Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Ripple Effect

A welcome to those of you joining me from Encouragement Cafe! It's been a blessing to share a few recent devotionals and to be walking through my study, "ReNEWal Road" with you! As I've read comments and prayed, God's brought much to mind. He's reminded me of doubts, fears and insecurities. I never expected to be at a place where I wrote and then led a Bible study, but God worked. He's done so much in my heart and mind. He's helping me become who He created me to be. He's helped me overcome and trust. He's equipped me to seek and obey. He's given me the gift of faith and helps me believe. His mercies are new every morning and His grace never ends. 

He's used time in His Word to renew my mind. He's used messages from my pastor to convict and teach. He's worked through people - prayers, encouraging words, wisdom and listening ears. All of this plays a part in who I am and what God has done. I'm so thankful for each and everyone who's helped along the way. 

Tonight the Lord brought to mind a post from a couple of years ago. Before you read it below, I want to encourage you with a truth that's been on my heart: "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6 Friend, no matter where you are at or what your life looks like, God is still at work. Seek Him, Trust Him and Obey Him. His work doesn't always follow our schedule, but it is part of His perfect plan. 

As He works in you, may you allow Him to work through you. The things you say and do make an impact. Do your best to be a part of someone else's story!

The Ripple Effect (April 17, 2016)
Spring has finally arrived here in Iowa, which means life is busy on the farm. Today in between feeding my farmers and helping clean up some oats, the kids and I took time to do one of their favorite things. We walked down to the neighbor's quarry and threw rocks. We've been doing this for years and though I no longer push a stroller, God continues to teach me a lesson. 

One thing that continues to strike me as I enjoy the view and slice of solitude is the ripple that's always created when the kids throw rocks. No rock enters the water without making a difference. Few rocks leave a single impact on the water. Most of them create a ripple in the water that continues to spread long after the rock pierces the surface. 

Today as my kids enjoyed this activity for the first time in months, my mind went to work thinking about something God has had on my heart. I too am leaving a mark...granted I'm not throwing rocks to do it, but I am using words and my actions to make a difference. The question is: Is it one for good or not? 

Friend, join me in thinking about the words that left your mouth today. Did they encourage, uplift and equip? Or were they filled with anger and pierced the heart? Our words impact the one we are speaking to, but they affect others as well - the people who over hear our conversation and those who come in contact with the one we impacted. Just like the rocks my kids throw create ripples in the water, our words do the same in the hearts of those we love. 

Do you want that impact to be positive for those you love and glorifying to the God we serve? If so, scripture has some wisdom for us -

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)

"Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips." (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:6)

There's much more to say about our words and the power of the tongue, but let's also think about our actions a bit. Think about the things you do, the attitude you have and body language you use. What kind of impact does this have on the people around you? I know it doesn't take long to read that question, so I encourage you to stop for a minute and really think about it. How would your husband or children answer that question? Or your co-workers or church family? 

Friend, I know it's possible for Satan to use this to condemn you, but I pray that won't happen. Instead if it's necessary I'm asking God to use it to convict you. Allow Him to examine your heart and if needed let Him show you how your actions aren't leaving the mark you want. God created each of us for His glory and to do good. This is no easy task, but with God's leading and the Spirit's filling it is possible. 

Colossians 3:17 pretty much sums it up - "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

As I watched my little guys, I realized they didn't have to do much to create a ripple effect. They simply had to pick up the rocks and throw them. Friend, we don't have to complicate this process either. Let's allow God to fill us up by spending time with Him in His Word and through prayer and then let Him pour us out. 

This sounds simple and easy on paper, but I know it's work. It takes time, effort and self-control. But you know what? If we don't practice this before we throw the rock, so to speak, it will take more time, effort and self-control to fix the mess we create. Because the truth is we are always creating a ripple effect! We might as well make it one we're proud of and God is pleased with!

It was quite fitting tonight to read the following post when I checked Facebook. A friend had shared these words with a mutual friend - "So thankful for you and for how you change my world constantly and consistently by pointing me to Jesus!" Followed by this quote, "You get to change the world every time you change someone's day." Friends, that's a glimpse of a positive ripple effect. The things we do and say - they matter. It doesn't matter if they are BIG or little things, but instead it's the heart they are said and done with and the One they point to. Want to change the world? Start by changing someone's day!

I want to close with a song that God periodically brings back to me...John Waller's, "Somebody Else's Story". I encourage you to think about the words he sings, they tie right in with the ripple effect. 

Do you want to be a part of somebody else's story? Do you want to be the one who shines the light of Jesus? I know that can be hard and scary, but think about it this way - Who has played a part in your story? Who's ripple has impacted you in a positive way? Aren't you grateful for them? Let their ripple continue as you impact another!!

Friend, I don't know if we've met face to face or not, but God has connected hearts here and I'm grateful for you!! I appreciate YOU, your encouragement and friendship! I'm thankful YOU are part of my story and I pray 1 Thessalonians 5:11 continues to be true in your life and mine - "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

Dear Heavenly Father, in the same way the water ripples, I pray my actions and words will positively impact others. Thank you for the reminder that what I do matters and always impacts others, I desire for that to be a difference that matters for eternity. Use me Lord in another's story...may I point others to You and may they in turn do the same. It doesn't take a big rock to make a splash, which reminds me it doesn't take a famous speaker or powerful pastor to impact Your kingdom. So Father God I ask You to fill me up so You can pour me out. Help me create a ripple for You today. In the precious and powerful name of Jesus I pray...Amen

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Everyone Needs a Cheerleader (And an Invitation)

Sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but a while back I found myself thinking about an activity I've never been a part of - cheerleading. We always had cheerleaders at our games and leading our pep rallies, but as one playing these individuals never had my undivided attention. I was aware of their presence and appreciated their role, but just recently was reminded of the importance of their job.

I'm embarking on something new and have been a bit anxious about it, but I knew it was God's leading, so I stepped out in obedience without really sharing my fears. At the same time, I'm also embracing God's change of plans for me though the worry of what others might think has entered my mind.

So as I walk this road, others come alongside. They don't always know what I'm experiencing or how I'm feeling, but God does. Sometimes He meets our needs through the people He puts on our path. He did just that with words from my friend. Words that expressed excitement and confidence. A message that brought peace and joy. Ones that left me thinking - "Everyone needs a cheerleader!"

My friend would probably say she didn't do much, but I want to remind all of us - our words matter. So does the time we take to share them. They are an investment we make, not only in others, but when we are encouraging one who's walking in faith, we're investing in God's kingdom.

Think about the people in your life. What are you saying to them? Would they consider you a cheerleader? Or would they label you a critic? I'm a football mom and I'm sorry to say life has more critics than the bleachers and sidelines on a Friday night.

There is a time and a place to offer criticism and point out sin, but there's also a great need to offer words that uplift and remind others they are not alone. So my prayer for today is we'd all be a cheerleader. You don't need a skirt and pom-poms, but you need a heart that loves. You can simply speak words that inspire and motivate; ones that offer courage and support.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

Cheerleaders play a role at athletic events, but their job is much more important in the spiritual sense. As believers we're in a battle much more difficult than any game, we face an opponent stronger than any team, so we must join together and cheer one another on. Will you join me?

One of the areas we can support each other is studying God's Word. If you'd like to be involved in a study, I'd love for YOU to join me at Encouragement Cafe! Starting September 24th, we will be walking through ReNEWal Road: The Journey of Becoming More Like Jesus. This is a study God led me to put on paper and now will use to guide you to His Word. If you'd like more info let me know and visit the official invitation page HERE.

Finally, for my cheerleading friends a BIG thank you! God truly uses your words, support and encouragement more than you know! As Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." Keep it up - you are doing a good thing!!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Fan and Follower

Did you hear the Super Bowl was played this weekend? That may sound confusing as the NFL season just kicked off, but in Iowa we had our state's biggest game. With no professional teams to cheer for the most anticipated game of the season is the battle between the Iowa State Cyclones and Iowa Hawkeyes. It took place yesterday in Iowa City and much to my dismay the hometown Hawks came out with a victory.

We are a Cyclone house for the most part, but our two little guys are breaking the trend and sporting the black and gold. Needless to say we had a little trash talking going on throughout the week. Like any good fan, we were confident our team would win.

So the game came and went. There were moments of joy and frustration for both sides, but in the end our little guys had the bragging rights. They were excited and though I was disappointed, life moved on and as it did God reminded me of a truth.

When it comes to sports, we are to be fans. We can cheer and wear our team's colors. We can even get excited when they do well and disappointed when they lose, but we must keep it all in perspective.

Yesterday during halftime of the game I made my way to the kitchen and got the dishes done. As I finished the job, a thought entered my mind: I hadn't turned the radio show on to listen to the analysis. I instantly said a quick prayer, "Thank you Lord."

You see, there have been times in my life when sports were too important. I had to know all the details, hear all the commentary and read all the stories. I wasn't just a fan of my team, I was a follower. Back then a loss like yesterday's would have left me miserable today.

Thankfully, I no longer "follow" the Cyclones, but I follow Jesus. Matthew 4:19 says, "And He (Jesus) said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'"

Friend, kept in perspective sports can be a great thing. They not only provide joy, but teach countless lessons and paint pictures of spiritual truths. But if they become the object of our focus, we're going to get in trouble.

We need to follow the One who knows where we need to go. We need to set our minds on Him and things above. The fruit of His Spirit brings true joy that will never fade when a season ends and His peace trumps the pain a loss can bring.

I believe we can be a fan of sports while we are following Christ, but we must keep it all in check or we may be tempted to become a fan of Jesus while we follow our team.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Watch for Weeds's something we have plenty of in our organic bean fields. I was blessed to share one way we try to combat them on Wendy Blight's blog. I'd love for you to stop by, enter for a chance to win a copy of my study and subscribe to her site - you'll be blessed! You can do so by clicking HERE.

Sometimes cultivating is not enough and we have to walk the beans. This means we walk up and down the row and pull the weeds. It's not an easy job, or a fun one, but it is often an educational one.

A tiny weed hidden between two bean plants.
A couple of weeks ago, I was out in the field with our hard-working crew when I got to thinking about how some weeds are hard to see. Some of them are small, look a bit like the beans and grow up right with them. If I'm not looking closely, I will walk right by. If I'm not paying attention, I won't even realize they are a weed.

I shared this info with my children and the rest of the crew and then God started speaking to my heart. Weeds grow between the rows of beans, but they also grow right up with the plant we hope to harvest. I was reminded the same is true in a spiritual sense...sin can creep right in with the fruit we are producing.

This lesson took place a few weeks before our women's event and the weed the Holy Spirit warned me about was pride. The cocky, boastful self-talk we know as pride is easy to recognize, but pride can look different and be hard to see. Insecurity is a form of pride as is a focus on self rather than God. Friend, this ugly weed can grow right up with the fruit God is growing in our lives.

Other weeds can too, so we must constantly be alert. I've found it powerful to pray Psalm 139:23-24 - "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life."

If we pray that prayer, God will answer it. We need to be prepared to respond to His answer. I'm never excited to see another weed in the field, but when I do I know what needs to be done. The same is true for the weeds in our heart - when God reveals them, we must remove them.

Friend, I encourage you to take some time to tend to the field of your heart. Ask God for eyes to see the weeds that are hidden and for a willingness to do the work of removal. Your efforts will be rewarded and the harvest will increase!!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the seeds you plant and the weeds you can remove. I ask You for eyes to see. Lord, if there is any pride growing up with the fruit please help me see it. If there's other sin I'm unaware of, open my eyes. Remove the weed. Uproot it all so that the harvest you produce in me and through me is pure. Thank you for the work you have begun and promise to complete. In Jesus' Name, Amen