by Terry Magness
It was a mature tree—a survivor—when the man bought his place nearly forty years ago. Somehow it had escaped the Dutch Elm disease that ravaged its way through the elm tree population in this country.
He knew the tree was special. He carefully removed clothesline stakes and nails that had been hammered into its trunk, tended its wounds, then carefully shaped and fertilized his beloved Elm. In his care for the tree, he became quite attached to it. The birds and squirrels loved to play in its branches. It was beautiful and provided refreshing shade in the summer.
The man built his home and landscaped, giving his tree a place of honor. Although surrounded on three sides by sidewalk and driveway, his elm continued to grow. Its mighty roots tunneled under these formidable barriers—lifting and breaking the slabs of concrete like crackers and slicing through the asphalt as if it were warm cheese. Its heightened boughs rested upon the roof of his house, bending the gutter and filling it with leaves. When the winds blew, limbs and branches fell, strewing his beautiful lawn and flower garden with debris.
The man saw the carnage his special tree had wrecked and was sad. He was torn by two choices: cut the tree down and repair the damage or allow the tree to continue to grow and pursue its devastating course.
As I thought about his situation, I received a personal revelation. I, just as the man’s prized tree, when left to my own devices can become a destructive force adversely affecting not only myself, but also those around me—even to generations.
When left unchecked and unattended by God’s laws and boundaries, we run headlong into God’s laws of nature governing this planet, namely, the second law of thermodynamics which establishes the concept of entropy. In other words, with a lack of order or predictability, comes a gradual decline into disorder. Left to themselves, everything, including people, will begin to degenerate and eventually come to ruin.
God the Father was faced with the same choices as the man with the unruly Elm tree. Israel, whom He has loved and treasured as His own since Abraham, became a wild tree—a prideful and rebellious people. Like many of us, they grew outside the parameters He had established for their wellbeing. They refused to listen to God’s wisdom and instructions. They chose instead their own path. God had to make the hard choice to cut them off from His protective care. His great desire was that the ensuing trials and heartaches they would suffer would prompt them to change direction. Just as when a prideful, rebellious son finds himself on a path of incalculable hardship and sorrow, true parental love will do whatever it takes to turn him around.
Our Father’s foremost concern is reconciliation and restoration. Likewise, we cannot afford to be afraid, but must bravely take firm but loving action where sin is involved. Yes, it can be a tough choice to make, but genuine love calls for selflessness that realizes the issue is not whether someone will become angry with us--maybe quit the church, avoid us at work, or perhaps think we are a mean mom. It is really not about us! With our children, this is the consideration: what sort of an adult am I raising? How am I helping to cultivate character in those around me? Am I encouraging growth in a positive direction in others?
Do we love enough to allow the people we care for to suffer the consequences of their choices, so they are given the opportunity of seeing their need for God? Do we love enough to set proper boundaries and parameters? Do we think in terms of what we will lose in the process, or do we consider instead what they can gain--what is truly best for those in our sphere of influence?
Tough love may seem harsh initially; but if done with the same purpose and compassion of Christ, it can yield the delicious fruit of righteousness. Yes, the old stump will die, but you can celebrate and rejoice because hope lies ahead—Jesus is the resurrection and life: "At least there is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” --Job 14:7-9 NIV
God’s choice purpose for Israel was a change of heart in the people, so he could help them grow and could bless them: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in his shade.” --Hosea 14:4-7 NIV
Now an ordained AG minister, Terry Magness was once a broken, wounded, angry, and abuse-hardened woman, until God’s redeeming love confronted, delivered, healed, and transformed her life. In 1995, Terry founded Grace Harbour Ministries, a not-for-profit, Biblically based teaching, prayer, and discipleship ministry to women. Through Biblical counseling, coaching, and mentoring, she helps soul-wounded women come to know God in a personal way, conquer sin, overcome life challenges, and live Spirit-empowered lives. Throughout her global ministry she has witnessed God’s captive-freeing power at work. Terry has authored two books--Ever Increasing Grace and Azadiah Reynolds: God’s Jamaica Man—and three booklets in her Pocket Scriptures series. She enjoys people, writing, photography, art, nature, and relaxing on the water while fishing with her quick-witted husband, Don, who keeps her laughing. Their amazing children and three priceless granddaughters remind them daily to be ever thankful for God’s wondrous blessings.
by Jill St. John
Make hay while the sun shines.
The early bird gets the worm.
Any job worth doing
is a job worth doing right.
I’m a farm girl, and my family had more sayings like that than ants at a picnic. The truths of those sayings continue to replay in my mind and shape my behavior. We raised sheep and grew alfalfa, wheat, corn, oats, barley, and soybeans. I learned to work hard and to love the outdoors. Because farming is an outdoor enterprise, weather plays a huge role in it. But even if the weather kept us out of the field, we were busy in the waiting. We would be in the barns and shops, making repairs and preparations for when we could go out into the field.
On our family farm, my dad grew alfalfa that made hay for the sheep. As he waited for the alfalfa to grow, he was preparing all of the equipment to be ready for the harvest.
It reminds me of James 5:7: "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." (NIV, emphasis added)
See how the farmer waits. I know firsthand how farmers wait. They wait for the frost of winter to give way to the warmth of spring. They wait for the ground to be pliable enough to sow the seed. They wait for the seed to germinate, sprout, root, and grow, developing the crop to be harvested. In the waiting, they are not sitting around twiddling their thumbs. They are not biding the time for the corn to be waist-high by the 4th of July. To see how a farmer waits is to see how a farmer is always working. Even in the waiting, they are always tending what they are growing and preparing for the harvest. They know the crop is growing, even if it does not look like it. They know the tractors and equipment will need to be ready to go. Farmers are active in the waiting.
In the field of ministry, we are often in the position of waiting and can take cues from this passage. Waiting like a farmer might be identifying an incredible young woman of God who needs time to develop and mature before she is ready for greater responsibility. Instead of waiting for her to mature and be ready, I can invite her to join me in what I am doing for Jesus. I do not have it all figured out, but over my years in ministry, God has taught me things that might be helpful to pass on to her; e.g., lessons I’ve learned the hard way, as well as books and podcasts that I find helpful for perspective and spiritual development.
Waiting like a farmer might be waiting for a loved one to surrender to Jesus. Instead of being frustrated and exasperated in waiting for them to come to Jesus, I can implement a strategic prayer plan. I pray in faith, trusting that God is doing a work even if I cannot see it. Here is a simple daily rhythm I use in praying for those I am waiting to come to Jesus:
For those I’m waiting to come to Jesus
Protection & Softness to God
TUESDAY: Timing of God
Their job & the Work of God
THURSDAY: Thirst for Jesus
That the Lord will put Godly people in their lives
SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Sometime Soon
They will be in church worshiping God
Let’s make the most of the time God gives us each day, even when we are in a waiting season. "So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up or quit." (Galatians 6:9 The Message)
If my Dad had waited for the crops to be perfectly ripe before he fired up the tractor, he would not have been ready for the harvest. If he had waited to prepare the harvest equipment, he would have been late for the harvest and maybe missed it altogether.
See how the farmer waits; he is actively preparing for the harvest. May the Lord help us work while we are in the waiting, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be ready for a great harvest!
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 28 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City: 6 years as youth pastors, 22 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word – helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, gardening, laughing and hanging out with friends, her husband and two young adult kids and kids-in-law are the delights of her life!
by Kim Oyler
As is typical in life, I have something to celebrate this season and something to mourn. We are new to farming and to cattle. This was our first experience with calving, and we were so excited. I was especially looking forward to the birth and new life on the farm. I wanted to experience it all! I was even willing to get my hands dirty in the process if need be. Actually, I was secretly hoping to get my hands dirty! I was all in! At the very least, I was hoping to be able to witness the birth, watch our first-time heifer cow become a mama, and watch our new calf’s wobbly first steps.
So began the questioning of ourselves: What if we had been there? Could we have saved it? What did we do wrong? And then the sad conclusion: we’re bad farmers! In addition to that conclusion came an onslaught of disappointment and regret. We were now back to square one. What we had worked so hard for was gone and now we had to start over. This last year felt like a waste. And now we must wait another year to see the fruits of our labor.
It felt a lot like ministry. The hard work. The investment. The dedication. The anticipation. The hope of seeing all of that hard work pay off. When things don’t work out, we feel the disappointment, the regret. We ponder the "what ifs" and the "if onlys."
We question our ability. We question our efforts. Was it worth it? Did we just waste our time? Will anything good come out of this season?
The strength to keep investing, keep working, keep loving what we do is challenged. But the Call to Serve is still strong. The Call to Love still beats within our chest. The lack of success at the moment is met with the hope for a new day, a new season, and a chance to try again.
My husband and I are non-traditional church planters. We started with a desire to pastor and the blessing of a small building but nothing else. No money. No staff. No mother church.
It has been a slow and steady progression of “success” for ten years, but this past year, a setback. A dead calf if you will. Everything we were building and working towards seemed threatened as we experienced our first church split. A reason to mourn. A reason to question ourselves. Are we bad pastors? Could we have prevented this? What did we do wrong? The feeling that we are starting over is real and present. The reality of continuing to work hard is true. We continue to dedicate ourselves to the church and to the people but also knowing there will be a delay in seeing the fruit of our labor.
Today on the farm,
a live calf was born
in our pasture.
A reason to rejoice!
Much like ministry, there are painful things that exist alongside joyful things. We can mourn our losses. But we must choose to see the new birth that is happening alongside the loss. Currently, we are meeting new faces every week. New life is springing up. People are hungry and growing. There is new freedom bursting forth in our services. So, I will celebrate the new life in the face of mourning our losses. I will also choose to look ahead with hope and expectation for more new life in our church and on our farm!
Kim and her husband, Brad, have been in ministry 30 years, the last 11 years as copastors of Courageous Life Church in Independence, Missouri. They have two adult sons, 3 grandchildren and 2 middle school aged sons that keep them busy. Kim enjoys farm life and being outdoors, as well as writing and teaching. She is stepping into a new season of courage and obedience as she continues to grow in her walk with the Lord.
by Linda Brown
You know that person to whom nobody knows quite how to respond?. The one who makes some people say things like, “She keeps talking about this thing that happened almost two years ago.”
“Where is her faith?”
“She has lost her joy. I feel kind of sorry for her, but I never know what to say when she talks about her grief.”
“It’s like she is a different person.”
Sometimes I am that person--the one with whom nobody knows quite what to do. They kind of hope I don’t talk about suffering today, because it’s an uncomfortable topic. However, it seems like almost every conversation leads to it at some point.
To be perfectly honest, sometimes I don’t know what to do with me since losing my daughter, Jessica. I am a different person. My thoughts are different. I see things differently. My faith is different. Let me clarify that statement. My faith is deeper than it has ever been. My joy is deeper, because it is only in Jesus, not in people or things. My perspective is deeper. Losing a loved one—especially a child—makes you take an immediate inventory of what is important in your life. That is partly because you don’t have the emotional energy to deal with the things that aren’t important. I find that I cling to the things of this life less tightly. I love my Lord, I love the Word; and I love my family and friends. Those are what bring me joy, along with so many other things: music, wildflowers, singing birds, sunrises, sunsets, the color green (because grass is green), delighting in a good, sweet watermelon in the summer, and sitting on the porch with my husband and neighbors.
Having joy—living a life of joy—does not necessarily mean laughing all the time and being the life of the party. Speaking of suffering does not necessarily mean a person is filled with depression and gloom.
Having a proper understanding of suffering has led me closer to Jesus. He suffered, and He assured us that we would suffer, too. He said that in this world we would have plenty of troubles; but in that same sentence He told us that He has overcome the world (John 16:33 ESV). Because He lived, suffered, died, and rose from the grave, we have a fabulous HOPE! We have the assurance that the pain of this life is not all there is. When we are surrendered to Him, we can look forward to the prospect of spending the rest of eternity with Jesus, while living out the good plan He had for us from the beginning.
The question is, "How am I going to live out the rest of my life while I am here on Planet Earth?" I want to be a living example of life, love, and hope, and at the same time, point people to Christ. God had a purpose for me the day before Jessica died; and He had the same purpose for me the day after she died. My life circumstances are entirely different now than they were then. However, my purpose is the same--to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul, and to love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:29-31). The opportunities each day may look different, but the purpose is the same. It’s not about me, but about what I do with those opportunities.
Did I ever think the death of my daughter would be an opportunity to share about the love and hope of Christ? Nope. And it’s certainly not an opportunity I wanted. But here it is. Our suffering may not feel good, but does that make it bad? None of us are Job, but as that wise man said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15 ESV) And thousands of years later, we read the story of his great faith in the ultimate goodness of God.
If you can relate to this, or if you are struggling with this, I pray for the peace of God to wash over you. There will still be hard days, but be comforted in this, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.” (2 Corinthians 1:5 ESV).
Linda Brown is a local teacher of the Word, women’s mentor, Certified Peer Specialist, and taker-of-sunrise photos. Her passion is encouraging and discipling women, and she does this through engaging in life with women in her community, writing, leading Bible studies, and facilitating small groups through ministries such as Celebrate Recovery, GriefShare, and While We’re Waiting, which is a biblically-based group focusing on the unique and seldom-talked about needs of bereaved parents. As a bereaved parent herself, and one who has overcome many life challenges through God’s word and the healing power of the Holy Spirit, Linda relates well to women who struggle with similar challenges, and delights in pointing them to the Hope she has found in Christ. Linda lives with her husband Paul and 13 year-old granddaughter in rural Missouri, where they enjoy porch time, and occasionally wrangling turkeys and cattle.
by Larincia Hambrick
A few years ago, we were house shopping and in the market to purchase a new home. We were so excited! Although my husband and I had been married awhile and started our family, this was the first time we had been house shopping together. As Realtor.com and Zillow junkies, we knew if we saw a house on the market that we liked, we had better move quickly, or it would be gone. We had just relocated to St. Louis and lived in my childhood home. That was a blessing, because we were able to save money for a down payment; however, it was not in the best neighborhood, so our goal was to find something quickly. On Sundays after church, we would load up the kids, pack their snacks, and tour as many open houses as we could.
The moment came when we thought we’d found the one. The house was absolutely stunning! It had recently been updated, and the smell of fresh paint filled every room. The kitchen had large cabinets and a center island. Each room on the first floor from the dining area to the living room, kitchen, and family room were encapsulated all around with big, beautiful windows where natural light filled the rooms to create an open and airy ambiance.
We decided to put an offer on the home and to get an inspection.
As a woman, I could already visualize where our furniture would be placed and the family meals we’d be eating together, but as the inspector looked closely at the house, he noted several major things wrong that a person with an untrained eye could not see or know to look for at first glance.
The house had evidence of untreated termite damage. The chimney needed to be repaired and the bricks needed to be tuck-pointed, and most of the beautiful windows were missing the springs made to hold them in place when you raised them. The basement was not waterproof, had cracks in the walls, and leaked water in from three sides of the house, which would cause the basement to flood. The inspector also found black mold behind bathroom walls...and the list goes on.
The laundry list of issues with this house was unbelievable, because it was aesthetically beautiful. The necessary repairs would be thousands of dollars, and we didn’t have thousands of dollars to sink into a house, so we backed out of the contract.
Often, it is the same with us. We look absolutely stunning on the outside, yet on the inside, we have cracks in our soul and are wreaking of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.
During the inspection, the inspector called me into the master bathroom. He pushed the bathtub stopper down, turned the water on, and filled the bathtub with water. He then pulled the stopper back up to see how quickly the water would drain to empty the bathtub. He discovered something was clogging the drain because the water drained very slowly. This is exactly what happens in the spirit realm when we harbor unforgiveness; our hearts get clogged. It’s hard to hear from God, experience His presence, have viable relationships with others, or even love ourselves properly when we fail to forgive.
There’s no doubt about it, ministry is messy. Our hearts get clogged, and sometimes our experience with just a handful of people can taint our relationships with others we need to let in. As women in ministry, we should be compelled to extend grace, because God has graciously extended it to us. In Matthew 18:22 ESV, Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive his brother. He wanted to know a specific number, so Peter inquired further and said, "Should I just forgive him seven times?” Jesus responded and said, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” The Lord was trying to show Peter that forgiveness is limitless; it knows no bounds. If you can count the number of times you have forgiven someone, then you haven’t forgiven enough.
We all have moments we struggle with forgiveness. That’s the reason Jesus talked about it so much in the gospels. The Lord never made forgiveness a conditional act. He doesn’t tell us to forgive if this or if that. The Word declares we must forgive others for their trespasses against us. Forgiveness should be granted without condition and limitation. We constantly need to be forgiven, and we constantly need to extend forgiveness to others. Luke 6:37 ESV says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Lord, I choose to forgive and release
I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made.
I receive your grace and forgiveness.
In Jesus Name. Amen.
Larincia holds a B.A. from Kentucky State University, an M.B.A from Indiana Wesleyan University, an A.A. from Valor Christian College and is an ordained minister of the Southern Missouri Ministry Network. She serves as the CFO of WEMA Logistics and is passionate about impacting her community. Larincia is a dynamic speaker, and is the founder of Destined to Reign Ministries, I Am Destined to Reign Boutique, the author of I Am Destined to Reign: Ditch the Baggage, Discover Your Identity & Walk in Royalty and a new devotional book entitled Gratitude in the Journey. Larincia is the proud wife to Hervera Hambrick, Life Groups Pastor at Twin Rivers Church in St. Louis, MO, and is the mom of two amazing boys--Josiah & Gabriel. When she isn't working, you can find her decorating, inviting people over for dinner, reading, or traveling.
by Julie Davenport
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
Song of Solomon 2:11-12
I have lived in Missouri for almost all my life. They say if you don’t like the weather in Missouri, just wait until the next day, and it will change. I love that we have four seasons. I love the new life in spring, the sun in the summer, the beautiful leaves in the fall, and I even like to watch the falling snow with my red birds at the bird feeder in the winter.
If there is one of those four seasons that I look forward to being over the most, it would have to be winter! Even as I type this and look out my window, it is sunny. Looks can be deceiving, though, because it is actually cold! I am ready for warm!
Have you ever been in a season of life that you are ready for it to be over? I remember when I went through many years of infertility, I was so anxious to someday have babies. When I finally had my two miracle babies, I was looking forward to the day when they would be out of diapers. When they were in all kinds of activities and I was chauffeuring them around, I was looking forward to the day they would drive. Now, looking back, it all went by so fast.
Although I miss those days of my girls being little, I am enjoying this season of having them as my adult friends. Now is a season of grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, and I am loving every minute. So many times, we end up wasting our time of enjoying the season we are in by always looking to the next season.
I remember a particularly hard season in my life several years ago about this time of year. I gained a bonus son in my second marriage, and he was going through a very low point in his life. We were desperate over his situation. At the same time, our youngest daughter had travelled to India for an extended stay to work as a missionary associate. I was concerned about her being so far away from home and the conditions she would be staying in.
On the spring morning after she left, both of these situations were heavily on my mind and in my prayers. I looked outside. In the little tree in my front yard were two dove eggs. I became fascinated with watching them hatch. In just a few days, they did! I watched them learn to fly and leave the nest in the days ahead. Amazingly, every day for a few weeks, they would both come and sit on the rail of my back deck. I named them after our son, Donnie, and my daughter, Chelsea. You may think I am a little crazy, but it was a reassurance to me every day that I saw them that Donnie and Chelsea were in the Lord’s hands. One day I only saw one of them! I was like, “Is that Donnie or Chelsea!”
Thankfully, Chelsea made it home safely from India and is now married and a mother. Donnie came through his crisis, miraculously, and came back to the Lord. After that, there would be more hard seasons to come. We have all gone through many seasons of sadness and sorrow. However, the Lord is always faithful. He always brings us through.
I want to encourage you today if you are in a hard season, know that “this too shall pass.” God will carry you through, and when you look back you will be stronger and more ready to face the days ahead.
Even if like me, you are older and have been through many seasons, you can look forward to the days ahead. I love this scripture in Proverbs 31:25 NIV:
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
I encourage you to embrace the season you are in today. God will not fail you. He never has and He never will. He has promised to clothe us with strength and dignity and that we can even face the days ahead with joy and laughter.
One more scripture from Psalm 126:2 KJV to put some spring in your step:
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
and our tongue with singing:
then said they among the heathen,
The Lord hath done great things for them.
My prayer for you dear ladies is for you to have a spring and summer filled with laughter, singing, and joy. No matter the season you are in, you can always find something to be thankful for and little things to celebrate.
I know that looking back at raising my children and the many seasons we have been through, I can say with confidence that the Lord has done great things, even in the midst of some of the hardest seasons. There have been treasures in the darkness. I am praying the same for you! Happy Spring and Summer!
If one word could depict a life, Julie Davenport’s would be “redemption.” As a child, Julie’s character was forged within a legacy of faith, godliness, and ministry, so when she married a charismatic young pastor on the fast-track to prominence, life was everything she’d dreamed it would be...on the outside. But inside, alone and hidden from view, Julie endured abuse, betrayal, and infidelities that spiraled to include miscarriage, cancer, divorce, mental illness, and eventually suicide. Julie is now an ordained AG minister who through speaking engagements and two daughters continues the legacy of ministry, God is using Julie’s life-story to validate His immeasurable grace and prove His power to redeem what Satan tried so hard to destroy.
by Kim Boley
"Teamwork makes the dream work!” ¹ My oldest daughter and I share this quote with each other anytime we’re working on something together. Cleaning up the house, picking out clothes for tomorrow, whatever. One of us will shout, “Teamwork!” and the other finishes by replying, “Makes the dream work!” and we usually high five. This not only gets us in a fun mood, but also helps her to see it’s good to include others in a goal. We can’t do life alone. This thought hit me the other day during our Tuesday night worship service (we’re college missionaries). As I watched my husband, James, preach that week, I was reminded how most of our students don’t know how hard each of our staff members and leadership team work to make that night possible.
However, there are many moving parts to create an environment that is smooth and welcoming to all who attend. It’s something we work at very hard, and each person has a role to play in creating this.
¹ John C. Maxwell, Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.
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