Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Reflecting on my mess...{And a GIVE-AWAY}

Unloading hay…it’s a job that has to happen on the farm. My kids claim I have the easy role; which when it comes to manual labor, they are right. I drive the skid-loader while they stack bales, so clearly they do more work, but my role creates some stress. Because of the bale rope, I have to gauge my speed and time my power so the bales don’t spin and hit the barn.

I’ve done this job before, but last week was a bit rough. Due to some weak twine and my lack of timely acceleration, a group of bales hit the frame of the door and 4 of them fell to the ground. It was a broken mess of loose hay.
My husband simply reiterated his instructions and a few kids offered smirks through the haymow window. Eventually, my little boys grabbed forks and started to clean up the mess. I felt bad and became more determined to do better the next time. 
As I sat waiting for Job to reset the bale fork, I felt the arrows of shame. Words from Satan intended to leave me defeated. Ones that would tempt me to think wrongly, which lead to wrong actions as well.

Satan, the great deceiver, who exists to steal, kill and destroy, was messing with my mind and I’m so thankful I realized he was attacking. In years past, I haven’t been so quick to recognize his ways. I’ve often let the lies overwhelm me and leave me feeling like a failure. I’ve let the evil one shame me and listened to his words of condemnation. 
Thankfully, that didn’t happen this time. So instead of sitting in the skid-loader with tears of pain and regret, I was able to praise God for the transformational work He has done.

Now a week later, I have a better understanding of how He’s done it. I was listening to Christian radio and Jeremy Camp's song, "Word of Life" caught my attention. I strongly encourage you to listen to it and think about the truth behind the words.
I'll share a few lines - "Word of truth, Illuminate all these lies, The enemy speaks inside, In freedom I will rise, 'Cause You called me out from the grave, So I can live like I’ve been changed, There is a new song in my soul, And it begins when I breathe in, Your word of life."
Friends, God's Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). This Word of Truth has transforming power, but we must tap into it.
Reading God's Word is good, but studying it, meditating on it and memorizing it are even better. If we want God's Word to get into us we need to get into it. 
And as we do just that we must live out 1 Thessalonians 2:12-13. Here Paul says, "And we also thank God continually because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe."  
Did you notice the last key phrase in this passage? Who experiences the work of the Word? The one who believes! Do you believe? 
Friend, I challenge you to dig into God's Word and I pray that He gives you a desire to understand it. As we study it, we don't just learn what it means, we get a better understanding of who God is and are able to better believe what He says. And as that happens, the living, active Word works in us to change us and make us more like Him. 
I've known this for years, but I've experienced it mightily this past year. With the release of my new Bible study, ReNEWal Road, I've found myself reflecting. God transforming my response to broken hay bales is just the beginning of the work He's done in the past 12 months. 
As I believe the Word of God, I experience the work of God. And friend, you can do the same! Open your Bible and ask God to speak to your heart. Study a topic and see how scripture supports scripture. Cross reference your favorite verses and understand them even more. Visit biblehub.com and read the interlinear translation to get a better understanding of the verse in its original language. Take part in a Bible study that really gets you into the Word.
If you're looking to do a Bible study, leave a comment and you just might win a copy of ReNEWal Road! It's a study that God truly used to transform me and I pray you will experience the same! So a few questions to consider as you comment...
How has believing the Word of God helped you experience the work of God?
Have you had any messes lately that you've responded to differently because of the work God is doing in your life? 
If time is short, just leave a comment saying, "Count me in!" and I will! Stop back on Monday when I'll announce the winner!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word of life. Give us a hunger for it. Fill us with Your Spirit so that we can better understand it. Remind us of our role and help us read it, study it, memorize it and meditate on it. Lord, we believe, but ask You to help our unbelief. Sanctify us with Your Truth Father. And transform our thinking as well. God, we thank You for the work You've already done and praise You in advance for what You will do. In Jesus' mighty name, Amen.



Friday, July 28, 2017

Celebrating 16 and a Give-Away!

Sixteen years...I've been Mrs. James O. Beran for 16 years, which is hard to believe. It doesn't seem like that long ago we were planning our wedding and thinking about our future. At the time I'm pretty sure Job had no idea he was saying, "I do," to such an indecisive and insecure gal. He wasn't aware of all the doubts I wrestled with and the depression I sometimes slipped into.

But He made a vow to me, and more importantly to God, and today we celebrate. Not just our anniversary, but progress, growth and joy. Early on we committed to seeking God and reading the Bible together. God heard our cries and answered our prayers. He's humbled our hearts and changed them too.

I've heard people talk about the patience of Job and I know they are referring to the man we read about in Scripture, but the virtue is evident in my man as well. Thankfully, we haven't experienced the trials that Job did, but thru the years we've walked up hills and thru valleys.

Only 2 years separate Job and me according to our birth certificates, but spiritually he has 20+ years on me. Early on, Job was patient and understanding of my "rookie" status. He's been a great spiritual leader for me and now our 5 children. His prayers, discernment and example have played a vital part in my spiritual growth.

Now, before you go comparing the good things you just read about my husband to the challenging things you live with in your husband, let me assure you - I am human and so is Job. He'd be the first to admit he has struggles and sins just like the rest of us. We are far from perfect, but God is perfecting both of us. Marriage makes us happy...most of the time, but God is also using it to make us holy and we are grateful.

Sixteen years ago on a hot summer day one of the verses our pastor shared was Colossians 3:12 -
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." I'm pretty sure I thought the idea sounded good, but I had no idea what it truly meant. Time in God's Word and life with a farmer who doesn't just wear chore clothes, but these spiritual ones as well, has increased my understanding and given me the desire to wear the same wardrobe. 


Looking back I'm amazed at who I am now compared to who I was then. God has done much and He continues to work. He's changed us and drawn us closer. He's helped us overcome old struggles and revealed new ones. He constantly gives us opportunities to live out the verse I call our marriage mission statement - "Glorify the Lord with me, let us exalt His name together!" (Psalm 34:3)

Daily we try to do this in our home with the words we say and things we do. Our 5 children provide a constant audience and our prayer is they see us doing what God created us to do. We've also served together as Sunday School leaders and organizers of a couple's Bible study. Job's been an elder and I've served in woman's ministry and though those are individual roles, in a way we do them together as we pray, talk and study.

We can do none of this in our strength...believe me we've tried and failed. When we stay in God's Word, unite our hearts in prayer and walk in faith, we are equipped to do what God leads us to do. We get tired, sometimes we're afraid and others we question, so renewal is always needed.

Which leads me to the give-away...in celebration of our 16th anniversary I'm going to give away a copy of my new Bible study - ReNEWal Road: The Journey of Becoming More Like Jesus. My name is on the cover, but without Job it would have never happened! He believed in me long before I believed in myself! So before you can even purchase a copy, you can win one here. Just leave a comment with your thoughts on one of the following questions -

What are you celebrating in your marriage today?

How are you renewed?

In what way would you like to become more like Jesus?

Thanks friends and be sure to stop by soon for more about ReNEWal Road! I'll post the winner on Wednesday.

Friday, July 14, 2017

When the weeds grow...


Summer in Iowa means many things, but on the farm it tends to mean work. And if we're teachable that work can create learning opportunities...not just for my children, but me as well. Today was one of those days.

I took my husband lunch while he was cultivating and instantly some lessons from the past came to mind. I've shared a few here before: Time to Cultivate, The Cultivator, and When Cultivating is Not Enough. These are important lessons to remember, but God had a new one for me as well.

Job's cultivated this field in the past and he's worked to control the weeds, but yet they still grow. Can you say the same about your heart? Have you removed sin only to have it grow back? Have you pulled out the root of bitterness only to have a new one grow?

Friend, those may not be fun questions to answer, but they are ones we must not avoid. As I waited for Job to come back across the field, I couldn't help but notice the contrast between the cultivated and non-cultivated rows of beans. The picture isn't real clear, but it's obvious change happens after the cultivator passes. As I looked at this, my morning Bible reading from earlier in the week came back to mind.

One of the passages we read was Matthew 13:1-23, commonly known as the Parable of the Soils. Jesus talks about 4 different types of soil, but I want to encourage you to think about the one mentioned in verse 7. Here we read - "Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants."

The seed in this soil starts to grow, but eventually the thorns cause it to die. My husband cultivates our crops for the same reason...the weeds not only make the field look bad, they also impact harvest.

As I started putting this post together, my oldest son was reading over my shoulder and my future farmer gave me some more insight as he said, "Mom, make sure they know this is an organic field; we're pretty much the only ones who still cultivate." I paused to think about that for a bit and wondered if it was information you really needed to know. After pondering, I think it adds another dimension to this little lesson.

Conventional farmers are able to spray their crops with chemicals, but organic producers don't have that option. We on the other hand, harrow the ground, rotary hoe, cultivate and pull weeds. God wants an "organic" relationship with each of us, nobody else can do the work of growing closer to Christ for us. It's also not a one time deal; we must daily walk with the Lord and abide in His Word. How we remove the sin from our heart today may look different than what we did yesterday.

So to wrap this up, I got to thinking - what are the thorns in the soil of our heart? Again, scripture gives us the answer. In verse 22 we read - "The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful."

Do you have worries? Are you fearful of the future? Are you anxious about something out of your control? Do you worry about what might never happen? I do. At times I can think these "worries" don't really matter, but they do. They don't just impact my day, my body and my mind, they choke out the seed God's planting in my heart from His Word. Friend, they do the same to you as well.

May we follow Paul's advice in Philippians 4:6 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

Just like my husband deals with more than one type of weed in the field, we have more than one "thorn" in the soil of our heart. We can't skip past the last part of this verse - the deceitfulness of wealth works against us as well. Friend, we must check our heart and always be mindful of what we are striving for. Are we working for worldly success or seeking first the kingdom of God?

Matthew 11:29 reminds us we will have to make sacrifices to follow Jesus. "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life."

I don't know what the soil condition of your heart is, but my time in the field has caused me to think about mine. And as I do, I'm reminded of another reality on the farm - weeds produce seeds too. If my husband is overwhelmed by the weeds or takes on the they're not that bad mentality, they will only be worse next year. Friend, I believe that happens in our heart as well. If God's opened your eyes to thorns you need to remove, do it now. Be diligent and do the work.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your living and active Word. Thank you for your presence and continual teaching. Help me set my eyes on You and do what I need to do. Show me the weeds in my heart and help me uproot them. May the seeds you plant grow and produce fruit. Tender my heart, break up the unplowed ground and cultivate the soil. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Walking in Faith

"Walking in faith" is a phrase we hear in the world of Christianity. It sounds simple enough; I mean walking sounds better than running right? Learning to walk is a challenge...one we don't remember, but a reality we see lived out with the 12 month olds around us. Physically, once we learn to walk the task simply becomes something we do, but spiritually that shouldn't be the case.

The early days of walking in faith can be a challenge, but years down the road the process can still be a struggle. At times we have to walk uphill and we grow weary; others we walk through a dark valley and we may be sad or afraid. This walking is work and takes effort on our part. Walking in faith should never become simple and it's not something we can do on our own.

I received a little insight into this idea the other day in the field. I wasn't walking, but picking rock. I was driving our ranger as the kids and I worked ahead of my husband who was planting beans. You'd think driving across the field from one end to another would be easy enough, but every year it's a struggle for me.

This specific field was worked on a slant, meaning the tracks from the field cultivator went diagonally across the field at about a 70 degree angle. So I always start out on the perpendicular across the field, but 20 feet in I start to drift. As I watch for rocks and encourage my kids, I lose focus and my tire tracks prove it.

I grew frustrated with this yearly tradition, but instead of focusing on my struggle the Holy Spirit prompted me to use the situation for a spiritual lesson. As I changed my perspective, I quickly realized the same thing can happen as we walk in faith.

If we are not intentional and daily abiding in the Word, we can drift. If we lose focus, the world can take us off our path. If we take our eyes off Christ, we can step into sin and quickly be heading in the wrong direction.

Driving across the field can be a challenge as can walking in faith, but there is something that can help. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a dark line running straight across the field. This is from the marker on my husband's planter. It is what he uses to know where to drive to keep the rows straight and once my daughter pointed it out to me, it guided me as well.

Friend, as we walk in faith, Jesus is our guide. He is the One we must look to. This truth brings to mind Isaiah 26:3 - "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."

Do you know what the word steadfast means? It is defined as fixed, firm and staying strong. Our pastor once shared how moored is a synonym. You moor a boat when you secure it to shore. The boat is attached and no matter the wind or the waves it will stay put, which is exactly what we need to do with our eyes and minds in regards to Christ.

When we set our minds on Jesus, He will guide us down the path of life and equip us to walk in faith. No matter how high the climb, dark the valley or confusing the path, He will lead us to the other side. But if we take our eyes off of Him and quit reading His Word, we will drift and take the way of the world just like I followed the wrong tracks in the field.

Lord, today, we ask you to open the eyes of our heart and set our minds on you so that we can walk in faith and glorify you, our good Father and great God. Help us be mindful of where we are walking. Make us aware of each wrong step and give us wisdom to know when we are drifting off the path you have for us. May our trust in You lead to steadfast minds so that we can experience your perfect peace at all times and in all situations. Lord, thank you for your endless lessons and powerful reminders...may we learn from them and live them out. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Not Guaranteed

Life on the farm teaches us many lessons: to everything there is a season, hard work is necessary, and waiting is too. Farming provides endless opportunities for my children to learn responsibility and we also learn about walking in faith. Earlier this month we had to replant corn and God has taught me a spiritual lesson through a difficult situation. May it bless you as well.



Friend, planting seeds doesn't guarantee they will grow. We learned this difficult lesson on our farm and I've been reminded the same is true when it comes to our faith. Just because my husband tills the soil, and fertilizes it as well, does not mean corn will grow. Just because we pray and share our testimony, doesn't mean the seeds of faith will mature. And just because we pour into our children and guide them with the Truth, we are not promised they will always live a godly life.

I know those are not very encouraging words, but can we agree they reflect the reality we live in? Trust me, ripping up the first corn we planted was a difficult process. Counting the cost of planting the crop again was challenging as well. Doing the work again took time, effort and money.

As I thought about all of this, I came to the realization that the fact that our actions don't guarantee results can leave me defeated and cause me to give up. My husband could have been pretty discouraged by the absence of heat and lack of growth. These thoughts could have left him questioning about attempting to plant again. But he's a farmer and he knows farmers plant seeds. He also believes and knows it's God who does the growing.

Recently, I've heard of marriages falling apart and children drifting away. Situations that Satan sometimes uses to leave me thinking "what if" and fearing what lies ahead. These individuals are walking through hard trials and experiencing pain I don't understand. Not long ago, they probably thought they were investing and planting good things into their families, but yet the harvest doesn't look like they expected.

Friend, if our eyes are not set on Jesus, these situations can leave us overwhelmed and fearful. They can lead to anxiety and bitterness. Thankfully, my husband's faith is bigger than all that happens in the field. Job knows planting seeds doesn't guarantee growth, but he knows seeking the Lord leads to direction, trusting Christ provides peace and obeying God brings blessings.

Instead of letting the results of our actions, or lack there of, leave us defeated, may the truth about God being good and faithful encourage us to persevere. Let me ask you a couple of  questions - Are you focused on what you do or who God is? Is your attention on what you get or how you grow?

The other night, we drove by one of our fields and my husband said, "I'm sure glad we replanted that." I instantly thought about what God taught us through the process and revealed His character to us and I was grateful as well. Even when our work fails, God's work is productive. He is always teaching us and though our seeds may not grow, our faith does. Friend, our labor may not always be fruitful (at least from an earthly perspective), but God's work is eternal!

There is much in this world that is not guaranteed, but there are promises that will never fail!

 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

Have you ever had to "replant"? How did you handle this? What guarantee from God can you cling to today? 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It's A Family Thing




Today most farmers no longer make small square bales, including my husband, but this week he did, which meant we needed to stack them in the hay mow. I'll keep things real and admit our kids are not always eager to do their chores; there are moments they complain and times they argue, but attitudes were good yesterday. (Perhaps that's why this rare job was a joy!)

My husband directed traffic and gave us all our job to do...the 3 oldest kids were stacking in the barn, our 2nd son was helping Job on the hay rack while our youngest was supervising from the nearby sandbox and I operated the skid loader which was attached to the rope that pulled the bale fork. It may sound like a complicated process, but it really went quite smoothly.

As I sat in the noisy John Deere, I could see our oldest through the barn window and watched our 7 year old eagerly help his dad. At times our "baby" would give me a thumbs up letting me know I was doing alright. Observing this was a treat...it's not every day we're all eagerly working together on a single job.

I'll admit this moment of joy caught me off guard...I never expected to enjoy a job in my 40's that I dreaded as a teenager! Unloading bales is work. It's often hot, itchy and time consuming, but yesterday our family job painted a picture. The efforts and effects of my "Team Beran" are similar to that of the body of Christ.

From the oldest to the youngest, we each had a role. Granted some of the kids thought Jed had the easy job and one even offered to trade, but in the end we completed our assigned task. Ephesians 4:11-13 says, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

Friend, if you are a believer of Jesus, you are a member of His body. Just like my children are a member of our family and were given a job to do, God has the same for you. The roles may look different and require various skills, but they are all equally important and required to complete the task of building His kingdom. I pray you and I will do them to the best of our ability and with good, godly attitudes.

I had a clear view of Titus 2 played out in front of me as well. This was the first time Jed was really old enough to help and really experience unloading hay with the bale fork. He was so eager and excited. He was observant and willing. He watched everything Job did and did his best to help.

As children of God and women of faith we need to play both of these roles - the model and the mimic. There are things we need to learn to do, so like Jed may we be teachable and look to wise examples. We also have skills, lessons and a faith to share, so like Job may we be patient and willing to help those who want to learn. Friend, if you are a mom daily life gives us this opportunity...may we treasure it and use it wisely.

My time in the great outdoors also reminded me of the power of encouragement. This isn't just important on the farm or with my family, but in the body of Christ as well. Our words matter and they make a difference. The things we say and the tone we use impacts others. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Is there a brother or sister in Christ who needs some encouragement? Speak the words today.

The majority of my life has been spent on a farm, I know farming and families go together and I'm grateful for the reminder that faith and families go together too! Friend, I don't know what role God has for you, but I know you are an important, necessary member of His body. I pray you accept your role, learn from others, do your best and encourage fellow believers.

A life of faith takes even more work and time than unloading a few loads of hay, but the effort is worth it and the reward is eternal. Keep pressing on and look forward to hearing from your heavenly Father what my kids heard from their earthly father - "Well done my good and faithful servant."  (So Job used sons and daughters, but you know what I mean, right? God created us to serve Him and will acknowledge us when we do!)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Perfection is NOT the Goal



I’m a perfectionist. There I said it. Do you need to say it too? Granted I’m not a perfectionist in all areas, but in the ones I am - watch out. I know doing a job and doing it well are important and are good things, but striving for perfection can create problems.

It’s easy to see this in my children. There perfectionism can create anxiety and lead to feelings of never being good enough. This desire to be perfect affects their attitudes and impacts relationships. It can lead to tears and sometimes drives me crazy.

Yesterday I found myself looking in the mirror as I was the one dealing with the frustration our endless striving for perfectionism creates. I’m working on a Bible study and as the deadline nears, my desire for perfection seems to increase. I’ve read and re-read my manuscript countless times. Friends I trust and respect have read it as well. Changes have occurred and improvements have been made, but my work continues.

The other day I told my husband, “The more I work on it, the more it seems I find to do.” Those words left my mouth and I realized my focus had shifted. I was concentrating on what I could do instead of trusting God to do what only He can do.

I think I may have forgot Paul’s words about God’s grace being sufficient. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 we read, "My (God's) power is perfected in weakness." Think about that statement for a minute. Do you have weak areas? Do you ever strive to perfect them? Or use your strengths to try and negate them? Friend, God not only knows our weaknesses, His power is perfected in them. 
This is no reason to sluff off and do the bare minimum, but it can and should encourage us to let go of the idea of perfectionism. 
The other day while doing our daily Bible reading, I came across Psalm 119:96. I read the words and stopped to jot down the reference. Later that day I wrote it in my journal - "To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless." 
This morning I was stressed about my upcoming deadline and God convicted me of my striving for perfectionism. As He did I recalled this verse. I opened my Bible and read it again. As humans we have limits - there are things we can't do and mistakes we will make. God on the other hand is perfect and His commands have no limits. We have timelines to deal with and deadlines to meet, God holds time in His hands and waits on no man. 
What a contrast between my Father and me. Today instead of striving to get everything just right, I'm attempting to surrender and trust the One who is perfect. I'm asking Him to lead me, to fill me with His Spirit, equip me through His Word and help me rest in His promises. Will you do the same? 
Friend, God doesn't ask us to be perfect in our performance, but He does command us to "be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect."  (Matthew 5:48) This is an internal perfection that leads to external results. It's who God is and who we are trying to become. This process of perfection won't happen over night, so we must persevere. As we do, we may make mistakes, but He can help us learn. New opportunities will arise and improvements will be made. I encourage you to shift your focus from what you need to do and take a little time to remember what He has done. God has worked through imperfect people before, chances are He can do it again!!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the truth of Your Word. Continue to sanctify and perfect me with it and through it. Keep making me more like You. Help me let go of striving for perfection. I want to do a good job for you, but sometimes that desire to do my best does more harm than good. Fill me with Your Spirit and renew me with Your Word, so I can press on and work with You to do all You call me to do. Help me obey and then trust You with the results. Father God, thank you for choosing me and using me. May Your power shine through my weaknesses and may I never forget that Your grace is sufficient. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.