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

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 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.