Sow & Gather

endurance

Are You Ready to Run?

encouragement, encourageMarci AnthonyComment
run in such a way as to get the prize. #sowandgather #encouregement #encourage

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24

It’s an Olympic year! I get so excited when the summer Olympics air on TV. For two weeks my eyes are glued to the TV as I marvel at the physical and mental abilities of the world’s top athletes. So many of the athletes have trained for almost their entire life and sacrificed so much to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the world. It doesn’t get any bigger in sports than the Olympics.

I love watching the track and field events, specifically the running events. The athlete’s muscular build, strength, and speed is truly mesmerizing. From the moment the gun goes off runners are focused on only one thing, the finish line at the end. The runners know that if they reach that line first they will receive the most coveted prize of athletes all over the world, the title of Olympic Gold Medalist.

When you think about all the time and energy that goes into becoming an Olympic champion, one has to wonder is it worth it? If you ask any athlete who has competed at the Olympic level, most would answer, “Yes.” Competing on the world’s largest stage with the world’s best athletes is the pinnacle of any athlete's dream. If I told you that Christians have a similar challenge given to us by God, would you believe me?

God’s challenge is for us is to run a race, but the type of race God requires us to take part in is a race of the soul. You see, each and every day from the time we rise to the time we lay our heads on our pillows, our Coach (God) is pushing us and molding us into the individuals he wants us to be. He has given us our training manual (The Bible) which has all necessary answers to life’s hurdles we come in contact with daily. To help us with our mental stamina God equips us with the Holy Spirit. Lastly, helping us to fight through the final yards to the finish, God provides us with prayer so we can accomplish and win the race.

The best part about the race we are running is that everyone who crosses the finish line wins! God pushes us hard to reach His goal. The prize we receive when we cross the finish line is better than any Olympic medal; it’s the promise of eternity. Are you ready to run the race?

Dig Deeper |

Philippians 3:14; Galatians 5:7

Action Item |

Are you running God’s race or your own? Where do you need to make changes in your life to get back on track?

Prayer |

God help me to run your race that you have set out before me. Help me to work hard and finish strong. Amen

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

Talk To God. He Will Provide Good Gifts.

MothersMarci AnthonyComment
Talk to God. He Will Supply Good Gifts. #sowandgather #mothers

When you open your hands, they are satisfied with good things. Psalm 104:28 NIV

I celebrated my sixteenth Mother's Day earlier this month. My very large teenager struggled to sit on my lap at the kitchen table like he did for so many years as a baby, toddler, and adolescent. It's really become a joke for him to try and sit "Santa Claus" style with me on our faded wooden chairs. He's been too big for a long time. But, for a few moments, I think we both go back to the baby days and what it means for a momma to hold her child.

Of all the gifts my teen could give me, those few seconds of closeness are the most precious. The card and homemade chocolate treats are delightful, but sharing a few seconds or moments so close are the very best.

The time spent discussing homework, projects, and the self-described "disastrous" performance are the good things I cherish. We are at the stage now where we are pulling information out of our teen. At four years old he created sentences with words like cornucopia and plethora. Today, his responses are variations on a grunt.

As I struggle to communicate with a teen, I begin to understand a little bit of how God must feel when we struggle to communicate with Him. I want to talk to God and share with him my hurts and successes. I want to open up, but sometimes a grunt or groin is all I can muster.

I wonder if God is just waiting for me to ask for a few moments on His lap. A few moments to share with him my hopes and dreams. My fears and disappointments. A few moments each day where God can give me "good gifts." I know God has the ability to interpret my grunts and groans, but how much more does God also cherish a conversation with me.

I'm reminded that the "good gifts" I give my son and received from him are not tangible. They are time, a listening ear, a hug, and acceptance. There are so many good things our heavenly Father is ready to provide us if we only take the time to talk to Him and listen to Him.

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 7:7-11; Exodus 33:7-21

Action Item |

What "good gift" has God given you this week? Write it down and thank God.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to acknowledge and give praise each day for the good gifts you provide to me and my family. Lord, help me to have a conversation with you today and to rest in your arms. Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

How Do We Know God Is Enough?

TransformationSow & Gather - Tamera B.Comment
Is-God-Enough #sowandgather #transformation

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18 NIV  

Eighteen months seems like enough time to transform. How about three years? 40 years? Or, even a 1000 years?  How long does transformation really need to take?  

I sometimes feel like my whole life has been spent trying to transform my body. I try not to, but I've bought into all the negative body image garbage the news media propagates. Thighs are too big; nose is too long; hair is too wavy; ankles are too this or that.  

I've always tried to be health conscious.  About three years ago I did get serious about my diet and joined the "clean eating" bandwagon. It's amazing how many times one person can fall off the bandwagon. Eighteen months ago, I committed to a tough but balanced exercise program. I keep falling off that wagon and occasionally rolling under the wagon and hiding. But, I get back up and get back on the program.  

I struggle every day with my choices of food and exercise. It's mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. While outwardly these struggles look like an issue of willpower or dedication, the true core of the issue is often the heart.   

Every day with every choice I make I'm asking: Is God enough?  

Is God enough to satisfy my longings and frustrations? Is God enough to encourage and support me? Is God enough to love me just as I am today?  

God doesn't love me more or less on days I exercise or eat a balanced diet. I'm not talking about earning God's love because I worked my plan perfectly. I'm talking about a God that loves me every day no matter what.   

God loves me because I am a work in progress.   

Over the last few months, I've read the first 1500 years of Israel's Biblical history. Talk about people that are a work in progress. The pages of the Bible came alive for me as tried to imagine why each person made certain choices. And, why God made the choices He did.    

I just finished reading the Old Testament book of Judges. It was too much. It was too hard. It was a time period when people just didn't believe God was enough. While there are glimmers of heart transformations in Judges, the last verse sums up the time period: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 21:25 NIV    

People did what they thought would satisfy their longings or frustrations. They looked for encouragement or support in themselves or others. The Israelites looked for love in something or someone other than God. The Israelites had a heart issue.   

Thankfully, this isn't where the story ends for the Israelites or for you and me. Our transformation continues because of the love of God, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We don't have to be enough. We don't have to have perfect bodies and live in perfect homes with perfect kids and perfect marriages.   

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our heart transformation begins in earnest. If you have questions about what it means to "accept Jesus Christ," please explore questions and answers at I Am Second. http://www.iamsecond.com/faith-questions/  

Dig Deeper |  

 Romans 6; II Corinthians 3  

Action Item |  

Ask God to show you one area in your life where He wants to transform you. Write it down.  

Prayer |  

Dear Heavenly Father, today I give my transformation over to You. Amen  

Join Us |  

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

God Trains Us For His Service

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
Discipline-Is-Good- Hebrews 12:11 - sowandgather.com

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

Run-A-Mile-For-Time. That was the assignment on the board. What? People actually do that?

I've never run a mile nor do I desire to run a mile. I have many fitness and health goals but running isn't on the list. I grabbed water, sunglasses, and my GPS app. And we were off. My three friends were gone and I was sloggin' along dragging up the rear. I actually jogged the first quarter mile then had to switch to a fast walk.

My friends passed me on their return from the half-mile mark with encouraging words of "you can do it" and "good job." It was a beating. I knew I could finish in under 15 minutes just walking. It's not so much about my short little legs as it is my heart and lungs. See, those two body parts are not in shape to sustain jogging more than a quarter mile.

For six weeks I have attempted to jog a quarter mile twice a week. The quarter mile mark is where my gas gave out because I have not trained to run any further. Just as I have to train all my body parts to work at a greater capacity over longer periods of time, I also have to train my faith for the long-haul -- a quarter mile at a time.

My faith is all about training my heart and lungs, too. Making sure I'm not shallow breathing and missing out on a full, deep, refreshing breath to restore myself. Or sprinting on an ounce of faith when I should be going slower and deeper into the word of God to completely refuel my spirit for the race.

There are days when we just have to do faith sprints. Days where we just have to dig in on what spiritual fuel we have and go for it. If every day is a sprint, we will never recharge our body, mind, or spirit for the long-haul of life. Each day we dig deeper in the Word, we become stronger. God shapes us and trains us for His glory and kingdom-works one quarter-mile at a time.

I finished my mile in 13 minutes and 8 seconds. I was done. All used up. Two days later I ran my quarter mile - it was easier.

Dig Deeper |

Hebrews 12

Action Item |

Take a walk today and thank God for all he has provided you. Give praise for the coming year.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, you are with me on the sprints and marathons of life. Renew my body, mind and spirit this year. Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

Failure Only Defeats Us When We Quit

New BeginningsMarci Anthony1 Comment
failure-only-defeats-us-when-we-quit-sowandgather.jpg

"He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your net for a catch.'" Luke 5:4 (NASB)

My mom is probably the best cook I know. She is a country cook but her food is delicious and when there is a potluck, people actually ask her what she made so they can get a taste. Unfortunately, I did not inherit that gene. I remember one day when I was about twelve, my mom was gone for some reason so I was determined to make my dad dinner. I decided to make biscuits, which I had never done before.

I found my mom's recipe and began mixing in the ingredients. I read the words "baking powder" but thought “baking soda”. The little teaspoon was easy; it was the biggest spoon on the ring, or so I thought. I mixed everything together and placed the biscuits in the oven. They were so beautiful when they came out, but a little more yellow than my mom's. I was so pleased. I decided to taste my creation because I just knew it was going to be heavenly. To my surprise, I was not even able to get the first bite down because the over-powering bitterness drew my mouth shut.

So back to the beginning; I made a second batch. This time I used less baking soda but, as before, they were bitter too. My poor dad ate two even though they were awful.

Though that day I had set out with great hope and determination to accomplish my goal, I failed.

Peter experienced something similar. Early in his walk with the Lord, Jesus told Peter to let down his nets. Peter, being unconvinced, said to Jesus, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." Luke 5:5. Immediately, the nets were so full that the boat began to sink. What if Peter had given up?

Failure in a moment does not equal failure for a lifetime.

From the roots of my own failure have sprung the tendrils of future success. I believed that my failure was equated with my identity. But I am reminded that my identity now rests in Christ. So I am encouraged to cast long and hard for whatever God has called me to do.

Failure can only defeat me when I quit, but if I use it as a spring board of motivation, then accomplishment could be right around the corner.

Going Deeper |

James 1:2-4; 2 Peter 1:5-8

Action Item |

Where has God asked you to go deeper? Decide to take the first step toward that calling. Have you experienced failure at something you thought God wanted you to do? Don't quit pursuing that goal.

Prayer |

Precious Lord, help me when I don't want to go on. Give me the grace to push forward, the courage to pursue You, and the wisdom to know what You desire for me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

Make Your Resolutions With God - Not Alone

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
with-God-I-can-accomplish-the-impossible-sowandgather.com

If God is for us then who can be against us? Romans 8:31 (NASB)

Resolution - a word I rarely use or think of until around January 1st. As different goals swirl around in my thoughts, I begin to wonder about the word itself. To determine to do or not to do something. I am struck that I am beginning to learn the meaning of this word. With the weight of achievement resting on my shoulders, despair begins to slither in because I cannot accomplish what is before me. Where despair might have overwhelmed me, hope rushes in swallowing the despair with the knowledge that I don't have to resolve it alone. Those original conclusions were born out of self-centered thought instead of God-centered truth. I have a glorious Warrior. He resolves to fight my battles and gives me a chance to join Him.

I am reminded of the first time that I went to the beach. The day was stormy and, honestly, we should not have gone. But my dad didn't want us to be disappointed. The last brave soul snorkeling exited the water just as we arrived. The wind whipped around us and the waves were surging. We were not in the ocean more than thirty minutes when he said we needed to get out.

It had been my dad's first experience in the ocean, as well, and he had been unaware of the dangerous undertow that was occurring below the surface. He happened to be standing on the edge of a shelf and held me up to keep me above the water. While still hanging on to me, he began to encourage me to swim to the shore with the tide. As I paddled with each wave, the sand would be ripped out from under his toes. He thought we were going to drown because he was not able to get a secure foothold. He fought to get me to the shore and because I was obedient, I was fighting with him even though I was unaware of the danger.

Just like the story, my life is filled with struggles that surge and choke. At times it can seem that my last toehold isn't enough to keep me in the game. But God is always there. He invites me to battle alongside of Him, to resolve to surrender to His call, and to trust that He is my Defender. With Him I can accomplish what once seemed impossible.

Dig Deeper |

Ephesians 6:11-20

Action Item |

Make one resolution that you have prayed over and God is leading you to do. When difficulties come, determine to work through them to a solution and fight on for His glory.

Prayer |

God, show me what you want me to change this year. Guide my steps and when trials come, please fill me with the strength and courage to fight the good fight. In Jesus name, Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

How Do We Look Forward With Hope?

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
God's-word-fills-us-with-hope-sowandgather

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. Psalm 130:5

What were you hoping for on January 1, 2015 that you realized on January 1, 2016 didn’t happen? Was it something good that you were looking forward to with anticipation? Or, was it something you were dreading and it never happened? 

Are you waiting for a spouse? to get pregnant? to deliver the baby? a new job? a new house? or a new car? What about waiting to hear back from the doctor regarding your test results, or waiting to hear from a loved one that they made it home safely? There are many moments throughout our life that are spent “waiting”. If we only knew what the end result would be, the waiting might not seem so bad. What do you do when you are in the “waiting” season? 

During those times am I waiting on what the Lord has for me, or on what I want to happen? That makes a big difference in the choices I end up making. Do I want a spouse so bad that I’m willing to marry a man who isn’t a strong Christian…or even a Christian at all? Am I so sure that the news from the doctor is going to be bad that I end up planning my funeral in my head as I wait? Psalm 130:5 tells me I need to wait on the Lord and as I wait for Him, His word will give me hope. 

Hope that even if I stay single, I can be happy. “But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord – how he may please the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:32. “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in loving kindness and mercy.” Hosea 2:19. Can I be satisfied living my life in singleness if that is the Lord’s will? 

What if the news from the doctor isn’t good, instead it is my worst fear? His word says, “Fear thou not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will keep you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. Will I still be able to praise Him? 

The world can only offer empty words, they may be sincere and sound nice, but they can’t sustain us. Only God’s words can fill us with hope. Hope that can sustain us through those hard times of waiting. Psalm 16:9 says, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.” 

This year as we all anticipate what 2016 holds for us, the good, the bad, and the unknown, let’s rest in God’s word. Where we know our hope is safe because our hope is in the Lord. “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7 

DigDeeper |

Romans 8:24-25; Galatians 5:5; Psalm 62:5 

Action Item |

Where do you look when you are waiting? Next time, go to God’s word and seek Him, find your hope as you wait on Him. 

Prayer |

Lord, You are my hope and strength. Help me to take refuge in You and Your Word where I know I will find peace and wisdom. Amen 

Join Us | 

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post. 


Fresh Beginnings - Following God's Plan for 2016

New BeginningsMarci AnthonyComment
morning-by-morning-new-mercies-i-see-sowandgather

His compassions are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23 

I love new anything! I love a new book from my favorite author; I love fresh new snow; I love that I have a new beginning, Every . . . Single . . . Day!! We are told that “God’s compassions are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3:23) The thought of a fresh new start sounds so full of hope. Don’t we all need a “fresh new start” at some point? 

I think God knew we would need this “new” in our lives. That’s why in 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are reminded, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." Sometimes doesn’t the weight of our mistakes we made yesterday seem so heavy today? When you feel that way, go to Isaiah 43:18-19. It says, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth…” God knew we would have days like that, and because of what Jesus did for us, we can have a fresh start, Every . . . Single . . . Day! The best news is that we don’t even have to wait for the next day. 

The mercies He provides each day are enough for every moment in that day! 

This time of year, after Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed, we begin thinking about starting a “new diet” or planning our “New Year’s Resolution." Most of us don’t make it to February with either one! Why don’t we do something “new” this year? Why don’t we simply appreciate the “new” in each day of the year and all that it holds? What “new” thing will God be doing in our lives that we will close out 2016 saying, “Wow! My God is amazing, look at all He did." 

Let’s let go of the old stuff that is holding us back, so, instead of planning for a “New Year’s resolution”, let’s simply take in each new day and see what God has already planned for us. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) He won’t disappoint us by “quitting” in February, He will carry out His plans for us through the whole year! 

Join us at Sow & Gather in January 2016 for a look at fresh starts, new beginnings, and endurance for the race of life. 

Dig Deeper |

Ephesians 4:22-24; Ezekiel 36:26; Revelation 21:5 

Action Item |

In what area of your life do you need a fresh beginning? Are you ready for God to begin something new in you? 

Prayer |

Lord Jesus, thank you for this new year. For me, it is like fresh and untouched as new snow, but for You, You have already determined every single day. I wait on You with great anticipation to see what wonderful plans You have made for me. 

Join Us | 

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of

What's the Source of Your Strength for the Race?

Isaiah, PsalmSow & Gather - Tamera B.4 Comments
jesus-strength-for-race-sowandgather-isaiah41

I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:8-9 NLT

Believe it or not, I love to run.  I don’t always do it but I love it.  Several years ago, I decided I would take on a half marathon in the city of Dallas, Texas.  As I prepared for the race physically, I also researched the race online.  Every single article I read about this race said, “Beware of mile 8!”  You see, mile 8 was on an incline. 

All the way through the first 7 miles of the race I kept thinking I would have to save a little extra strength for the dreaded mile 8.  I must say that incline felt like a gigantic mountain.  As I was putting one foot in front of the other I seriously did not know if I would make it to the top.  About half way through, one of the spectators looked straight at me and said, “Don’t give up, this incline is almost over!”

say-it-out-loud-god-is-with-me-sowandgather

Life is much like that race isn’t it?  We sail along, reserving strength for the hard times, knowing they will come.  However, when we get there, it is simply hard to put one foot in front of the other. 

God knew this would be true about life and through His word He gave us words of encouragement to keep us going.  One of those encouragements is the verse above. 

As you are running through life, and the going gets rough, listen in your spirit and you will hear from the sidelines, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.”

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 46

Action Item |

Say it out loud, God is with me!

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, thank you for being with me always.   Sometimes I am desperate to see you and hear you.  Give me the strength to please you and live life according to your word.  Amen.

Join Us |

Gather with us by sharing your "Action Item" or "Prayer" by clicking on the Comment link at the top of the post.

purposefulfaith.com

This post is part of the weekly #RaRaLinkup over at Kelly Balarie & Friends.