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

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

Growing In 2019

“Don’t ever change!” – This phrase is written in yearbooks and place of nostalgia through the ages. Then someone said it to me a few days ago. I’ve never cared for the phrase, though I understand the thought and heart behind it. Something about it just irks me. We all change, there’s no stopping it. We are meant to change. God on the other does not; He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.As created man and woman, we are meant to grow and change our entire lives. The young people in our household are in a stage of life where they are growing by leaps and bounds. Their pant legs and shoes remind me on a regular basis. It’s exciting to watch them grow! I’ll be turning another decade soon, and I’m excited! I want to keep growing – not in size like my children but in maturity of heart, mind, and spirit.While I stand behind the fact that God’s character is unchanged and unchangeable, I fully believe He is a God of growth. God’s word encourages growth, therefore change. Take a look at God’s words through Paul to the churches in Philippi and Colossae.“And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment.” Philippians 1:9“We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growth in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:12As we turn the corner of 2018 and begin 2019, would you take a moment and join me in reflecting on how we’ve grown and changed this year? How have you grown in Christ? In connection with God’s Word? Within your family and relationships? Professionally?Where would you like to grow this coming year? How can you be intentional about it? (And not just the first two weeks of January.)God never changes. We on the other hand are in a constant state of change, whether we recognize it or not. Let us grow in a positive direction. As the gospel grows and bears fruit, we are to do the same. Would you join me in this challenge to start 2019?What area is God guiding your heart to grow in?daniel-hjalmarsson-269425-unsplash 

Open Wide

The other day, my to-do-list seemed to grow faster than I could keep up with. Overwhelmed, I had placed another helping of ‘Yes, I can do that!” on my plate. Unfortunately, when my commitments get bigger and a little out of control, my quiet time with Jesus suffers and I neglect to sit and read Scripture, journal, or pray.Psalm 81 is a call to obedience. Perhaps the people of Israel also struggled with prioritizing God over ll other tasks. I know I had a hard time this particular day, and began to let that to-do-list encroach upon my time with Him.God declares, in Psalm 81:10, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” In that quick and unfocused quiet time, I did not open my mouth wide. Instead, I barely parted my lips; I opened myself up to just a smidge of what God had prepared. The temptation of getting started on my tasks  for the day was greater than my desire to be filled with God’s Word. I opened my mouth to be filled with something else rather than what I genuinely need to feast on each day - time with Jesus.In Psalm 81:10, God speaks of provision and release from bondage. Jesus has delivered us out of slavery and into freedom. And He who is faithful to deliver us from sin, shame, addiction, or that to-do-list is also faithful to provide for our every need. God declared, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” That, dear sister, is a promise.Later that morning while I was working on our farm, conviction whispered to my heart. I stopped, dropped my tools and looked up to heaven. With a repentant heart, I closed my eyes, opened my mouth wide, and asked God to fill me up. He did. My day no longer seemed daunting;  instead it became a chance to offer each item up to the Lord and ask for His strength and wisdom. I was no longer tackling things in my own strength, but God’s. I wasn’t tempted to shut God out, and instead partnered with Him. Be encouraged! Take him up on that promise, open yourself wide and be filled.Matt 5_6This devotional first appeared in Journey, April 2018, LifeWay Press.

Give Thanks In Everything

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18The last couple weeks we’ve taken a brief look at verse 16,  “Rejoice always,” and then verse 17, “Pray Constantly”.  Today we peer in to our third and final directive found in verse 18, “give thanks in everything”. It seems a bit cliché to write about thankfulness during the week of Thanksgiving, but it fits. This series on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is all about posturing our heart towards the Savior, and I know no better way than a heart full of gratitude.The concept of gratitude is everywhere, signs adorn the walls of our homes and journals have been specially crafted in order to focus on the idea. Along with tangible reminders surrounding us, hundreds of studies have been done on thankfulness and gratitude. According to one article, thankfulness has the ability to improve our physical and psychological health, reduce aggression, enhance empathy, improve our sleep and self-esteem.[i] These are just a few of the benefits a heart of thankfulness can offer.It turns out these studies have uncovered what I believe to be part of God’s original design for our heart, soul, mind, and strength – thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that it is God’s will for us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks – at all times. While these three directives do not exhaust the will of God, they impact our obedience in fulfilling other aspects of God’s will. If a heart is not postured with thanks 365 days a year, I fear it will be incrementally more challenging to fulfill the individual details of God’s will as they are presented.The story of Jonah comes to mind. He didn’t exactly tell God “thanks” for sending him to Nineveh. Rather than taking a posture of ‘thank you for using me’ he initially goes the opposite direction. This is a complex story in the Old Testament involving pride and hypocrisy, there is much more than a lack of gratitude involved. Yet I believe it may also serve as an example to us in the context we’re focusing on today. God’s will for the Ninevites to repent came to pass, yet Jonah’s experience in joining God in that will was nothing short of a challenge for him.Giving thanks for everything cultivates an active and growing spiritual life, while fostering relationship with our Creator and others. Gratitude invites abundance. Through aggravations of this earth, impossible situations, and deep heartache, thankfulness has a way of lifting our eyes to the One who is higher and completely sovereign. Practicing gratitude provides contentedness, it holds an element of humility, ushers in peace, and provides space to experience God’s victory!I’m not going to provide a list of various ideas to practice more gratitude, because it starts with simply and authentically stating, “thank you”. Tell God! Tell your spouse, parents, kids, pastor, friends, grocery clerk – everyone. Can I challenge you to make it personal, direct, and specific? Reflect back to God what your thankful for throughout the day.Would you mind sharing your experiences here? Leave a comment! Let’s encourage and inspire one another with how God is using this in your life right now!It’s my prayer these verses, along with our verse in 1 Thessalonians 5, would be used to posture our hearts this season by giving thanks and rejoicing in and for our Savior.I’m so thankful to God for you,Amy 

A psalm of thanksgiving.

“Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God!

Serve the LORD with gladness;

Come before him with joyful songs.

Acknowledge that the LORD is God.

He made us, and we are his –

His people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name.

For the LORD is good, and his faithful love endures forever;

his faithfulness, through all generations.”

Psalm 100 (CSB)

flowers          [i] https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#2c2fdcc0183c 

Favorite Sides

We're doing a double portion on the blog this week. The regular Thursday post is coming your way, but I couldn't resist sharing one of our family's favorite side dishes. It came out of a magazine when I was a girl, and has become a staple on the table when the leaves turn every fall. So, as you plan your meal for Thursday (or another day this week) consider adding this to the menu. We think it's spot on!Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 11.37.00 AMButternut Squash with Cranberries

  • 1/4 cup honey (I used less)
  • 1/4 cup frozen apple or OJ concentrate (I used juice or whatever is on hand)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cranberries (fresh)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup apples or pears (I use a whole fruit, whatever you have)
  • 1 whole butternut squash, peeled and cubed

Mix ingredients together, bake uncovered for about an hour at 350*, until tender.Honestly, it's hard to mess it up. I never measure anything when making this dish - dump and bake. FYI, the leftovers are even better!Have a wonderful celebration this week, wherever you find yourself, full and thanks and God's never ending love.With gratitude,Amy

Rejoice Always

It seems fitting that the season outside my window reflects the season in my heart. As the leaves turn color and trees go dormant, the rest until spring begins. The world rests, and waits. It’s an active rest, roots still take up moisture and move nutrients. Slowly. I too find myself in a season of active rest and waiting. Life would seem so much easier if I just knew what the next step looked like. But I don’t. No matter how hard we desire skip winter and move in to spring, it's necessary. And rather than push ahead, we can choose to enjoy the season, and wait.Waiting is hard. It’s uncomfortable.Oh, I could take a step. But would it be in-line with the direction where God is working, where he wants me to join him? Would it be God’s will? Who knows. But I do know, if your lost it’s best to not go wandering off. That’s a good time to stop, get your bearings, and perhaps wait for help to arrive.When I stumbled upon 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 last week, it felt like receiving actionable steps for the waiting. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CSB)When the specific will of God seems to be foggy, this much is clear – rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Always, constantly, and in everything.For me, it’s hard to picture what always rejoicing might look like, especially if your personality tends to be calm and quiet. Now some of my friends – they walk around with outward rejoicing all the time! Me, it just comes out different. Typically, I imagine rejoicing to be boisterous, outward exultation with a lot of seen emotion attached. But how can I possibly rejoice always? The truth is, rejoicing comes out differently in all of us, and in various situations.Rejoice always - chairō pantŏtĕ in Greek. I so appreciate the Greek definition because it seems feasible to me. Rejoice, chairō, is to be calmly happy; be well, be glad, rejoice.[i] I also appreciate Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message translation, “Be cheerful no matter what.”[ii] Joy and cheer always, in all circumstances. It's not a joy that goes where the winds blow, it's eternal.As a way to posture our hearts and attune our spiritual focus, let’s work on always rejoicing these next few days. And if the “calmly” thing isn’t your style, by all means let that exultation bubble over! Maybe you’ll splash that rejoicing on me or the person next to you. Wouldn’t that be fun?!Next week we’ll look at the second part of those three directives in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – pray constantly.Would you mind sharing your experience of rejoicing always here? I’d love to know how you are experiencing God through rejoicing.With love and gratitude,Amy Rejoice always [i] A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 77). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.[ii]  Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (1 Th 5:16). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Light Focused

Where is your focus today? Is it on circumstances? Someone else’s perfect Instagram post? Perhaps your focus is held captive to worry? This question has been on repeat, continuing to surface in seemingly random places. What am I focusing on?Our focus and our thoughts are connected, much like driving, and our thoughts produce actions. Wherever my eyes focus, that’s where the car tends to go. If I focus left I’m inching over into the lane next to me; looking right, and I’m hitting rumble strips.During some time in scripture today, Psalm 36:11, became my focus. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (ESV)So often I ask God for eyes to see. But after that prayer, if I’m focused on the dark (those circumstances, unattainable social media posts, worry, etc.) even opened eyes wouldn’t be able to see in their surroundings. It is in His light, where we see light. This may sound a bit silly to you. Obviously, we can’t see clearly in the dark. Have you ever been deep inside a cave when they purposefully turn the lights off? It’s black. Eyes wide open and you can’t see your own hand in front of your face!In His light, we see light. So today, can I challenge you (along with myself) to ask for eyes to see and a focus on heavenly things? Pay attention, where is your focus? Let’s allow a purposed focus towards light to direct our actions.Praying for you, friend! God is so good, and in Him there is no darkness.aaron-burden-767876-unsplash      

Hide or Go Seek

Last week I wrote about our scraggly oak tree in the backyard. It is once again the inspiration for today’s writing, and you’ll find a picture below. It’s good to put a face with a name.About a year ago, I snapped a photo of my daughter as she doodled and sang up in the branches of our now handsome oak tree. The scene immediately reminded me of the tax collector, Zacchaeus, in Luke 19. Zacchaeus climbed up the branches of a tree so that he might just catch a glimpse of Jesus as he passed through Jericho. Those 10 verses in Luke 19 provide a glimpse into both the situation and Zacchaeus’ heart. Take a look at the first portion of verse three; I find the ESV translation intriguing.“And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not…” (emphasis mine)“Seeking to see”. Can we do a quick lesson on a couple of Greek words being used?The Greek word being translated to ‘seeking’ is zēteō, it means to seek, to worship, endeavor, seek after.[i]And our Greek word being translated ‘see’ is eidō, which means to see, behold, look (on), understand, perceive.[ii]Zacchaeus was endeavoring or seeking after Jesus, so that he might behold and understand him. I feel there is so much richness in this story, but I dare not go there today for fear of going down a rabbit trail. Rather, I ask that you would take some time to go there yourself over the coming days.For the sake of staying on target, let’s look at another story in scripture that I read just this morning. It’s the story in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve have eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Take a look at Genesis 3:8.“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees in the garden.” (CSB)Adam and Eve may have not gone tree climbing, but they were hiding among them. In these portions of scripture among the trees in Luke 19 and Genesis 3, we have two stark approaches to our relationship with the Lord.Are you hiding in the trees, or climbing up branches and seeking to see?In both stories our tree hiders and seeker are called out. Jesus says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5, ESV) And the LORD God calls in Genesis 3:9, “Where are you?” (CSB).Both stories are full-bodied examples of Jesus’ promise-filled words in John 10:3. “The sheep hear my voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out.” (ESV)Oh, how my heart breaks as Adam and Eve were led out of the garden. But that heartache pales to the joy of knowing that God faithfully seeks us out; always has and always will. Not only does He seek you out, but calls you by name, and should you be willing to follow, He will lead you.So, are you hiding or are you seeking?Are you endeavoring to worship and really know Jesus? I'm pointing these questions back at myself too - let's be brave and honest in our answering.IMG-9369 [i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 34). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.[ii] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 25). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Mint & Stongholds

Mint. I have a love-hate relationship with it. Spearmint - I love the smell, taste, texture, and hardiness; and, I hate its aggressive hardiness. Thus, my conundrum.I enjoy doing some personal gardening as a part-time job. Arriving on the job one morning, I began in the front yard. After pulling weeds, digging up unwanted iris, pruning and fertilizing, I moved around to the shaded cutting garden around back. My friend had added some new plants to the area, so I walked about checking things out before getting started. Roudning the last corner of the raised bed, my eyes bugged out. Mint. Without thinking, and without regard for the planter, I reacted and yanked the entire thing out. “Nooooooooo!”A split second of regret popped into my heart; I had clearly undone what someone else had planted with care. My regret didn’t last long. You see, mint has a way of completely taking over a garden space. We had diligently been working to create a space for a cutting and vegetable garden. Mint would have taken over and undone all of our hard work over the past couple of years. Had the mint stayed and taken root, the only thing stopping it would be concrete or multiple applications of herbicide.As my mind had the opportunity to process my feelings about this plant, yes I have feelings about plants, I began to equate mint to strongholds. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of stronghold describes a stronghold as a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic.[i] I tend to think of strongholds with a negative connotation, like an addiction or challenge in one’s life. A stronghold may be something I struggle with in life and find it hard to experience freedom from, such as unforgiveness, anger, insecurities, food, believing lies you tell yourself, a physical activity, etc.Strongholds can be hard to root out. (Thus, our mint analogy.) Why don’t I react to personal strongholds the way I treated that mint, ripping it out without thought or question? Because it’s hard. It requires a deep, honest heart and mind work. It requires me to be really uncomfortable and intentionally practice self-control. Often, it’s hard to just acknowledge the stronghold, let alone root it out. Like the mint, we may have a love-hate relationship with it.Personally, I feel that God has been revealing strongholds in my heart. They aren’t huge, obvious ones. But they are strongholds none-the-less. While taking complete responsibility, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians are a good reminder in the process of doing some hard work.“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)MintCan I encourage you to join me in asking the Lord to reveal the strongholds in our hearts? Our strongholds may not be “big,” but they can make deep roots – they are still strongholds. To me, this can be a scary prayer. But with a willing heart, we can do all things through Christ because He strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13) Let’s suite up with the armor of God – we’ve got this.How can I pray for you? [i] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stronghold

Roots

My daughter, Alex, received a bundle of flower and vegetable seeds for her birthday this past January. As spring arrived, we couldn’t seem to get ourselves together enough to start them early in the season, so Grandma (the gift-giver of said seeds) came over a few weeks ago to help out. Together, Alex and Grandma sowed hundreds of tiny seeds into pots. A few short days later, the fruit of their labor was evident as her birthday gift sprouted.Watching these little seedlings has been fun. Growing plants is nothing new to me, but growing them with my daughter has brought a new element of joy. It’s caused me to step back, slow down, and really think about the what and why of growing plants – especially from seed. Answering questions and being patient when her interest wavers has offered ample opportunities to practice grace and enjoy a laugh or two.As some of Alex’s seeds have grown, it came time to transplant a few into larger containers. We quickly figured out that she enjoyed filling the container with soil as I gingerly teased the seedlings apart. We quickly had nearly one hundred little pots filled with tiny new plants.Sitting on the deck and untangling tiny roots, I found it fitting that the word ‘roots’ had been prevalent in recent weeks. Looking at those tiny, life-giving roots, it was amazing to me that these delicate things were so vital to their survival. In appearance, these roots weren’t pretty, they didn’t seem to have order, and it was hard to believe the significant role they held in each plant’s growth. Yet holding them in my hand, I was keenly aware that this was just the beginning. Treating these tiny treasures with care, we firmly pressed the soil of their new home around young and tender roots.As our plants grow, the health of the roots, now hidden, will be evident through the foliage and fruit shown above. The hidden always manifests itself, somehow. Alex’s newly transplanted seedlings will bear purple flowers, given time. Roots anchoring them to the earth, they will take up water and nutrients, bearing new seeds for the next generation.IMG_8610What roots are you sending down? Where are you sending them down? I believe it’s important to be mindful of this. Sometimes we’re so focused on the outward, visible portion of our life that we forget to tend and care for that which keeps us anchored and fed. For me, it’s making time for prayer and God’s Word. I desire to bear fruit for the Lord, it will require deep roots that are planted firmly in Him.We frequently want the fruit but are unwilling to take the time and energy towards developing a root system that provides what it takes. Growing deep roots takes time, and it's dirty work. Its doesn't look pretty and often the work goes unseen. Roots are delicate, but their quiet power has the ability to get through the toughest of soil and draw nutrients from places unseen.What grows your roots deep?     

Dream Small

The theme of ‘small’ has been surrounding me for the past several months. This week I simply cannot escape it, so now you get to join in the contemplation. I was talking with a sister-in-Christ a few months back, how it’s often the small things that make big impact. It’s the tiny pieces of gravel that make up our driveway and the road home taking us to and fro. One piece of gravel doesn’t seem to make a big difference, but together they become a force to be reckoned with.In 1888, a surveyor marked the headwaters for the fourth longest river in the world, the Missouri River.[1] It began at a spring in Montana. A spring. One small spring kept flowing, converging with small rivers along the way to create something that would have huge impact within the United States and our world. This river would become a boundary for states, a source for great discovery, and an avenue for commerce. That one small spring would ultimately lead to being a part of a much bigger picture, an ocean.So often, the culture of today focuses on the big. It’s the latest trend going viral, big houses, big churches, big followings. And I’m not saying all of that is bad. However, we often lose sight and forget that so much of the big and amazing things are first made up, with the small. Some of the moments carrying the most impact, when dissected, began small.Small can be little bits of love we show and share with others, through a smile or holding a door. The ten or fifteen minutes in the morning which partner us with Jesus, and a much bigger story. These are moments which join Him and pave the way for the love of Christ to flow through us throughout the day.Small acts of love and mercy, for myself and others, over time make an impactful difference. Those small moments also help me to practice for the larger, more demanding opportunities for practicing grace. Each moment doesn’t feel as if it will ever make a difference, but after a while – you have a gravel driveway, and then a road connecting your house to mine. Then, we can actually get somewhere.I’m all in for dreaming big, but God is moving my heart to focus on what is right in front of me in the present. Small pieces together, consistently practiced, create the dream, impact, and relationship. For me, living focused on the Big dream usually means living in the future, or the past. (As in it’s already happened, too late.) I’d rather live in the present, choosing to show-up and be connected. Being faithful with the small things, what I have in front of me, seems to be those pieces of gravel. The small bits often seem mundane, but they provide opportunity to practice being grateful in the present. And that is powerful.I had a moment in church this past Sunday when my Pastor played Josh Wilson’s song, Dream Small, at the close of service. With all these frequently surfacing thoughts over the past few months, I became overwhelmed with all that the Holy Spirit has been whispering to my heart.Along with myself, can I challenge you? Take a listen to Josh’s song, be encouraged, read Matthew 25:14-30, and really focus on some small things over the coming days? When you read that piece of scripture, it's not about how much they start and end with, it's being faithful with what is right in front of them. Small things, with a heart of gratitude.scott-webb-186137-unsplash[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_River

Belonging

Growing up is hard. Heck, being an adult is hard! My daughter has wrestled her way from Kindergarten to third grade, navigating the social bits of being a young lady. Girls can be so mean. As a mom, it’s hard to coach from the sidelines – especially when it’s similar to what you experienced. My heart breaks, knowing it’s likely she may wrestle with these same struggles for years to come, if not a lifetime. Recently we’ve talked about how God makes us all unique, and it’s hard to fit in when we’re all meant to stand out, being uniquely accepted in love together.We want so desperately to fit in, to belong. Yet with the ‘fitting in’ to one group, we’re excluded from another. This is something I’ve struggled with since I was old enough to have an awareness about it. I’m guessing you have too. It’s not been until my mid-thirties that things started to fit within me. Oh, there have been inklings all along, but it felt a bit fuzzy and incomplete. Some days, it still does.This week I began reading Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness. I love the work she’s doing. I’m not deep into the pages yet, but have already had so many ‘YES!’ moments. And one really big Ah-ha. One of those moments came when Brené brought attention to a quote from an interview with Maya Angelou done on public television with Bill Moyers, 1973.“You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” – Maya AngelouYes. That quote may be hard to wrap your head around, but for me it spoke truth. Our daughter had been struggling with her enjoyment of space, friends thought she was weird for it and excluded her. But should she abandon that desire, based on reasons and opinions other than her own? That’s a high price. We are meant to hold tight to those dreams and desires placed within us upon our creation.God has created each of us with a necessary and innate sense to belong to something more than ourselves, while being who He created us to be. It’s part of what causes us to seek Him. Yet, we sell out to the world around us in order to fit in and belong. We are each unique; therefore, we will never fit perfectly into anything other than the creation we are meant to be. We are meant to be unique and authentic, placed on the Creator’s timeline and fulfilling a unique purpose, designed specifically for each creation (you and me) – thus fitting perfectly. Denying who I am – who I BE – is denying the Creator of His creation. It’s living a life that’s not congruent or authentic to that which is within.Being that which we are created for is imperative to ourselves, those around us, and to the Lord. He leads by example with His first direct revelation of himself in Exodus 3:14 as he appears to Moses in the burning bush, calling Moses forth to be his purpose. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.” That ‘I AM’ can be translated from the Hebrew, I BE who I BE.I believe striving ceases when we rest in our real and authentic self, a true reflection of the Creator’s Creation. I’m not sure about you, but I want to be that – a true reflection. Striving tends to wear me out, gets me turned around, and unhappy. I’d rather be happy, and rest in my Creator. Exploring who I am as a reflection of the Creator will take a lifetime, and I’m okay with that process.I am a complete and powerful woman, made of God’s love. How about you?brina-blum-156978-unsplash