Sunday, July 29, 2018

After you plant...

We're way past planting season here in Iowa, but last week I found myself thinking about the seeds we put in the ground. If you've never found yourself living on the land, chances are you haven't thought much about the time between planting and harvesting and that's OK! But there just might be a lesson for you, so please read on!

A lot of work goes into preparing the soil before we plant and the process of planting takes time and effort too, but there's more to it than that. We've picked rocks, my husband's been cultivating and now it's time for us to walk beans. My brother-in-law will be spraying and maybe even foiler feeding. The other night as we walked up and down the rows pulling weeds my mind went to work.

The day before I was blessed to be part of a faith-building sports camp held in memory of my niece. Testimonies were shared, truth was proclaimed and fun was had. Young people shared from their heart and asked questions that were was a good day. Seeds were planted and we pray fruit will grow.

These prayers are vital, but my night in the field reminded me the work is not yet done. When we put corn and bean seed in the ground we don't just leave it til fall; friend, something similar could be said about the spiritual seed we plant.

Clearly, they're will be no harvest without seeds planted, but our crop is better when we do the hard work of soil tilling, rock removal and weed pulling. This takes time and effort, but it's work God rewards. He will do the same in the spiritual fields.

Stop with me for a minute and think about these questions - What seeds do you plant? How do you follow up your efforts? Are there rocks you could pick or weeds you could pull? Is there cultivating to do?

Friend, our situations may be different, but some of our answers could be similar. The biggest thing we can do after we plant, is what we probably did before - PRAY. I've been a part of different ministry events and have heard it said, "Pray more than you prepare." This is great advice and I think we could add to it - "Pray as you reflect and rejoice."

It's easy to walk away from an event where we've sensed God's presence and be grateful for all God's done. This is a good thing to do, but my time in the field reminded me it's not the last thing we should do. A farmer never plants a field, leaves it and returns with a combine months later. Believe me, farmers like to check on their crops and spiritually, I pray we have a similar desire to follow up on the seeds we've planted.

This isn't possible in every situation, but in the instances it is, we should be diligent to pray, invest in relationships, til soil, share Truth and water the seed.

Ultimately, the words Paul shared in 1 Corinthians 3:6 are true. He says, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." Only God can cause something that is dead to grow, only He can take what is small and produce a harvest that is large and only God can know the timing it all takes. But as farmers of spiritual fields, there are things we can do after we plant. I encourage you to be mindful and prayerful of the process. Ask God to show you what work you can do to nourish the crop He is growing. Look for ways to remove the rocks of temptation and weeds of sin.

The hearts we plant into are a bit different than the soil a farmer works with...a bean plant doesn't look at another plant, but friend, people are watching you and me. The life we live and words we use set an example. Is it one that will help the seed grow?

As you prepare to plant and wait for seeds to grow, I pray these words encourage and take root -

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

"He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, 
shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him." 
Psalm 126:6

"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains." 
James 5:7

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Get your hope up!

Get your hope up!

Have you ever heard this before? If not, no worries, I hadn't either until the other day. We've been walking through grief here and our hearts are hurting. In moments of pain and seasons of trial, it can be easy to lose hope. We can be discouraged and depressed, heartbroken and hopeless, afraid and anxious. Our minds drift and thoughts wonder. One minute we're emotional and the next numb. 

In times like this, it would be beneficial to tell ourselves this new line, but more important than hearing these words, we need to understand them. To do so, let's think about a few questions.

What is hope? Biblically, hope is an indication of certainty and means a strong and confident expectation. 

Where do we find hope? Psalm 39:7 says, "And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." While Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

What's the result of hope? Let's look to Scripture for some answers...

 "The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." Psalm 147:11

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5

"But they who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Romans 8:24-25

Friend, hope is a big part of Christianity. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection we can have complete confidence in God's promises. Scripture tells us what to expect; trials are on the list. Those moments of pain and seasons of suffering don't surprise our heavenly Father and don't compare to the pain endured by our Lord and Savior. 

If life has you feeling hopeless, may these truths and promises encourage you to "Get your hope up!" It's not an easy task and one we must do again and again, but it's worthwhile. The world may tell us, "Don't get your hopes up!", but as believers we must remember who our hope is in! God will never let us down and He will fulfill all His promises. May we rest in that today. 

Heavenly Father, when life is hard, tears fall and answers don't come, remind me of the hope I have in you. I pray for the one who feels alone and the other who has questions, meet them in their struggle and help them with the pain. Show them who you are and what you have done. When the storms rage and understanding fades, help us all hold onto hope. In the midst of the battle may we cling to You. Father God, you are a promise keeper, may we remember that always. We praise you and thank you for the hope you provide. Lord, be the shield around me, lift our heads, comfort our souls and heal our broken hearts. In Jesus' precious and powerful name, Amen.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hope for when you hurt...

Welcome to my friends visiting from the Encouragement Cafe! I pray my devotional, "She's Getting What I Want" spoke to your heart today. I know it spoke to mine. If you'd like to read it, click HERE.

The experience I shared in that post happened years ago, but it was a lesson for today.

Just yesterday morning, I shared these words on my Facebook page - 

Today, I woke with a heart that was heavy and a plate that was full. My list seems long and motivation gone. Grief has a way of flooding us while sadness tries to overwhelm us. Questions tend to multiply while answers seem extinct.
Friend, I don't know what your life looks like, but can I encourage you with the words the Lord put on my heart, the verse He brought to mind and song that is running through my head? If you're in a hard place, I pray they encourage you too.
"Don't quit. Do the next right thing. Pray."
"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14
From Chris Tomlin's, "Lord, I Need You" - "When I cannot stand, I'll fall on you." 

We, our family, our extended church family and our community are walking through grief. A young man gone too early. Hurting hearts, unanswered questions, pain that can't be described. 

It's a pain that could cause a person to push a way. To distance themselves from God. To think and maybe even scream, "It's not fair!" Because you know, that's how it feels. 

But like Jake's sister said, "My heart is broken, but God's ways and plans are higher and far better than ours even when we don't understand. He's had him from the beginning and He has him now." And his brother, "I know God is here today as He was yesterday."

Friend, their world has been rocked and perhaps your's has too. It happens, eventually it seems to all of us - situations change, relationships break, jobs end, illness comes, death happens. The things we thought weren't fair as a child dim in comparison. 

Life is hard, but God is God. He doesn't change. Hebrews 13:8 tells us God is "the same yesterday, today and tomorrow." He was loving, graceful and forgiving last week, the same is true today and will be forever. He's had a plan since the beginning of time and though our plans change, His remains. 

I've thought, prayed and cried much over the last couple of days. I don't understand and I don't have words, but I have hope. Honestly, there are moments it appears to be a flicker, but the light of Christ is shining. The Holy Spirit is at work reminding me when I don't have words, I need to go to the Word. I'm thankful for that advice. God's Word equips, brings comfort, reminds me I'm not alone and puts things into an eternal perspective. 

When I don't understand, Proverbs 3:5 eventually comes to mind - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart lean not on your own understanding." Death is just one thing in life we don't understand...instead of letting that lead to frustration, I pray it encourages you to trust. Psalm 147:5 says, "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite."

Friend, in these moments we don't understand, the trials that come and the days that are hard, we have an opportunity. We can cry out to God, He knows our hearts and wants to hear from His people. He sees our pain and can handle our questions. Like Peter, we too can ask God questions. I pray we're willing to obey His response - "You must follow me."

Let's pray...

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your presence and your Spirit. We ask you to intercede and to provide. We thank you for peace that passes all understanding. We ask you for that for all who are hurting and grieving. Lord, help us trust and remember who you are. May we rest in your promises today. In Jesus' precious and powerful name, Amen.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Process of Planting

It's been a long planting season here on the farm. A week ago, I found myself doing a job I'd never done and I thought about this process to a depth I never really had before. As I went back and forth across the field cutting cover crop in front of the digger, many thoughts crossed my mind. There are many parts that make up this process...

Planning...My husband doesn't just plant our fields on the spur of the moment. Last winter, he spent time looking at seed, soil samples and other things to get ready for the work we did this spring.

Preparation...Along with planning, planting requires preparation. There's more than simply buying seeds. We have to work the soil and sometimes plant cover crops.

People...We can't do anything alone. It's true, only my husband operates the planter, but others are involved in the process. Even I have had to step out of my comfort zone, take some risks and learn new skills in my years as a farmer's wife.

Patience & Perseverance...When it comes to farming, timing is key. We have to wait for the soil to be ready and then for the crop to grow. It also requires perseverance, the work is rarely easy and the process can be long and drawn out. Farmers must stay focused when there's seed to put in the ground.

Purpose & Perspective...In the long days of planting, when time is short and pressure is on, it's important to keep things in perspective and remember your purpose.

Power...It takes power to plant seeds. We need horse power to pull equipment, but we need God's power to produce a crop.

Prayer...The biggest part of this process is prayer. It helps us be patient, reminds us who has power and keeps things in perspective. This summer we had a lot of rain, which kept delaying our planting. This could have led to worry, but prayer brought peace and reminded us who was in control.

Friend, I don't know if you've ever driven a tractor across the field or relied on a crop to feed your family, but I do know, if you are a Christian this process is for you. Luke 8:11b says, "The seed is the word of God." 

As believers, we have seeds to our own hearts and in the hearts of others. The process truly is no different. We can plan and prepare. There is work to do before we plant; we must build relationships and ask God to till the hearts' soil. Hosea 10:12 says, "Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you."

While we plant, we must be patient and be willing to persevere. Planting spiritual seeds is a process and it too takes time. We must wait on God and trust His timing. We must also remember that people are involved, only God knows our role and the fruit our seeds will produce. May we never forget He has the power! 1 Corinthians 3:6 instructs us, "I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

Friend, today I encourage you to take part in the process of planting! The crop you produce will do more than feed your family, it will impact others for eternity!!

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, thank you for the process of planting and the lessons you teach on the farm. May we take spiritual planting even more serious than the work we do in the fields. Help us plan and prepare. May we be patient and willing to work. Help us keep it all in perspective and trust in your power. Lord, we know timing is important, so give us wisdom as when to plant. Thank you for the opportunity to work for you, we praise you for the harvest that is yet to come! In Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Then he said to his disciples, 
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest 
to send out laborers into his harvest.” 
Matthew 9:37-38