Growth and Vulnerability

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

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 

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 

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.

Food & Surprises!

Hello, friend!We’re keeping the devotional on the shorter side of things today because there is also a fun announcement to share. I sure hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week. Our family celebration was full of family, laughter, great food, and a wild rumpus from a house full of kids. Our only formality is to leave having had fun, with a full heart and belly.As we enter this season of celebrating our Savior’s birth, it’s easy to focus on what activities are taking place, what food do I need to take, and what food will be showing up. Food has a way of becoming the focal point, and all though necessary, let’s not allow it to overshadow a daily helping of eternal manna.I recently came across this quote from Charles Spurgeon’s devotional book, Morning and Evening. “Labour to maintain a sense of thine entire dependence upon the Lord’s good will and pleasure for the continuance of thy richest enjoyments. Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. All must come from Jesus, or thou art done for ever.”When the to-do list gets long, it’s tempting to let our quiet time with God slip away. As Mr. Spurgeon puts it, “Never try to live on the old manna…or thou art done for ever.” It’s tempting to live on the “old” manna, a word you received last month, last week, or even a year ago. I’m not knocking those things, they are vitally important and carry us. But let’s not forget to get a fresh word from God, in His Word, daily! The Israelites were to gather manna daily, leftovers would be found with maggots the next morning. (Exodus 16)God’s word is our manna, it’s living and active. It has a way of feeding us, mind and soul. And just as the Israelites gathered manna daily, we are as well. So as we go through this Christmas season, let’s not forget to gather the manna daily. Lets not miss the rush of seeing something "new" in scripture. What if we could get as excited about unwrapping the Word of God as we are while unwrapping presents Christmas morning? Can I encourage you to go on a treasure hunt?! Daily?That being said…would you share below what you may have learned in God's Word - today? I love to hear how others are experiencing our God.Alrighty - time for fun. I’m excited to share the Bible study, Courageous Faith, you!Between today (11/29/18) and next Wednesday (12/5/18) you can register to win a copy of this Bible study on Joshua for yourself and one for a friend! (This would be a GREAT Christmas present!)One winner and their winning friend will be announced on Thursday, December 6 and ship anywhere in the continental United States – you should have them in plenty of time to get them before Christmas.Here’s what you need to do in order to register, it’s easy as 1, 2, 3!

  • Like my page on Facebook AND/OR Instagram.
  • Tag a friend on the Facebook AND/OR Instagram announcement of this contest.
    • Each tag gets you and your friend an entry
  • Visit the blog, Glory Abides, and sign up to follow via email.
    • Top right hand corner on a computer, check the bottom of your screen on your phone. Email me if you have a prob!

A few clicks and you’re done! Hopefully you and a friend will be the winners!Also, if you missed the announcement, we're starting an on-line study group January 1 to go through Courageous Faith! Check the website for further information.With gratitude,AmyOn-line Bible study group_cover   

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.

Bread Crumbs

Do you remember the story of Hansel and Gretel, where they leave a trail of bread crumbs so they can find their way home? It’s an interesting story, but I want to focus on the bread crumbs. Sometimes I feel like the Lord leaves me a trail of bread crumbs, not for the purpose of leading me home but as confirmation that I’m going the right way.My most recent “bread crumb” was found in Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the LORD.” (CSB) At a time of uncertainty and questioning, this was peace to my unsettled soul. And unlike Hansel’s breadcrumbs that were eaten by birds, God’s Word does not return void. His Word is established and a firm foundation for direction and teaching.Therefore, I wait.In Psalm 27:14 the word ‘LORD’ is all capital letters, it lets me know this refers to God’s Promise Making, Promise Keeping character. He is our covenant God. In my questioning and doubts, I can wait on the Lord to be faithful in His promises. That’s claiming some earthly promised land. It’s still a bit uncomfortable, but that’s where trusting Him comes in to play. Trusting God’s timing, his provision, his goodness, and his faithfulness.This particular “bread crumb” in Psalm 27:14 has been found in several separate areas of my life. Therefore, I wait.What “bread crumbs” has he left for you recently? Where is he leading you?Psalm 27_14

Light On Your Path

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

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      

Courageous Faith

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

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.

Bearing Fruit and Growing

Everyone likes to bear fruit, and be the recipient of fruit produced in season. There’s nothing better than a fresh picked peach in the height of summer or crisp apple when the cool fall arrives. Our berry farm is meant to bear fruit throughout the heat of summer. And just like fruit born in appropriate seasons, our lives are meant to do the same. That being said, it can be hard to not strive to produce the whole fruit bowl at once.Spiritually speaking, we are told that we will bear fruit and we are called to do so. I believe there’s more to simply being focused on bearing fruit. Take a look at Paul’s words in Colossians. “…so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God…” Colossians 1:10 (ESV, emphasis mine)Paul was specifically talking to the church in Colossae about the gospel’s effect in their lives, and his words are easily applicable to us today. Walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord, bearing fruit and growing. I appreciate the order in which Paul presents these things, bear fruit and continue in growth. We can have a tendency to want to bear fruit, but perhaps forget to continue growing once fruit has been born. In order to continue bearing fruit, there must be continued growth. We aren’t called to be corn plants, growing rapidly to produce a crop for harvest and then die. I believe that as eternal beings, we are called to continue bearing fruit for harvest and grow – a perpetual process.Familiarity with the Word may bring to mind what kind of fruit we are to limitlessly produce. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)How then shall we grow it? According to our verse in Colossians, we are to grow in the knowledge of God. The Greek word being used here for knowledge is ĕpignōsis, it denotes the idea of recognition, acknowledgment, full discernment, and to become fully acquainted with.[i] We aren’t being asked to become know-it-alls, knowing everything the Creator of heaven and earth knows, but rather to fully know Him. Recognize Him, acknowledge His ways, movements, and characteristics.One of the most powerful and active ways we can grow in knowledge of the Lord is having an active encounter with His living Word on daily basis. God begins revealing His character in the first line of scripture, and he doesn’t let up until the last.We have the free will to choose a relationship with God through His Word. Those Spirit-inspired words can be the water, fertilizer, and Son-shine the seed of the gospel message needs to grow in our heart and mind. We are called to both bear fruit and grow. If we are stunted spiritually, after a while the fruit will no longer come forth.Let’s have some dialogue on how God is revealing his character, so that together we may grow in knowledge and understanding of Him. What characteristic of God has been most real to you this week?Screen Shot 2018-09-26 at 2.05.25 PM[i] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 31). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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    

Juxtaposition

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

Courageous Faith : Coming Soon!

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