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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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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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

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

Growth and Vulnerability

January and winter, I think it could be a gardener’s favorite and least favorite time of the year. The seed catalogs are eagerly awaited surprises in the mailbox, then drooled over with pen in hand as we dream of the coming season. Then, a longing for dirt under our finger nails grows to near desperate levels as we countdown the days and watch temperatures like a hawk. Spring seems to be so close, yet so far away as a longing for fresh growth increases.My word for this year (2019) seems to be ‘growing’ – it’s fitting, given I was a plant science major in college. But this year it’s more than just growing plants, it’s growing a trusting faith and vulnerably surrendering to a process that I can’t always see. Growing children who are happy and maturing, growing a farm that started from a dream, growing relationships that are more valuable than gold. Growing a deep relationship with my Creator, rooted in love and trust. It’s embracing growth that happens little by little, in places often unseen.As plants grow they are vulnerable to the elements, easily broken or bruised, and tender. I wonder how this might be reflective of our growth? Newness is always exciting, but it’s just that – new and tender. If a seedling is separated from its soil and transplanted into a larger container too soon, it becomes a set back. More fertilizer causes cells to grow too fast, resulting in weak branches. Too much water, and roots suffocate. Too much sunlight can burn tender leaves.Good, quality growth takes time, patience, attention, and hopeful trust. The investment can be risky. What if I plant a seed or nurture a dream, and it fails to grow? What if I step way out of my comfort zone only to be met with nothing in return? Is growth worth being vulnerable? I believe it is. Without that risk, life is boring and flat - stagnant. When I think about growth, its full of life, wonder, and mystery.God is a gardener. Within the first two chapters of God’s Word we’re told, “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden…” (Genesis 2:8) In John 15:1 Jesus tells us, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” In that same chapter of John 15, Jesus goes on to tell us that we are to bear fruit. We are called to growth and cultivation. We are called to love one another; that sounds pretty vulnerable to me. Yet in that space of tender growth, we are called to a place where we can trust the Gardener. Entrusting ourselves into His capable hands and process.Last week on the blog it was all about growing in 2019, and asked the question about where God might be growing you this year. Today – What does being vulnerable to growth look like for you right now? What step can you take? It doesn’t have to be this huge life changing decision, just a small step. Marathons are completed one step (or stride) at a time.This list of scriptures on growth from Propel Women may inspire you in this season.With Gratitude,Amygrowing

Light On Your Path

Last week we talked about being Light Focused, asking for eyes to see and then walking in the light so that we can see. Today I wanted to share an insight I learned while participating in our final session of The Quest, Beth Moore’s latest study. (It’s great!) During that last teaching session Ms. Beth spoke about Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s one of those verses everyone seems to know and shake their heads in agreement when it’s mentioned. But what Ms. Beth said made me stop and think. She utilized the idea of holding a lamp in front of you, and that with a lamp you’re only able to see what is arms-length away. We don’t get the entire view of the path ahead, just what the lamp in your hand is able to illuminate.According to this verse in Psalm 119 God’s word is a lamp, not a city illuminating stadium light. As someone who has made several trips around the sun, by now you’ve figured out that even though you may want to know what the path ahead looks like, it’s not likely to happen. We only get to see the path as we’re walking it. We get one lamp's length at a time.Screen Shot 2018-10-25 at 3.22.38 PMWe don’t know who penned Psalm 119, but I wonder what lamp they may have used.  My curious mind and a quick search came up with what archaeologists have discovered. Simple clay bowls with a pinched spout to support a wick, which was generally made with twisted flax.[i] They probably used olive oil, a common lamp fuel and precious resource. The psalmist’s lamp, and the light it cast, would have been dramatically different from our versions today.Could you imagine carrying this lamp, having it's dim light to guide your steps? This lamp had to be held intentionally, and so close that it's warmth could be felt from the flame. I imagine the psalmists relationship with God and His Word to have been an intimate one, present and intentional.God’s word illuminates each step, not the entire path like we may want. I love the CSB version of Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (emphasis mine) God’s word can be on the path with you, leading the way and showing where to place your foot next. We get just enough light to know where to step, and perhaps what we're putting our foot on. It sets us up for relationship with the Father and His Word, and to be present with the Holy Spirit and others.I’m curious, how do you use God’s word as a precious resource guiding the way? And, how does this idea effect your walk with the Lord and your relationship with His Word?I'm so grateful for you.guilherme-stecanella-370401-unsplash[i] R. Dennis Cole. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pg. 1009; Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Courageous Faith

It occurred to me that I never announced the arrival of my "book baby"...over a month ago! September 1st to be exact. I guess thats what happens when you're taking care of a new born.The outpouring of love and support have been amazing. I'm so grateful and honored to have been on this journey with the Lord in writing Courageous Faith. The process continually stretched my thoughts and beliefs, yet with each challenging step I was met with God's grace and loving kindness. Countless times I experienced His perfect timing and guidance.IMG_9283This study continues to challenge me. You may know the Bible story of the walls of Jericho tumbling down, but Joshua’s journey with the Israelites is so much deeper. Faith is an action word, and Joshua’s life is filled with deep faith and courageous obedience as he lived out the promises of God. Each step of this journey has allowed my faith to take root deep into my heart, resulting in a close walk with the Lord and claimed ground. I'm praying that result for all who participate in this study.Courageous Faith is now available on Amazon. So - grab a girlfriend, your women's Bible study group, or challenge yourself to dig in to God's Word with Courageous Faith. May God be glorified in your deeper relationship with Him.  

Let's Bake Cookies!

We sat in a booth at Panera, catching up, sharing life and what our kids were up to. My sweet friend had been to an amazing workshop, both of us a women’s event. Conversation circled around what we had been learning and what God was up to in our lives. As we talked about the excitement of studying God’s Word, my friend made a statement in reference to her time with God being like, “Let’s bake cookies!” That statement struck me. It spoke to the anticipation and inclusion we have getting to help mom or dad in the kitchen. We’re given the opportunity to get in to the ingredients, see what they do, how they fit together, and discover how they taste and feel. She spoke about digging into God’s Word being an event to look forward to, “God, let’s bake cookies!” .It’s not often I stop to watch videos on social media but recently one particular video caught my eye. (Watch it here) I was intrigued with this sweet two-year-old girl’s cooking show as she baked a cake with her momma. I watched this video in context of that conversation with my friend and her comment, “God, let’s bake cookies!”  Two things came to mind. One, her mother has the patience of a saint. Two, what a joy it must be for the Father, our Creator, to bake and create “cookies” (or cake) with His children.The little baker’s sweet disposition was evident in her kind words and gestures as she dumped ingredients together. She was excited and took pride in her work. She wasn’t concerned with perfection but rather in being present, engaged and giving her all to the task at hand. This young lady wasn’t afraid to ask for help, or make a mess. Her attitude and heart were so precious.It’s all in the journey, the experience, the relationship – not the product or end result. As a teacher, I get to ‘bake cookies with God’ and then share the batch, a Sunday school lesson, with my class. It’s never perfect, and much like my cooking, lessons rarely ‘taste’ the same. I’ve made some messes too.One of the sweetest parts of this young bakers’ video came when she enjoyed it. She took a bite of that cake, piled with sprinkles, and truly marveled at the end result. It wasn’t perfect by some standards, but she thought it was. Some days we may not “bake cookies with God,” but rather sit and enjoy them. Soak in His goodness and revel in His complexities, savoring every bite of His word.How do you approach your day with God? Your quiet time? Is it a box to be checked, something you have to do? Or is it based on relationship with God, something you get to do? Are you holding back in regards to what He may be asking of you for fear of making messes or coming short of perfection?What would it be like to approach Him with a willing heart, faith like a child, and step into the “kitchen” each morning and expectantly request, “God, let’s bake cookies!” I have a feeling He would look at our floured faces, vanilla dripping forearms, globs of batter strewn about, and with a smile say, “It’s perfect.”calum-lewis-391366-unsplash

Rooted In Faith

There are several trees in our yard, some we planted and some inherited with the house. One particular tree was inherited  – a scraggly little oak. It was pitiful. The deer had used it as a buck rub for multiple seasons, several branches mangled and torn. It wouldn’t seem to grow, staying the same size for six or seven years. At one point, I seriously considered taking my little hand saw to it; put it out of its misery.Then one year, it started to grow.This little, scraggly oak tree has grown to become one of the nicest trees in our yard. It’s gotten rather large, and now holds a lovely shape. Gabe and I frequently stand in awe of its growth and maturity, in what seems like such a short period of time. Grateful that I never took that saw to its trunk, it serves as a reminder of possibility and the importance of a sure foundation.For years, I didn’t see any growth; but it was there. Hidden deep in the earth, this awkward little oak had been growing what was necessary to sustain outward fruit and vegetation. The fruit is pretty great, and well worth the wait. We don’t get juicy peaches from its branches but acorns for critters, strong limbs for climbing kiddos, and cool shade for picnics. Now, this oak easily withstands heavy winds and rain because it is deeply rooted with a sure foundation.For me, this tree has displayed what is necessary for each of us – to grow first in the secret. Our roots in faith are there to anchor and hold, creating that firm foundation so that we aren’t driven and tossed about by the wind. Those faith roots are vital for taking up the necessary nutrients for spiritual growth, maturity, and fruit production.It is known that for most trees, what you can visually see in size and mass above ground is mimicked below ground in the root system. In our fast-paced and immediacy driven society, we often want to produce fruit immediately. That can easily be a desire of our flesh. The sweetest fruit often takes time, God’s time. God’s timing is not our own; His can happen in the blink of an eye or take decades in our human understanding. We desire that fruit of the Spirit, which is a good and noble desire. In that desire, we must first also desire and be willing to allow our roots to go deep in Christ, taking the necessary time.It’s easy to accept Jesus in faith, and stop there. But I firmly believe our Creator is one of growth and expansion. We are not meant to sit stagnant and unchanged, like the homely oak tree in our backyard seemed to have done for so many years.Take a look at Paul’s words in Colossians. “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)Those deep roots are developed in the secret with Christ through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. It’s imperative that we not settle for stagnant. Even when I don’t feel closeness and growth with the Lord, I can know He is near and always active. And that knowing only comes from spending time in the secret with my Creator, in His Word. It’s where we grow our roots down deep in the truth of Jesus. For that, I am grateful.How are you continuing to be rooted and built up in the faith of Christ Jesus? Fruit will come – that’s a promise.oak-tree.png    

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is not just a position. In fact, it's like having multiple positions all at one time but in their polarity, everything fits together.Merriam-Webster defines juxtaposition asthe act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect[i]During my Jesus time one morning, I read Acts 9:31 where two opposite emotions of comfort and fear were held together – creating the effect of growth in the church. "And walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit, it (the church) multiplied." (Acts 9:31b, ESV, emphasis mine)Fear of the Lord and comfort from the Holy Spirit, two emotions held together, allowed the church to grow and multiply. The contrast between the two is quite possibly where stretching and growth occur, and probably not without a bit of discomfort. I’m certain the early churches’ fear of the Lord was a healthy fear, established from experiencing God’s overwhelming authority in love.Just like that early church, we can hold a healthy fear in the Lord and comfort from the Holy Spirit in the same open hand. In that juxtaposed and safe space, our faith can experience a healthy growth in the Lord. Our Creator is about growth and expansion; we are a reflection of Him, thus meant for growth and expansion. Based on Matthew 17:14-21 with Jesus’ words of “faith like a grain of mustard seed” – I’m convinced that faith is meant to grow!I've often found my faith grows most when I'm stretched between the comfort of standing on the promises and steadfast character of God, and stepping out into the unknown. How about you?light_dark[i] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/juxtaposition

Courageous Faith : Coming Soon!

It's nearly here, and I feel like this has been the longest gestation for a baby...EVER! Super excited to finally be able to share the first peak at my new Bible study : Courageous Faith, Claiming Your Promised Land Through the Book of Joshua.Two years ago I would have never called myself a writer - God has been transforming me. Through wrestling, tears, joy, and countless light-bulb moments, it's God's grace that has made this study possible. I pray that it would be a blessing and equip you with tools to grow your faith and claim  God-given ground.You may know the Bible story of the walls of Jericho tumbling down, but Joshua’s journey with the Israelites is so much deeper. Faith is an action word, and Joshua’s life is filled with deep faith and courageous obedience as he lived out the promises of God. Join me as we explore the Book of Joshua in this seven week study. Each step of the journey will allow your faith to take root deep into your heart, resulting in a close walk with the Lord and claimed ground.Anyhoo - Can't wait to share my new "baby" with you. I'll let you know details as to how you can get your hands on a copy as the time gets closer. And can I add that it's way past time to get back to a regular blog schedule?!Courageous_Faith_Coming_Soon  

Fed by Jesus

One of the most infamous stories of the New Testament is represented in all four of the gospels – when Jesus feeds five thousand. And that number, five thousand, was just accounting for the men. Think of all the women and children who would have joined in as well. Jesus knew how many were there that day. He knew the story within each heart sitting on the green grass with hungry bellies and parched souls.I love how each gospel provides slightly different details of this story, but they have a common thread of Jesus feeding the people who are present. Recently, what stuck out to me is how Jesus fed the people. I love feeding my family, but sometimes it’s just a chore that needs to be done. It’s tempting to throw something together so they stop hounding me, so we can move on to the next thing, or so we can call it a day and all go to bed. Guilty. Based on Jesus’ response, I don’t believe this meal was a ‘chore’ for him.Jesus wasn’t about shutting them up so he could move on to the next town. He didn’t miraculously make food appear on their laps so he could quickly withdraw to a peaceful place. Jesus saw the great crowd of people coming and knew the hunger in their souls and bellies. (Luke 6:1-5) When he saw them coming, He had compassion on them. (Matthew 14:14) Jesus saw they were like sheep without a shepherd, He knew they needed to be fed (Mark 6:34), and He welcomed them. (Luke 9:11)The people were seen. And not only were they seen, but Jesus welcomed them with compassion. He welcomed those seeking Him with curiosity, faith and illness. Those who sought after Jesus were not turned away as he met both their physical and emotional needs. He healed the sick, and I’m sure He probably mended some broken hearts.All of the people were accepted and brought into the fold, fed and cared for. And not just enough to get by, but abundantly. After each belly had been filled, there were enough fragments gathered to fill twelve baskets! Nothing went to waste, not the food or the journey of the five thousand. I imagine each person on the hill that day felt a personal connection to Jesus as they reached into the basket, and received provision.When you seek Jesus, you will be compassionately welcomed. He knows the journey you’ve been on. He sees you, and knows you need a shepherd. He knows you need to be fed and rest on a soft patch of green for a while. Jesus knows, because he took on the form of man so that He could compassionately welcome you into His heavenly arms.Can I encourage you to seek Jesus? And not just today, but each day. Jesus fed those who were present with Him. Seek Him honestly, and with faith. Can you trust Him to provide a soft place to fall, to rest and be fed?mike-kenneally-48641-unsplashScripture for feeding the five thousand :: Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15 

Come and See

I’ve embarked on a journey through the gospels, reading them together chronologically. I’m just a few days in, and loving it. Scripture is packed with nuggets of truth and wisdom. Makes me think of Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words give light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” Well, I can be pretty simple so this verse is an encouragement to me.Today I was reading the story of Jesus’ first meeting of his disciple Philip in John 1:43-51. I’d read this passage of scripture before, but today it ‘unfolded’ before me in a new way. Philip, a true disciple at heart, immediately brings a man named Nathanael to meet Jesus. It’s like he can’t help it! And despite Philip’s enthusiasm, Nathanael’s first response was filled with judgment about this man from Nazareth, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46, ESV) Philip’s response? “Come and see.” (John 1:46, ESV)Jesus greets Nathanael in a very personal way, going so far as to call out where he was at the time Philip came to him. Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart, and spoke directly to him in a personal way. Isn’t that how Jesus speaks to each one of our hearts, if we allow him to? If we would accept the invitation to ‘come and see’.Sometimes our first response is filled with doubt and judgement, like Nathanael. But once confronted with Jesus, he wasted no time at claiming that Jesus was who he said he was. As one of the first to recognize Messiah, he exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49, ESV)I wonder what Nathanael’s faith walk was like after this encounter. Were there ups and downs? Did he pursue Jesus faithfully every day, without doubt? I believe Nathanael walked closely with his Rabbi, and had a personal relationship with him. In John 21:2 as Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, revealing himself to Nathanael. Wow. Don’t you wonder what that would have been like?!Even if our first response to Jesus each day is not faith-filled, He still knows our heart and how to speak personally to us. The Lord knows us better than we do; we are His creation after all. To have that personal relationship with the Lord, we must ‘come and see’. Come to Him in worship, scripture and prayer. God will intimately speak to our hearts when we enter into relationship with Him. And with Nathanael’s response, we can exclaim who He is, give Him glory in worship and praise. “You are the Son of God!”Can I encourage you to read John 1:43-51 today? Ask the Lord to unfold this encounter with Jesus’ in a new way. He is so faithful. You are seen by the living God, Creator of heaven and earth. He desires to have that personal relationship with you, His creation. Lean in close, letting your doubt become faith. Come to Him, and see.alisa-anton-84632-unsplash 

Tested Genuiness

I had the joy of sitting down to breakfast with a group of high school students for breakfast recently; it was a Wednesday morning prayer breakfast. This group of young people gather nearly every Wednesday morning before school for a devotional and to share a meal together. It's truly amazing - teens who willingly get up early in order to spend time in fellowship and God's word. Biscuits & gravy, eggs, hash browns and chocolate milk may have something to do with it...After breakfast we visited about trials and testing, how it is a continual process where God uses everything. I was able to use the example of rendering beeswax and that when all the ick is filtered out, we are able to shine God's love more brightly to others. We looked at 1 Peter 1:3-9 and the idea of our faith being a treasure to the Lord."In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."  1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV, emphasis mine)Trials come and go but when we're going through it, it feels like forever. Time can stand still as we focus on "it" - whatever "it" happens to be at the present time. No matter what our circumstances are, scripture promises that "it" will only last a little while in the scope of eternity with the Lord. That testing is part of our faith, tested to be genuine to the Lord. That's a hard one to swallow when your in the thick of it.But take a look at that last little bit, the portion about praise, glory, and honor. Those three things have the power to change an atmosphere and an attitude. Giving God praise through the trial, is glorifying to Him. When I focus my attention on the One over the circumstances, there is a peace that passes all understanding. I'm also honoring Him with my thoughts, which is reflected in my actions and reactions.I'm not going to sugar coat this, it's hard. But we have the ability to offer up praises to Him as a sacrifice through the trials. I want to challenge you with this. In the hardship, instead of your normal response, try worshiping or praising God. In believing and trusting God, offer up praise, glory, and honor to Him through your trail. I believe a tested and genuine faith will be revealed. I've experienced it. How about you? Have you ever thought about your faith being a treasure to God, more precious than gold, refined in the Refiner's fire?evaldas-daugintis-226631-unsplash