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

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 

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

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

Wrap This One Up : 2018 version

Today I wanted to re-share a portion of a post from last year with you. Praying that you feel God's grace and love in abundance this season. He is so faithful and kind...As a Christian this time of year is holy and sacred, it’s supposed to be full of joy! Though sometimes the circumstances and hardships through the year bring a kind of solemness. As we mature in faith, celebrating Jesus’ birth has become just as important as his death and resurrection. They go hand in hand. It’s come to the point where I can’t really think of this time of year without also thinking of the sacrifice he made for us - with gratitude.Many have known the story for most of our life, but sometimes we need a fresh understanding and revelation about our tiny Savior - being fully present in the story of Who Jesus is. We don't know the actual day of our Savior's birth, but as we celebrate my now favorite Christmas song has a way of posturing my heart and mind towards that sacred day on God's holy timeline. Before ever hearing the song, Wrap This One Up by Christy Nockles, I heard the story. It captured my thoughts as I sat in awe. I sat in awe at how God so delicately orchestrated the story of Jesus.You see, not far from where Jesus was born, is a place called Migdal-eder or Tower of the Flock. As temple worship in the Promised Land was established, a field just outside of Bethlehem was designated for sacrificial lambs to be raised. With at least two sacrifices per day, there would need to be over 700 lambs each year. When spotless male lambs reached one year old, they would make their way to the altar for sacrifice.Special shepherds kept watch from the Tower of the Flock, caring for these sacrificial lambs. As ewes approached birth, shepherds would bring them in close, perhaps even inside. Upon the birth of a new male lamb, the shepherds would inspect the new baby for blemishes – designating the spotless ones for sacrifice. These sacrificial lambs would be wrapped up in swaddling clothes, keeping the sacred baby safe, warm and dry.On the night of his birth, our Savior Jesus would be wrapped up by his momma. He was probably inspected and found to be perfect, complete. Christy's song painted a picture of what it would have been like to be Mary, wrapping up her baby boy on that very night of his birth. Mary knew. She knew Jesus was the Son of God. As Mary wrapped up her baby – she was also wrapping up our Sacrificial Lamb.“…but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:19-21 (HCSB)Jesus would once again be wrapped up.  “So, Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock. He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb.” Matthew 27:59-60 (HCSB)There are so many little details throughout scripture that put me in awe. As you read the story of Jesus’ birth this holiday, I pray that God’s well-orchestrated and perfectly timed plan restores a fresh sense of wonder in you. As we wrap and unwrap the gifts under our Christmas tree this year, let’s unwrap the gift wrapped up by Mary so long ago – Jesus. Knowing, believing and trusting the King in an intimate and personal way is the greatest gift we could ever receive.For the sake of trying to keep it short, I’ve left so much out of this story. But I pray that Christy’s song, Wrap This One Up, blesses you as much as it does me. It’s a beautiful picture of the reason we celebrate Jesus’ birth – in full circle. Along with a link to the song on her lovely Christmas album, here’s a little clip of Christy’s song story.Blessings for a joyous and holy Christmas, dear ones.With love and gratitude, AmyLuke 2_12 

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      

Postured for Surrender

Do you ever go through seasons, when God seems weave a theme into your circumstances? A certain topic or idea continues to present itself, in multiple arenas and seemingly unrelated places. Lately, that theme for me has been ‘posture’.Body language speaks loudly. It lets us know when someone is anxious, closed off, wide open and ready, uncomfortable. When my daughter’s arms are crossed in defiance, I know where her heart and thoughts are – and it’s not in agreement with me.We should pay extra attention to those themes. As “posture” kept making an appearance in my day-to-day life, my spirit perked up and got curious, anticipating that God was doing a work in me. What is my posture before the Lord? What is being reflected in my heart that needs some refining?That curiosity was stirred even more as I walked away from a meeting recently. I had walked in full of excitement and anticipation, in a posture of confidence. But I walked out, feeling deflated and defeated. Why?After some quietness, prayer, and a visit with a dear sister in Christ, it started to become clear. Perhaps all this posture-before-God business is related to surrender. So often as a mom, professional, or leader it’s easy to slip into a posture of control. I walked into that meeting with the expectation of getting what I wanted done so that I could be in control of what I was responsible for. There was part of my heart that had not postured myself surrendered to God and what He wanted done. I had picked up my own, self-made cross of control as I marched into that building, and when my expectations weren’t met, I crumbled.How often is our posture one of defiance? When we’re rigid, we aren’t able to be open and pliable in His hands, carrying the cross He’s called us to bear. I want to urge you to be open to the themes God is making clear to you in this season of your life and to reflect on your posture before the Lord. Is your heart postured to be in control, defiant, rigid? Or is your heart inclined and soft, surrendered and open to where God is taking you?ben-white-139141-unsplashThis devotional first appeared in Journey, March 2018, LifeWay Press.

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

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.

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    

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  

All The Fruit

Our family’s berry farm has been in full swing over the past month (or more). Long, hot days equal extra laundry, a messy house, frequent power naps to keep going, BLT’s, and sweet corn. This season can be exhausting, but it’s what we prepare for all year. One season leads to another, which prepares you for the next. The season of hard work we put in throughout the year is reflected in the fruit we both give and receive during another.So often we want all the fruit. It’s easy to get focused on and desire the fruit, in a very romantic way. It seems dreamy and fulfilling from the outside. Yet, how often are we willing to put in the hard work and prepare for it, on the inside?You may have guessed that I’m interchanging physical fruit, like blueberries, with spiritual fruit. It’s all relatable though. How we prune and fertilize our blackberries now, helps to determine how much fruit we get next year. One season always prepare us for the next. What we are willing to cut out and pour into life today, will be reflected in our relationships tomorrow and years to come. A lot of our hard work in the field is never seen, it’s messy and laborious, but there is evidence. Likewise, hard heart-work is rarely fun, it requires us to be vulnerable and honest. But the results are visible over time.It’s the hidden and secret places where we must be willing to persist and dig deep, because they always manifest fruit of some kind. The roots of our blueberries are unseen, but we have an accurate picture of soil and root health based on what we see above ground in foliage, flower, and fruit. Not being well rooted is certain death. It took time for our blueberry bushes to get rooted and established, that didn’t happen haphazardly. Intentionally cultivating the soil and being mindful of each addition both in preparation and along the way has been key to producing sweet fruit. This and lots of prayer.It would be fun to have fresh blueberries year-round, but they are only meant for a season. That’s partly what makes them so sweet. We don’t experience fruit year-round, and that’s ok. Therefore, we shall be all the more grateful and joyous when we do.IMG_8735

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

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 

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

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 

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

Led & Pursued by God

I’ve known through scripture that God surrounds us. Psalm 139:5 states, “You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.” (CSB) I believe that. However, the other day while reading Psalm 23, I realized the similar sentiment of Psalm 139. In Psalm 23:2, we are being lead; therefore, He must be in front of me. Verse 6 says that only goodness and love will pursue me, as coming up behind me. Knowing that God is love, I’m going to take that as God pursuing me with his qualities of goodness and love.It was a new understanding of how I am being encircled – lead to quiet waters and pursued with goodness and love. That is something I can really settle in to; it gives shape to those thoughts of being encircled by God. Not only will I be lead beside quiet waters, but on the right path! (vs. 3) Being led and pursued by the same person seems impossible, but not for God. Our Creator is omnipresent, at all places at all times.When life feels up in the air, discombobulated and out of control, remembering that God will lead me on the right path and cover my rear with His goodness and love is comforting. It also carries with it the weight of relationship – to be led, I must be willing to listen, trust and follow Him.Psalm 23 starts out with the proclamation that ‘The LORD is my shepherd’, not me. John 10 talks about the good shepherd being Jesus. “When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:4)We get to be sheep. And sheep listen to and know the voice of their shepherd, it’s how they are led. Jesus has gone ahead of us, clearing the path before us. We see where He is leading us at the end of Psalm 23 in verse 6, “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.” We are being led to the house of the Lord! There may still be danger, valleys, and enemies present but we can trust the Shepherd, walking in faith rather than fear.I want to challenge you in reading Psalm 23 over the next few days, read it several times. Let it be more than recited phrases, but truth to your soul. Pray it! Proclaim it!johannes-plenio-263533-unsplash

In The Morning

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately, but I’ve missed you! Any time for writing is being focused toward the study on Joshua. I’m so ready for it to be completed and be able to share it with you – it’s getting closer. Re-writing and edits!For now, I’ll try and keep it short rather than quiet. That seems doable.The verse God has me focused on and challenged with right now is Psalm 5:3, here are three different translations.“Oh LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (ESV)“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.” (CSB)“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will prepare [a prayer and a sacrifice] for you and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]. (AMP)In the morning. As in first thing – the Firstfruit of my day. In the morning, before I give my attention to anything else, flooding my mind with the waiting demands and welcomed distractions.  And why wouldn’t I want to give my heart and thoughts over to the One who hears my voice? The One who is expectantly waiting for me, in relationship.What can I possibly offer as a sacrifice? Prayer? Worship? My thoughts? Glorifying Him, rather than myself or others? My heart? Gratitude?I want to challenge you with this verse. What does it mean to you? What can you prepare as a sacrifice to the Lord? And then watch! Watch expectantly.Love you ~ Amyaaron-burden-300808-unsplash 

Hidden and Seen

Scripture is full of paradoxes, things that don’t seem to fit together in our human understanding. Like the Savior of the world, coming in the form of a baby born in a manger. Another example being in Matthew 14: 11 when Jesus states, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”One of our deepest human desires is to be seen and known by others. Yet sometimes, the first thing we do is run and hide. I desire to converse with friends and family at a gathering, having relationship, yet when I walk into the room I feel awkward and shrink away - hiding. Meet my frequent, internal and paradoxical wrestling.Adam and Eve, after sinning, hid from God. I’m guessing that they had a desire to continue relationship with Him, but hid in shame. (Genesis 3:8) We desire to be seen by others and known, yet hide.We hide in sin, embarrassment, uneasiness, judgment. We hide from situations, others, and ourselves. We hide from El Roi, the God Who Sees. (Genesis 16:13) In truth, with all of those things mentioned, it would make more sense to go to the Creator in full disclosure and repentance if necessary. It would make more sense to dispel the darkness (hiding), and step into the Light (being known in relationship).Over the past few months, the word ‘surrender’ has been very present in thought. I’m learning that one of the pieces of being surrendered, is not withholding myself from God – hiding. It’s impossible to completely hide from El Roi, though I try to do a good job. In reality I’m not really hiding, but rather withholding relationship. Withholding a completely surrendered heart, willing to be held and seen by the One who created me. When I’m not surrendered, I’m not posturing myself to God’s will. It’s harder, dare I say impossible, to fully trust when my heart and mind are withholding and hiding thoughts from El Roi.Who am I hiding from? What am I hiding? Why?It can be scary to be known and seen. But the truth is that I don’t desire to hide from God; He sees me anyway. (I may desire to hide from others, but not God.) He sees the real me, the one he fashioned in the secret and hidden. The one He brought into the light, to be seen and known. My desire is to be fully known (seen), living freely in and with Him.Would it change if we knew who God is? His character? Would it be easier to trust Him, and fully surrender a heart and life to Him?He is good. He is love. He is light and life and just. God is accepting of the true me, uglies and all. God is safety and protection. I can surrender and open up to that. How about you? And when we do - we can be both hidden in Him, and seen by Him.

brooke-cagle-65598
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1 (ESV)

In that hidden place, what are you willing to surrender to God? What are you willing to trust Him with seeing? You don't have to fully comment here - but are you with me?