Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Now that I know...

Moments after I made a turn at an intersection, my daughter said, "Mom, there's a cop behind you." I looked in my rear view mirror to see his lights were on. Instantly, anxiety filled my body and my daughters and their friend went silent. I pulled over wondering why and tried to figure out what I had done wrong. The officer approached and I was nervous. He asked for documentation before stating the problem.

I'd been stopped twice in my life...once in high school and 16 years ago days before our wedding. I fumbled through the papers trying to find the right documentation and with each passing second, the anxiety climbed. The officer could tell and assured me all was fine. Eventually, I discovered we didn't have the current registration sticker on our license plate. He assured me it was OK and would be a simple fix. I drove on, eventually calmed down and we made our way to the softball game. Now that I knew what to do, I could fix the problem and avoid another stop by the police.

This story came to mind last night as I shared a new situation with my husband. I am currently coaching junior high girls basketball and yesterday instead of just leading practice I participated. Twenty-one years have passed since I was officially a member of a team and though the drills are still fun, my body is NOT the same. Clearly, I am out of shape. This job is about more than me teaching the girls, I'm also learning a bit myself.

I've had a general understanding of my lack of physical conditioning, but my 2 hours in the gym brought it to my attention. Now that I know, there's something I need to do.

Friend, perhaps you are in the best shape of your life and maybe you don't have any missing license plate stickers, but please don't stop thinking about this. This idea of knowing and doing is a powerful one. When we know something, we must respond. I knew my sticker was missing, so I had to get another one. I know I'm out of shape, so I must prioritize exercise. What do you know? How will you respond?

James 4:17 says, "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." There is a spiritual dimension to this as well. Let's look beyond our vehicles and even our bodies and take a glimpse at our heart and mind. Are you doing, saying or thinking things you know you shouldn't? Are you avoiding things you know you need to do or say?

Friend, this is about more than a traffic ticket or aching's about our relationship with the almighty God, our heavenly Father. Open your Bible and the living, active Word of God will speak to your heart. There will be things you know. The question is because of this, what will you do?

A few scriptures come to mind...

"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:8-11)

There are some big, heavy words, but they contain important truth. It might be tempting to think about them in the worst context and dismiss yourself, but allow God to examine your heart. Sin is sin even if it doesn't become headline news. Think about the things you do and say. How you treat others and use your time. What about the TV shows you watch and conversations you participate in. We must be honest and admit we all have our struggles and if we have the desire to live right before God, He will point them out. It might be a little frightening like my experience with the cop, but He is just doing His job and wants what is best for you and me, His children.

So now that you know, what will you do? If God's put something on your heart, I'd love to hear and will commit to lifting you up. Knowing is the easy step, but it's an important one! Start there and then do what you need to do!

Dear Heavenly Father, open the eyes of my heart and show me what I need to know. Tender my heart so I respond righty. Remind me your conviction is a gift, help me humble myself and do what I need to do. I love you and long to obey, help me do what I need to do. Thank you for your Word, may it sanctify me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, November 6, 2017

When we don't know what to do...

Cancer, sudden death, the Texas church shooting. All things that have been part of my life over the last three days. My heart hurts. So much pain and loss, but yet let's of questions, some worries and fears. Last night, I knew I needed rest and my body took the right position, but my mind was racing and my heart was hurting.

Though the shooting took place in Texas and I live in Iowa, it hit close to home. That church wasn't much different than ours...a small, rural congregation where young and old assume we're safe. Words from my kids and questions they asked as we watched the news came to mind. I know they were hurting too. Stories of a 14 year old girl and 6 year old boy broke their hearts as well. It also made them ask, "What if that happened at our church?"

I also thought of my friend, who'd just received the unexpected news of her mother's death and my heart hurt some more. Then another loved one who received the cancer diagnosis came to mind and the pain continued.

My body was still, but my thoughts wouldn't stop. I'd say a quick prayer and share more thoughts with my husband. At one point, he said in response, "Evil has no bounds." Those words stuck and reminded me we are in a battle. There is evil in the world. Bad things happen to good people. Even Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

This little nugget of truth opened the door for more scripture to come to mind. I instantly recalled a verse from a passage I'd been studying. In 2 Chronicles 20:12b we read, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

In all of these situations, and even a few more, there are times I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say and sometimes even think. The pain in our world makes no sense and gets more complicated when we put ourselves in the shoes of those who hurt. Perhaps the first thing you and I need to do, is admit we don't know what to do.

Surrendering ourselves, our abilities, our desire to figure things out and be in control is vital. Letting go and giving up opens the door to letting God be God. It also helps us move our eyes.

Yesterday, once I heard the news of the shooting, I found myself glued to the coverage. For big chunks of time, I didn't learn anything new, I just listened to a different person tell the same, sad story. Our problems and pain have a way of monopolizing our attention. We must be mindful of our focus.

These words from Jehoshaphat shifted my attention. And I pray they do the same for you.

He found himself in a hard place. He had three armies coming against him and his people. Earlier in the same chapter it says, he was alarmed. Other versions say he was afraid, but regardless of which specific emotion we can learn from his example. In this state of mind, he decided to seek the Lord.

He didn't ask for another briefing, he didn't choose to dwell in fear or analyze the situation. He went to our great God. Then the people around him did the same. We read the beginning of his prayer in verse 6 - "LORD, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you."

He goes on to speak more truth about God and promises the continued seeking of his people as he prays. The closing words to his prayer are the words we must not just remember, but learn to practice - "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you."

Friend, I don't know what you are wrestling with or focused on, but I know life can be hard. Tragedies make no sense and our hearts hurt. It can be easy to let pain and bad news become the center of our attention, but we must "fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

It can feel like evil is winning in our world today, but when we set our eyes on Jesus we are reminded that He is victorious! 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Friend, I pray you take comfort in these truths and promises today. If you do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, my prayer is you reach out and come to know Him personally. He offers hope, provides peace and gives us eternal victory in a world that daily leaves us defeated. Talk with a Christian friend, leave me a comment or visit this SITE to learn more.

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord we set our eyes on you. We don't know what to do when tragedy strikes, death happens and diagnosis change our plans, so we look to you. Our great God and good Father, the one who provides and protects. The One who loves and forgives, who offers mercy and grace, who has a plan and always acts with purpose. Lord, we know Satan is on the prowl and evil knows no bounds, but you never change and your victory is eternal. Thank you for renewing my mind with your Word, for helping me trust in your truth and for providing peace that surpasses all understanding. And Lord, if there is one reading this prayer who doesn't know you, I ask you to open the door of their heart. Give them eyes to see, ears to heart and a heart to understand. Help them know you in a powerful, personal way. When we are tempted to think we need answers and reassurance, Lord remind us all we need is you. Remind me of that when today's trials come. In Jesus' precious and powerful name, Amen. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Who's your Timothy?

Have you ever heard something and it tends to stick in your head? Wise words you find yourself pondering day after day. Me too. The other day I listened to a teaching by Stephanie Shott and her words have stuck with me. She said, "The biggest impact you make may not be because of what you do, it may be who you raise."

She went on to reference 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul says, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." This is the only time the two ladies are mentioned in Scripture, but I have to believe they are noted for a reason.

Paul, who loved Timothy as a son, was aware of their role in the young man's life. He knew the part they played was significant. Friend, if you are a mom or grandmother, God knows the same and much more about the responsibility He's given you.

As parents or grandparents we are raising up the future generation...we must not only teach them their ABC's and 123's, but must pass on our faith. This is more than teaching them right from wrong along with respect and responsibility. We need to instruct them on who God is and explain His plan for salvation. Our role isn't limited to instruction, we also must set an example. If we long for our children to one day live a life of faith, we must show them. If it's our hope they will turn to God for their daily needs, we must do it first. If we desire they be people of prayer, they need to see us humble our hearts and trust the Lord.

With 5 children of my own, I know this is not an easy task, but lately I've been reminded it is of utter importance. The work is worth it. I want God to work in and through my children, which means I'd better be willing to let Him work in and through me as I train them up.

Friend, maybe you're thinking I don't have any children so this post isn't for me, but that's not true. One, you can encourage your friends who are moms to live out this high calling and two, spiritually you have some "Timothy's."

Paul had no children, yet in 1 Timothy 1:2 he addresses his letter, "To Timothy, my true son in the faith..." Paul was a father figure to the young man who went on to preach and teach. He shared wisdom and truth. He set an example and offered encouragement. They spent time together and Paul wrote letters to him as well. The elder loved the younger, he cared for him and longed to see him.

In our world today, we'd call Paul a mentor and though the role may go unrecognized, it is priceless. As one who's had older women pour into my life, I know the value of being blessed by those who are a step ahead. I appreciate the wisdom others share, the example they set and encouragement they offer. Their prayers are powerful and presence in my life, whether close by or far away, often means more than words can express.

Friend, today I encourage you to think about your "Timothy's"...perhaps they live in your house and demand your attention, maybe they've grown up and live on their own or it could be they aren't even related at all, but no matter the reason recognize the connection. God has created it for a purpose. Thank Him for trusting you with the responsibility. Ask Him how you can share your faith and help build theirs. Pray for your Timothy's. Make yourself available. Be willing to do the work and make the sacrifice. Raising your "Timothy" is one of the most important things you can do!

While you're hard at work don't forget you are a Timothy too! Allow others to pour into you and help you mature in your faith. We are all works in progress and have more growing to do!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminder to pour into the future generation. I lift each mom to you...may she know to the core that You've equipped her for the work you've called her to. May she make mothering a priority and find joy in the journey. Help her keep parenting in perspective and may she draw her strength from you, our heavenly Father. I also lift each woman who has spiritual children to you...may we remember you're blood connects us all. Thank you for the role spiritual moms and sisters have played in my life; the work you do through your family is vital. Help me speak life, make time and pour into those following in my steps. Set our eyes on you and fill us with your Spirit so that we can share our faith with "Timothy's" you bring across our path and into our lives. In Jesus' Name, Amen 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It Never Ends

I posted this 2 years ago, but needed to read it again tonight as another harvest season unfolds. Friend, if you find yourself in the midst of a season that doesn't end, may these words and truths encourage you! Blessings from the farm!

The other night I took my husband supper as he unloaded corn in the dark and my son as he hauled it from the field. It was late and I was about to put our younger kids to bed, but the farmers worked on. At harvest (and honestly every season on the farm), the work never ends...there is always something more to do.

As the world went to sleep and the farmers pressed on, my mind went to work - this never ending work, it's not just a farming thing. Thoughts drifted back to my basketball playing days...if the season ended today, my philosophy was next year's started tomorrow. There was no off-season. There was always work to do and areas that needed improvement.

My roles no longer include playing or coaching, but I do have the title of wife and mom. Friends, those of you who wear these hats understand - there is ALWAYS more to do. Seasons come and go, but there's always work to do. Our kids grow and change more than my husband's corn and beans, we don't have the option of taking a year off or changing the growing rotation. We must press on and be diligent.

This idea is even more true when we look at our role as Christians. Following Jesus and being His disciple is not a role to take lightly and not a task we can complete by going to church on Sunday morning. Just like the farmer, we must work from sun up to sun down if we want to grow closer to the Son who saves.

Friend, I have to admit it but the other night when it was late and I was delivering another meal, I was a bit tired of the work harvest demands. Honestly, I really wasn't doing the work...sure it's changed our daily routine, I've made a few extra trips to get corn tested and have told my 12 year old to drive careful more than usual, but I'm not the one in the tractor, running the augur or making decisions.

But isn't that how it is in life? Am I the only one who sometimes gets tired of the work? I mean there's always more dishes, more laundry, more meals. And that's the easy stuff because there's also more sibling fights, illnesses and disobedience. That's just the physical stuff, but the spiritual and emotional things continue too - there's more tears, more anxiety, more sin. Daily we have new sins to confess and prayers to pray.

This can get tiring and at times can even be overwhelming. The other day I found myself focusing on the what (work) and when (always) a bit too much. Through my morning devotional God spoke to my heart and reminded me of the who, how and why. As I read His Word my mind was renewed and perspective was changed. Friend, if you're there may these words from Him encourage you -

"Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. * Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. * Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the LORD and not to men, knowing that from the LORD you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. * We desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. * Run in such a way that you may obtain it." (Romans 12:11, Eccles. 9:10, Col. 3:23-24, Hebrews 6:11-12, 1 Cor. 9:24)

Friend, just like the farmer we have work to do...often it's hard, takes a lot of time and requires effort. We must put in the time working diligently from sun up to sun down and then get up and do it again tomorrow. We must remember WHO we are working for and not forget the purpose our work fulfills.

When my husband finishes the harvest and sells the crop, he knows the work was worth it. In the same way, when you and I finish our work and hear our heavenly Father say, "Well done my good and faithful servant" we will know our effort was not in vain. Today as we face a job that never seems to end or face work that is always there, may we hold on to Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:58 - "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Praying for you now...may you know the work you do is the Lord's and may you remember He sees you and your efforts even when nobody else seems to notice! Finally, a big thank you to my friend, Brooke Sprung, for the pictures of an Iowa sunrise and sunset from a farmer's point of view. It looks like she's a professional photographer, but she's a full-time farmer diligently doing the work that never ends!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Friend Like Paul

I appreciate this picture of my captured a moment when they were friends not just siblings. Our 5 J's are normal children, who fight and have rivalries like all, but they also enjoy one another and remind me family can be friends. Which is what we need to do as members of God's family. We are sisters in Christ and can also be friends in the faith!

This morning as our pastor preached a unique thought crossed my mind. We've been studying 1 Thessalonians and as we worked through verse 12 of chapter 3 today, I thought, "I want a friend like Paul." That's not a bad thought, but it's not something I can control, which is why I believe the Spirit immediately put a new thought on my heart - "Be a friend like Paul."

I'm guessing chances are pretty high you're not in a verse by verse study of 1 Thessalonians or one of Paul's other books, so let me share a bit about him. Learning about this man of God can help us each be a faithful friend in the faith.

As I prepared to write this post, I quickly jotted down words that came to mind as I thought about Paul as a friend. Looking over them I noticed the first letters could be arranged to spell H-E-L-P. If you want to be a friend who helps others, I pray these examples from Paul give you some direction.

H - Honest
If you've spent any time studying a book Paul wrote you know he tells the truth. He is aware of what is going on in his life and the lives of those he is writing to. In 1 Thessalonians, he shares his heart with the people. He points out the good, but doesn't ignore reality either. He acknowledges his role and lives out his calling without fear of what the people will think.

E - Encouraging
Don't you love receiving a letter from a friend? Real mail is such a rarity in our world today, but it is a treasure. Words are powerful and our greetings are too. Think of the power in Paul's opening words to the people..."We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3) He goes on to remind them of shared experiences, powerful truths and life-changing promises. Paul's words provide encouragement, which is a gift we all need from time to time.

L - Love
We don't "see" love in Paul's letter in the same way we might include it in ours. He goes beyond closing with a simple and quick, "love you." Instead, he expresses love in different ways. First, he takes the time to put his heart on paper. Next, he shows the people the time they shared together was important as he recounts details. Finally, he tells of his desire to see them face to face. Reading his books assures you of the love he has for the people he ministered to. Do friends know you love them through the words you use?

P - Pray
The most powerful way we can help our friends is through prayer. Paul provides countless examples of this in his letter to the Thessalonians. He mentions prayers of thanksgiving and supplication. We see his prayers or recaps of them throughout his writing. We too must thank God for our friends and ask Him to help them.

Finally, the most important characteristic we need to take from Paul is his faithfulness. Clearly, he is faithful to our heavenly Father. His relationship with God is right, which enables him to be in good standing with those he loves, teaches and ministers to.

Friend, may you and I be faithful as well....first to God and then to the friends He's put in our lives. God clearly can use people in the lives of others, He did that with Paul and can do the same with us. How can you be a friend like Paul? Is there someone who needs your honesty, encouragement, love and/or prayers? Will you be faithful to be the friend God's called you to be?

Heavenly Father, thank you for friends. I'm grateful you are a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Thank you for the friends you've placed in my life. I'm grateful for their honesty, encouragement, love and prayers. Thank you also for your Word. May I learn from Paul's example and be a faithful friend. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stay in Position

Last night my son played in his final JV football game for this year and God brought a truth to life for me. You see, three times over the past two weeks I've heard a teaching on submission. Clearly it's a topic God's again brought to my attention and reading friend, since He brought you here, I trust it's one He wants to speak to you about as well.

Now, before you close this window, I encourage you to read to the end. If you're a wife and Satan's tempting you to think, I've heard this before, read on. If you're single and think "this doesn't apply to me," read on - you have friends, sisters and co-workers who may turn to you for advice. Are you prepared to offer it?

I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about what submission is...the placing of ourselves under authority or when it needs to take place. God does a good job of this in His Word -

"Submit yourselves therefore to God." James 4:7a

"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders." 1 Peter 5:5a

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Ephesians 5:22

"Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands." Ephesians 5:24

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." 1 Corinthians 11:3

Like I said, God clearly commands us to submit in Scripture, but via a football illustration I want to encourage you to obey.

So to begin, a basic reality when it comes to football is players must stay in position. Athletes are taught ways to hit, tackle, throw and catch. They each play different positions, but they must all stay in position. The same is true for us as disciples of Christ and as wives in a marriage relationship.

Friend, as wives it's important, even vital that you and I stay in position. "Why?" you ask, let me share the thoughts that came to mind as I watched a game.

Staying in position...

PREVENTS PAIN - Football players are taught the proper way to hit and tackle. One of the biggest reasons coaches do this is for safety. If a guy leads with his head, he's more likely to get hurt. When we don't submit and do as God commands, we will experience pain as well. It may not result in a concussion, but we will hurt. The pain may not happen immediately, but eventually our disobedience will bring a consequence.

PROVIDES PROTECTION - Have you ever watched a quarterback try to make a play when his offensive line doesn't do their job? It usually doesn't work very well. The O-Line's job is to protect their quarterback and friend, our husband is called to do the same. But sometimes we're like the anxious QB who's afraid to stay in the pocket and don't allow our husband an opportunity to do what God's called him to do. Submission may feel like you are giving up, but remember the QB depends on the O-Line and we too can not only trust the man God has given, we can trust the One who gave!

PROMOTES PROGRESS - Let's look at another key player on the field, the running back. He too must stay in position. His job isn't just to run the ball, he must follow his blockers. These guys are the ones who help him gain yards. Friend, when we submit and put ourselves in right position first behind God and then our husband, we too will move forward. This progression won't lead to touchdowns, but may bring personal success and growth in God's kingdom!

PRODUCES PEACE - When it comes to football or most any sport, staying in position and playing your part are vital. It's true some positions on the team get more glory, but they are all important. When every player, from the superstar to the last guy off the bench knows and carries out their role, a fun team, and often successful team is formed. Friend, when we stay in position as disciples of Christ and women in marriage peace is produced. God is a God of order and peace comes when we stay in order.

So that's my quick lesson from the football field! I pray you are encouraged to submit to those God has placed over you and have been reminded that though the job is not always easy, it has a purpose!

For my married friends, I hope you can make this your team motto -

Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
Psalm 34:3

Together may you and your husband live out your roles, stay in position and find success with God and for Him!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Faith Matters

Welcome friends, I haven't posted back to back on my blog for a long time, but today I'm sharing a devotional at Encouragement Café and I'd love for you to join me there. You can read, "The Girl Who Wanted To Die" by clicking HERE.

It was interesting to re-read those words today, on our son, Jed's 8th birthday. I think back to the fall of 1999 and realize if my plans had unfolded, life would look much different. Not just for me, but my husband and 5 children as well. Since my plan for suicide occurred before we were married, my 5 "J's" would not be here. On this day of celebration in our home, I'm grateful God's plans are higher than my own! (Isaiah 55:9)

I'm also reminded that our life is never just about us. We've been studying 1 Thessalonians and this short letter from Paul has much to say about faith and fellowship. Friend, your life and your faith matters. It obviously matters to you and impacts your relationship with God, but there's more.

In this book, we learn much about Paul's relationship with and love for the Thessalonians. He had been with them for a short while preaching the Gospel in not the best environment yet they responded to the Truth he pointed them too. Then he was called away.

Think for a minute about what happens when you are away from ones you love and those you've taught. Do you ever wonder how they are doing? Do you worry? Is it possible to be discouraged?

Well, in Paul's situation much went through his mind. He had heard reports...some good and some bad. He longed to see the ones he loved. He was in a hard place and needed encouragement. So he sent a mutual friend to check on them.

Timothy returned and "brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us as we long to see you." Notice he doesn't just say he's thankful they are doing well, he points out their faith and love. He was encouraged by their response to God and others.

He doesn't stop there as he goes on to say, "for this reason, brothers in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith." (1 Thessalonians 3:7)

Years ago, my lack of faith, would have left many people hurting and grieving. I believed the lie that I didn't matter, but my actions would have made a difference. Today I know believing the Truth matters and realize my faith makes a difference. Do you?

Can you encourage someone today with your faith? Perhaps God wants you to share your testimony? Maybe it's a smile or encouraging word? Or it could be living like Jesus in your home and loving those who know you best and sometimes see you at your worst? I don't know, but God does. Spend sometime in prayer and His Word, He will equip you and lead you as this day unfolds.

Remember somebody like Paul might be waiting to see your faith so that they too can say, "For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?"

Friend, I'd love to hear how you've been encouraged by another's faith? When you are discouraged or doubting how has a brother or sister helped you stand firm?

And a BIG thank you to all who've encouraged me, strengthened me and walked with me! I thank God for you and your faith!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rooting out the Lies

Have you ever learned something and later realized you needed to be reminded of the same truth? Have you ever taught your children a lesson, but then time passes and you need to reteach? That happens at our house, so don't feel bad if you experience the same!

Today I found myself re-reading this post from 6 years ago and was grateful for the lesson God put on my heart and evidence of the work He's done in my children's hearts. Friend, if you are a mom longing to teach your children about identity in Christ, I pray this example helps you. If you are a woman who struggles with the lies the world and Satan share, I pray this lesson brings truth and helps you take your thoughts captive. So with that words from 2011-

Yesterday I shared a conversation I recently had with my 6 year old daughter and today we worked on how to respond if that happens again. To recap the story, Joy was upset when two other young girls said she looked like a boy. She was hurt, I was hurt, but we've both learned a lesson.

That night as Joy shared her experience with me, I was determined to not let these lies and doubts take root in Joy's heart like they had done in mine many years ago.

My teacher mind got going and I thought - How can I get Joy (and my other children) to understand this better? So today, the kids helped make a tree to put up on our school room wall. The entire time they were cutting and gluing, making branches, roots and dandelions, questions were being asked, "Why are we doing this? What is this for?" and on and on.

After talking about trees, I asked, "How are we like a tree?" The responses varied and a few being quite interesting, but hen our lesson began.

We all gathered around our newly decorated school wall and I shared Joy's recent experience with all the kids. I asked, "Is she a boy?"

Her 4 year old sister looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said, "No!"

I responded, "Jaylyn, you are right! So were those words about Joy true?" Again I hear, "No." So I ask, "What is the opposite of the truth?"

My 8 year old answers, "A lie." And little Jaylyn adds, "They are bad!!" "Right again, a lie is bad, kind of like weeds in the garden or dandelions around the tree."

We then turned our attention to the tree that had caused so much curiosity. Only now there were words on the dandelions (as you can see art is not my strong point - they are the yellow lollipop looking things!!) and on some of the roots.

We talked about  how we are like a tree and our roots are what make us strong and help us grow and stand tall. But sometimes things happen in our hearts just like they do on the other side of the window - weeds creep in and mess things up.

So I asked, "What do we do with weeds in the garden?" Three little voices tell me, "We pull them out!!" "Right again! So Joy why don't you come up here and pull out this weed!!" She thought that was great!!

But there was more, I went on to share when the weeds aren't there, the roots have a better opportunity to grow. Then we focused on one root specifically, one that said, "Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." Psalm 45:11

We read the verse, talked about what it meant and Joy added some construction paper so the root could grow!! I pray the one in her heart grew as well!!

Minutes ago I asked Joy what she thought about our tree or what this meant to her...this is what she had to say, "Somethings that people say might make me cry, but they're a weed. I need to think about that and try not to cry and remember God made me. My roots need to grow and that's stuff that is really true cuz He thinks I'm beautiful just like you think that too."

We ended the day with a new picture, one without weeds, but ladies I believe we all know the ones in our heart grow back faster than the ones in our garden!! May we all remember to weed them out, so our roots can grow and we can be who God made us to be!!

Today, what weed do you need to remove? What root needs to grow? I'd love to hear what truth you can cling to as you grow in Christ today!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Harvest is Happening

Photo Credit: Brooke Sprung
Driving through the country side in Iowa this time of year makes you think of one thing - harvest. The other day as I went down the road I saw combines rolling and grain carts moving and I grew excited. That excitement quickly turned to shock.

We had not yet started combining and I was honestly surprised by my feelings. You see I've been a farmer's wife for 16+ years and a farmer's daughter all my life, I know a few things about harvest. The first being is it is work. Fall on the farm is busy and it can even be a bit stressful. The days are long and the nights are short.

Anticipation of the season has never brought excitement in me personally. Honestly, at times I've dreaded it, so I found myself surprised with my enthusiasm for a job that changes our routine. I found myself pausing my thoughts and really started thinking about harvest.

For a farmer this should be an exciting's when we see the fruit of our labor. My husband started preparing for this after he harvested last year's crop. The kids and I played a part this summer as we picked rock and pulled weeds. We've invested so it should be exciting to see that come to fruition.

As God usually does, He used a farming experience to get me thinking about a spiritual concept. While observing field after field of corn and beans, Jesus' words in Matthew 9:37 came to mind. Here he tells His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few..."

Friend, are there people around you that need to hear about Jesus? Are there souls that need to be "harvested" for the kingdom? Are there opportunities for you to be the hands and feet of Jesus? How do you look at this? Does it excite you? Or do you see work? Busyness? Changes to your already full schedule?

Pause and pray. Ask God to give you excitement for the harvest. Surrender your plans and tell Him of your willingness to be a worker. Press on and remember Galatians 6:9 - "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

My thoughts didn't stop there as the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, "God has a harvest to do you in you as well." Instantly, Galatians 5:22-23 came to mind. Paul says "but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

God doesn't have to wait until October to gather this harvest, this is fruit He should reap everyday. Just like our Heavenly Father grows our corn and beans, He is working in our lives, but we have a part.

John 15:5 says, "I (Jesus) am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart form me you can do nothing." Friend, we must stay connected to Christ and abide in God's Word so that there will be a spiritual harvest.

There are things a farmer must do in order to grow a crop and the same is true for disciples of Christ who want to produce fruit. We find a valuable piece of the puzzle in John 12:24. Here we read of the importance of surrender - "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

Harvest time is rewarding, but it doesn't come easily. Life on the farm can be hard and it requires a lot of work. The same is true for us as disciples of Jesus. We are new creations, but we still battle our old selves and sin, so discipline is necessary. It helps us grow. That growth leads to fruit. So may we remember Hebrews 12:11 - "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Our corn is constantly growing, but harvest doesn't take place immediately. It's a process and there are stages of growth. The same is true for us, so as your excitement for harvest grows remember patience is needed. James 5:7 says, "Be patient then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."

Friend, we started harvesting beans yesterday and a few hours in my excitement started to fade. The work can be overwhelming and the busyness of only day one can be defeating. As I left the field after helping my husband, I prayed for perspective. I asked the Lord of the harvest for eyes to see, a heart that understands and a body willing to work. And today, He provided encouragement from His Word. In 2 Corinthians 9:10 we read, "Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness."

The harvest is happening! Let's be thankful for God's work and excited for the opportunity to join Him in reaping all that's been sown! Remember, God will give us all we need to do the work harvesting requires!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Lessons from Cross Country

Cross Country...a sport I never participated in, but one I'm now enjoying. Our 7th grade daughter is logging miles and improving her times as she runs up hills and across courses. She's enjoying it and I am too. She's learning about her ability to persevere and I've had a few lessons about my faith, which I'll share with you today.

FOLLOW - At the start of each race, the runners line up a few hundred feet behind a golf cart and the driver leads them thru the course. A mile into the race, the runners are pretty spread out, but the lead gal is always following the cart. No matter how fast this runner goes, she doesn't pass the golf cart.

Friend, as we walk through life, we too have someone to follow. Matthew 16:24 says, "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" We must go where Jesus goes! As we run through life, we must also remember Jesus sets the pace. We may be tempted to run ahead, make our own plans and go at our own speed, but for our own good we have to let God lead.

FORWARD - In a cross country race, runners get tired. At the junior high level, some of them even walk for awhile. Still if they slow down, the athletes keep going forward. They move towards their goal.

Friend, life gets hard. We grow weary. Following Jesus brings challenges and can leave us exhausted. Satan is always on the prowl and his attacks wear us out, but we need to keep moving forward. In Philippians 3:12-14 we read, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

FOCUS - Cross country may be an individual sport without plays, but it still requires focus. As athletes run hills over rough terrain, they need focus and discipline. The competition isn't just the girls with a different name on their jersey, but sometimes the biggest opponent is the voice in a runner's head. These races are long and take time; a runner's mind can wonder. 

Whether you run or not, can you say something similar about life? I can. Days can be long, situations can overwhelm. Sometimes I feel like I'm climbing a hill that just keeps getting higher. As I do, my mind often runs faster than my feet. Satan loves to distract us with doubts and leave us anxious or confused with lies. As we run the race of life we must follow the advice we read in Hebrews 12:1-3...
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

FINISH - One of the neat things about cross country is every athlete not only gets to participate, but they finish too. Personally, it's encouraging to stand near the finish line and cheer the runners on. The medalists come through with quite a crowd watching them, but the last ten are just as enjoyable to watch. These athletes have given it there all and work hard to do what maybe they didn't think they could. Their time won't win them a medal, but crossing the line brings a reward money can't buy. 

Friend, our race is a bit different because we're not trying to do it in a certain time, but we are called to finish. God doesn't expect us to read the Bible a certain number of times or go on X number of mission trips. We are to love Him, serve Him and obey Him every day He gives. We are to walk in faith day after day after day. Even when we are tired and want to give up. So like Paul may we too someday say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to run the race of life. As I do, may I follow you and always move forward. Give me focus and help me finish. Help me press on and keep my eyes on the prize for which you have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. In His Name, Amen

Monday, September 18, 2017

That's Not Who I Am or Is It?

A BIG welcome to those of you joining me from Encouragement Café! It's a joy to have you here! In my devotional today, I share a bit of my heart about giving God the glory that He deserves. If you want to read "It Wasn't Me," click HERE. I also encourage you to read on because if we want to give God glory, we must be who He called us to be.

Nearly 10 years ago, I had a poem published in the Hearts at Home magazine. At the time, there was only a handful of people who knew I did some writing. It wasn't something I shared and didn't fit who everyone knew me to be - the quiet, shy, insecure farmer's wife who kept thoughts to myself.

So when my husband shared the magazine with two of my friends, I wasn't surprised with their reaction. After reading the poem, Andrea seriously said, "She spells her name just like you!" She continued on to read the short bio and with a bit of confusion said, "Wait, this is you."

I hadn't thought about this for quite sometime until the other night when I drove home from Bible study. I have to admit internally it was a bit awkward leading women I look up to and respect through a study with my name on it. And it was different gathering in the church to learn about the Bible with  girls I'd coached to play basketball in the gym.

It seems a bit crazy. The insecure side of me struggles and I think of reasons why many other people could be doing what I'm doing. The fearful part of me worries about what others will think. The one who's at times been afraid of failing, doubts and grows anxious about letting others down.

Satan loves when this happens and is more than willing to throw fuel on the fire. He tempts me to compare and think about all the reasons I don't measure up. He feeds me lies that can quench my hunger for God's Word. He is a roaring lion and he is on the prowl. All he wants to do is steal, kill and destroy and friend, he does that when we question who we are.

Thankfully, you and I have a heavenly Father who loves us as we are (John 3:16), sees us as His masterpiece and created us for a purpose. (Ephesians 2:10) He has prepared good works for us all to do. Will they be what others expect? Maybe not. Often they aren't even what we expect, but they are what He calls us to do.

It's pretty likely I will forever be a farmer's wife who prefers blue jeans and a baseball cap, but that didn't stop God from dressing me up a bit and putting my picture on the back of a book. Chances are speaking up and out will always bring some nervousness, but God's already given me courage to do things I never thought I would.

What about you? Who are you? Do you focus on what others expect you to do or do you strive to be who God created you to be? Are you content to be who you've always been? Do you know God's chosen you and called you?

I encourage you to slow down and think about these questions. The answers will give some insight into who you are and what you do; while also revealing if you're living the life God created you for.

If stepping out and doing something others don't expect scares you a bit, cling to the promise we find in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." When we give God a willing and available heart, He can and will work.

One final piece of encouragement as you wrestle to be and do what God calls you to...if you ever feel alone, remember you're not. I for one just shared my story, but there's a better one than that! Read these words from Isaiah 53:2-3 -

"For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Isaiah 53:2-3

Friend, Jesus wasn't the one others expected or even noticed. Worse yet, he was despised. But the reality of this rejection didn't prevent Him from walking out God's plan. He laid down His life for you and for me. He did the unexpected and God did what He promised.

We aren't going to bring salvation or offer the hope of heaven, but perhaps us doing the unexpected will point others to Christ and give glory to God. Are you up for it? I hope so! God has you, and me, where we are for a reason. He can touch others through our words, our actions and our stories, but we must speak up, step out and do the unexpected!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your living and active Word. I'm grateful you speak to me through it and transform me with it. Increase my hunger for it. And Lord, help me live up to your expectations...keep making me who you created me to be. You are the potter and I am the clay. Have your way with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How fruit grows...

Have you ever done much with seeds? I’m not much of a gardener, but I am a farmer’s wife. We plant acres of corn, beans and oats. We don’t purchase packets of seeds, but buy them in bulk. We put a lot of seeds in the ground and trust God to grow them.

Not long ago it was time to harvest the oats; we had to cut them down so they were in windrows. There were places they piled up, so my daughter and I went up and down the rows to level them out. As we did our work, God spoke to my heart. He had things to say about separating wheat from the chaff, a plentiful harvest and working for His glory, but today I want to focus on a specific verse that came to mind.
John 12:24 says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
As I thought about this verse in light of my time in the field, I had some questions and thankfully my husband had some answers.
"How many seeds do we plant?" I asked. We plant 3 bushels per acre and this year we harvested 90 bushels per acre. Next I needed to know how many seeds were in a bushel. I learned there are 15,000 oat seeds per pound and 32 pounds per bushel. So I did the math and found out we had planted 1,440,000 seeds and harvested 43,200,000. Those are some big numbers, so I simplified things a bit and it breaks down to one planted seed produced 30 seeds at harvest. 
On the farm we are grateful for the multiplication effect that happens, but have you thought about this in a spiritual sense? 
When Jesus says these words in John 12, he's talking about more than farming. This illustration gave the disciples a picture and it should provide us with one as well. He goes on to say, "Whoever serves me, must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be." As I read this verse, Galatians 2:20 comes to mind. Here we read Paul saying, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
I have again been studying surrender and the more I study the more I realize I need to surrender. In simple terms, surrender means to die to self. We let go of our desires, our plans, our wants and our ways. We put down our fears and anxieties, our selfishness and pride. Necessary, yes; easy, no. Does surrender come with a cost? Yes, but the results are priceless. 

Here on the Beran farm life is busy...we're transitioning back to school (my first year homeschooling all 5), we're enjoying cheering on our football playing son and cross country running girl, and prepping for the harvest that lies ahead. My husband is teaching Sunday School and I'm leading a women's Bible study. 

In my last post, I invited you to an online study of ReNEWal Road: The Journey of Becoming More Like Jesus. I had plans to post weekly, but I'm feeling that was more my plans than God's or perhaps He's telling me to wait. Regardless of the reason, I'm surrendering. 

Rather than focusing on the study not happening, I find myself thinking about that seed dying. I'm not sure what will grow from it, but I trust God will do more with a seed that dies than one I try to make grow.

So friend, if you were planning on joining I encourage to get the book and invite a friend to walk the road with you. And stay tuned...this farmer's wife knows sometimes it takes awhile to harvest the fruit that only God can grow!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking to our hearts and using your Word to guide us in your ways. Keep our eyes set on you and our hearts tender to your leading. Help us die to self so that can you can live. Thank you for the reminder that seeds that die produce fruit. Open my eyes to see the fruit you are growing in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Little Reflection and Big Invitation

Hello Friends, it's a joy to join you here today! I'd love to invite you to join me for a journey - the journey of becoming more like Jesus! This fall I'm hosting a study here on my blog and at my church...together we will be walking through "ReNEWal Road"!

This is a journey that will be like any trip you've taken; there will be hills and valleys, good times and bad, but it will all be worthwhile. Time in God's Word is never wasted! Pause now and think about this question - "Do you need renewal?" 

If you answered "yes," I ask you to pray about joining us. Life can wear us out and worry can weigh us down, we need renewal and God will provide it. And as we seek Him in one area, He often will impact another. I know He's worked in and changed my heart as I studied, wrote and now continue to live out this message. I have no doubt He will do the same for you!

As the publication process unfolded for this study, I found myself reflecting. God has been renewing my mind and transforming me from the inside out. I don't recommend this book to you or invite you to the study because my name is on the cover, but because God's Word holds the power. I can say without a doubt the living and active Word has changed me, and friend, I believe it can and will do the same for you. 

A couple of weeks ago we held the 6th Renewed Life Women's Event and again God did more than we had asked for or could have imagined. I was encouraged by the things I saw and stories I heard. I was impacted by the messages others shared and appreciated the fellowship that took place. In the days that followed I experienced one of my friend's favorite sayings, "God blesses obedience." I echo her words. 

You see, writing this study was an act of obedience. Standing on stage and sharing my testimony was the same. Being transparent and speaking in front of a group don't come naturally for me, but God led me to do it and I did. He equipped me, provided for me and used my words. 

The day following the event, I stood in church and let the tears fall as we sang, "Blessed Be Your Name." In the wake of such a good day, you might think that would be an easy song to sing. It was, but it was emotional as well. You see those words are ones I asked our pastor to sing 9 years ago, the day after we had a miscarriage. 

There were tears then as well...tears of pain, loss and grief. Like Job, I had experienced God taking away. At the time, I was only 8 years into my walk with Christ and this was the first real painful loss I'd experienced. The memories of those days still bring tears and remind me of how lonely a miscarriage can be. At the same time, I'm reminded of how powerful God's presence truly is. 

I had experienced God's provision and peace, but this took everything to a new level. His comfort, His Word and His people were seen in a whole new way as I walked through pain I couldn't even describe. My flicker of faith became a flame as Jesus accompanied me through the shadow of death. A desire to share my faith was born as I grieved the little one who had died. 

Nine years have passed since that Sunday and God has done much. Psalm 37:4 says, "Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Through that trial and time of suffering God drew me to Himself, renewed my hope and strengthened my faith. In the years that have followed, He's drawn me into His Word, transformed my mind and given me the desires of my heart. 

Friend, I still can't put it all in words, but I know Hebrews 4:12 is true - "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." I've also experienced 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 

As I wrap up this up let me encourage you, nine years ago I never expected to write a Bible study. If you find yourself in a place of pain, deep grief or unending trial, keep seeking the Lord. Ask Him to give you a hunger for His Word. He hears your prayer and will speak to you through the Scriptures. He is our good Father and great God...walk with Him and run to Him. He is faithful and worthy of our worship when He gives and when He takes away. May we always remember Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." 

Friend, if you find yourself needing renewal or looking for a tool to get you into God's Word I again invite you to join us for a study as we walk "ReNEWal Road" and learn from one another. My plans are to share a blog post every Wednesday as we work through the study. I'd love to hear from you and learn alongside you! 

If you need a copy of the book, you can order one directly from me by clicking HERE or order one on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Monday, August 21, 2017

"It Wasn't Me"

My local friends and regular readers might be surprised to know we've added a new child to our home this summer. We simply call this individual, "The Naughty Kid." Anytime nobody knows who left the door open, the milk out or water running we say, "It must have been the 'Naughty Kid.'"

The older kids laugh and understand exactly what we are talking about, while at times it still confuses our little guys. But because of this invisible, little individual, we're talking about owning our actions and learning someone is to blame.

This past weekend I found myself sometimes speaking and often thinking a phrase that can be common in our home with 5 children - "It wasn't me!" Only I wasn't trying to disown the blame, I was attempting to refuse the credit.

On Saturday, we enjoyed the 6th annual Renewed Life Women's Event in our small town. God again did amazing things. We enjoyed powerful messages from Luann Prater and listened to impactful testimonies from local speakers. The worship team ushered us into the presence of God and fellowship with sisters uplifted our soul.

Personally, this year was a bit different...on top of helping organize the day and introduce our speaker, I too gave a message from the stage. For the girl who 14 years ago struggled to voice her name at a MOPS meeting, this is quite the step. I was also the one others approached to sign a book that contained my name on the cover.

Honestly, as I sit her in the wee morning hours it all still seems crazy and I want to echo my kids' words - "It wasn't me!" I prayed and shared these thoughts with my heavenly Father and realized this time the phrase is true. I'm not saying this to blame "the Naughty Kid", but give credit to our Great God!

Psalm 126:3 says, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad." The NIV states, "and we are filled with joy." No words could better express my thoughts about the Renewed Life Women's Event and my Bible study, Renewal Road. But these words from Scripture describe my feelings about even more - the transformational work God has done in my life.

He's taken an insecure woman who's often felt unworthy and changed me from the inside out. He's used a girl who thought her voice didn't matter and encouraged the hearts of others. He's done more than I could ever ask or imagine and that makes me glad.

Friend, I encourage you to stop for a moment today and think about what our good and great God has done for you! Thank Him and receive His work and His words. If He's reminding you of blessings, praise Him. If He's convicting of you sin, don't blame "the Naughty Kid" - ask for forgiveness, repent and join Him for the journey towards holiness.

Regardless of what the great things are, remember our response - to be filled with joy! Share that joy with others so that they too see our mighty God for who He is...the giver of ALL good things! Let's thank Him today...I'd love for you to comment about one of the great things God has done for you so we can praise Him together!

Dear Heavenly Father, you are so, so good. You do things we never think we could. You use us, You bless us, You change us. May we continually humble ourselves before You. I pray we always remember it is You who are good and may we never forget You are working in us to make us godly. Help us join You in the process and be grateful for the journey. Thank You Lord for who You are and all You do. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen

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 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 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