will today be the day for __________ ?Let’s be expectant for God to show up in the unexpected, and in unexpected ways.What are you waiting for, with God? What promise are you faithfully standing on? Would you join me with hope and expectancy, trusting in His providence and sovereignty as we wait?He is our God of faithful love, and with Him is redemption in abundance!Love you so much, siblings in Christ.With Gratitude,Amypsalm27_14[i] Evans, Tony. (2017) Detours, The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny (pg. 169). Nashville, TN, B&H Publishing.

Led Into the Wilderness

When we hear the word wilderness, I’m guessing that we are transported to one of two places. We go to a remote area and experience the beauty and majesty of creation with awed expressions, or we shrivel with thirst and loneliness in parched and deserted places.Wilderness. Where do you go when you hear that word?I’ve been in Exodus for my personal quiet time lately, so I’ve been seeing the second of our two options. The reality is that at some point in our life we will find ourselves in a wilderness-season of life where we feel lost and parched, perhaps even wrestling with the enemy, ourselves, or God. In the wilderness, we’re more vulnerable to attacks and the worry for lack of provision is always at hand.As the Israelites were being led by God in the exodus from their slavery in Egypt, they were not taken by way of the road nearby, rather they were led into the wilderness. He led them around, taking the road pocked with detours. God knew the hearts of his people, how they would react and what they needed. The road nearby would have led the Israelites straight to the Philistines, and he knew the Israelites would have changed their minds and chosen to go back to bondage if faced with war. They weren’t ready.What seems to be the right, easy, and more direct route is not always the best.Rather, God led his people into the wilderness where they would learn to trust him for provisions and guidance. They would learn to be His people, and that He would never leave or forsake them. And in all of this, God would be glorified.God is all about his glory and not in a selfish and narcissistic manor. It’s God’s glory being revealed in such a way that brings us, and others, into closer relationship with Him. It’s about giving God credit for who he is and what he is doing. When God leads us by way of the wilderness, it’s an opportunity for an upgrade into a deeper relationship with Him. Through this, we come into contact with His glory and reflect it back to Him.I spent a few brief and glorious days in Chinle, AZ this fall. The landscape is one of wilderness, far removed and not on the main road. You have to be on-purpose in your travels. But in that dry and desolate, starving for Light, corner of our beautiful land - I see an opportunity for the glory of God to burn so brightly that it would be undeniably His. I am expectant!No doubt we will have trials and tribulations in our life, we are guaranteed it. What if we came to a place on our quest with the Lord where we could rejoice when our travels take a jolting detour into the wilderness? Where we are expectant for God to show up in wondrous ways and give Him the glory. What if we came to a place of spiritual maturity that in our ‘wilderness’ season, we choose to experience the unique beauty and majesty with awed expressions?Two questions for you : Would you be willing to join me in prayer for the Native American men and women of our nation? Pray for their salvation, restoration, healing, and wholeness.Whether you are walking the wilderness road right now or not, where are you seeing the glory of God shine? How might you reflect that back so others can see His light?I’m seeing Him shine through in glimpses of answered prayers, small bread crumbs on the trail. Therefore, I will stay the course; little by little as he is lighting the path. Praise Him!I encourage you to read Exodus 13:17-14:4 sometimes this week as you give Him glory.With gratitude,Amyisaiah 58_11 (2) 

Constant Companion

Do you ever feel completely alone and lost? Whether physically or mentally, feelings of being alone or away from God’s presence can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s easy to get stuck in that rut of thinking when our earthly plans, or even plans that we believe with 100% certainty that God is ordaining, go totally awry with a dramatic life detour.Don’t you just love when God begins to speak something over you in not one but two places. Presently, I’ve been reading Genesis in during my quiet time, and for fun it’s been Tony Evan’s book, Detours. (It’s an easy and relevant read. Go for it.) The story of Joseph came up simultaneously over the past week, in both locations.While in Genesis 39 the phrase, “The LORD was with Joseph” stuck out to me like a bruised thumb. In fact, it’s used three times in that particular chapter. This covenant making, covenant keeping LORD proclaims through scripture that he was continually with Joseph in times where most would feel lost and alone.

As Joseph was being sold as a slave to Potiphar, an officer to Pharaoh in Egypt, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:2)

As Joseph was being accused, stripped of his responsibilities in Pharaoh’s house, and thrown into prison, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:21)

As he served in prison, “The LORD was with Joseph”. (Genesis 39:23)

Throughout these detours into slavery and prison, Joseph’s respect and desire to serve God is revealed. Out of his fortitude and desire to not sin against God, Joseph stands for what he believes to be true – no matter the cost. I believe we see a maturity taking place as God provides opportunities for growth in his faith and character.Joseph’s big mouth and haughty attitude got him into trouble in the first place (Gen. 37), but God never left his side. We are all a work in progress, and we serve a God of completion - even if it takes some drastic detours to get our attention. I have more questions than answers through these chapters in Genesis, but one thing is for sure. God does not leave His children.Generations of our spiritual brothers and sisters are told countless times by the LORD that he would never leave them or forsake them, promise. I believe that promise is carried on to us too. Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always,” I believe that’s a promise we too can hold on to.No matter where you find yourself in this present moment, God is with you. I believe that with every fiber of my being. Our Great I AM is always with us, and will never leave or forsake us.Put your name in the space provided, it’s taken from Genesis 39:21.But the LORD was with ___________ and extended kindness to him/her.How might you be able to open your heart and mind to knowing you are not alone, but securely in the LORD’s presence? Could you be willing to patiently extend your hand with me in receiving His kindness today?Comment below if you'd like, and I'll be joining you in prayer over these things.With Gratitude,Amybut the lord was with joseph and extended kindness to him.

Trusting Promises

Living as if God’s promises are true, that takes some faith. It’s hard in a world full of promises that aren’t taken seriously or broken, and easy to become cynical. God’s Word is full of promises, some are specific to individuals while others are for a family line, there are even promises made to all of humanity for those who would call upon God’s name and believe.When was the last time you took God at His word? Trusting what He says to be true, and acted on it?Since starting our berry farm, we have experienced one summer of record drought and one with record heat and accompanying drought. Several times during those two summers, excitement filled my heart when we saw rain clouds. But nothing. After weeks, a hopeful heart turned to one of doubt. I knew it would rain at some point, I just didn’t believe it to be any time soon.1 Kings 18 opens with the land of Samaria experiencing a deep drought and the prophet Elijah receiving a promise from God that there would be rain. A lot happens in the in forty-four verses of 1 Kings 18 between when God promises Elisha rain and a small cloud brings rain to parched land. Elisha trusted God and acted on his faith, knowing that God’s promise would come to fruition.Abram lived a lifetime, some of which was in the same land God promised him. He lived as if God’s promise to him were just that, a promise.Joshua was promised success and prosperity upon staying on track with God’s law and ways. And lived like it.None of these men were without mistake in their trusting God and living according to those promises, they were in every way human. But they trusted and followed the one who made those promises.We are called to faith, which requires trust; trusting when God says go, and when he says no. That trusting kind of faith requires action even if that action is seen or felt in no other place than our heart or mind.We are promised His Holy Spirit. (John 14:15-17) Am I activating a relationship with His Holy Spirit and trusting that I have that connection?We are promised wisdom, if asked in faith and without doubting. (James 1:5-6) Am I asking for wisdom and believing with open hands and without doubt, that I will receive it?We are promised peace in response to seeking the Lord through prayer and petition with thanksgiving in our hearts. That peace is one which surpasses our understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7) When my heart is troubled and peace is nowhere to be found, am I seeking Yahweh-shalom, the Peace Giver?God is a trust-worthy Father. We have a choice each and every day to choose to trust Him or not. Will today be in our strength, or according to His? With Elisha, a lot took place between the promise and the reality of that promise. Faith and trust go hand-in-hand, it takes faith to keep choosing to believe.We have so many promises in scripture, but let us be sure to take them in context. As we faithfully trust Him, what promise can you choose to live by today?With gratitude,Amy“Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.” 2 Corinthians 3:12 (CSB)skye-studios-465231-unsplash