Sow & Gather

love

Are You A Sweet Talker?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #proverbs Kind Words Are Like Honey

Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24 NLT

The bees buzzed in unison as the big metal vat twirled on its axis. I watched the golden liquid spin free of the comb and drip into a container. Those are the vivid images I have of my father and his buddies extracting honey out of the combs from our personal bee hives. The hives lined the perimeter of our garden and were always active with little yellow and black honey bees. In the late summer, the comb was harvested from the hives and brought into our garage where the honey was separated. 

I love honey. I had honey in Australia that was a deep, dark brown and honey from Tennessee that was light as sun beams and tasted like clover. Honey is flavored by the flower pollen the bees capture in their daily flights. Since bees don't travel more than about two miles from their home hive, local honey will always be flavored by what is in bloom in the bee's flight path.  We now know that local honey is great for combating allergies. You get a little daily dose of allergy medicine with each spoonful of sweetness. 

Imagine the full circle impact of a bee. First, the beauty and sweetness of the flower's nectar attract the bee, then the bee gathers and circulates the pollen to other plants, and takes it back to the hive. The end result of the cycle is delicious honey that is good for your body. 

I think about my daily flight path and wonder what impact or flavor I impart to those around me. Am I spreading love and kindness or something else? Are my words and actions building others up or knocking them down? 

The Bible tells us that kindness is a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in Christians (Galatians 5:22). This is not something that manifests itself as random acts of kindness, or sending good vibes out into the universe. If you are a Christian, kindness should be an ingrained and intentional part of your daily life. For some people kindness just comes hard-wired. Others will need to work with the Holy Spirit to develop the trait.  

What does kindness even look like? I can't imagine showing kindness without also demonstrating love. Look at the examples of Jesus interacting with children, Jesus eating with those the world considered "less than," Jesus stopping what he was doing to respond to a person in need. Kindness starts first with paying attention to those around you and assessing their need. Their need might be a kind word or help returning their shopping cart in the grocery parking lot. 

Jesus' kindness wasn't random; it was intentional.  

Dig Deeper |

Luke 15:1-10; Acts 28:1-2      

Action Item |

Today be intentional about doing at least one kind act. 

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that Your merciful kindness be for my comfort and for those around me. Help me to listen and observe so that I see the needs of others. Show me how to love those in my path and show kindness daily. Lord, I know that Your truth and kindness will endure forever. Amen.         

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Jesus Loves Me, The Real, Ordinary, Messed-up Me

AdventMarci AnthonyComment
#advent #sowandgather #forgodsolovedtheworld John3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (NIV)

Each December I look forward to stripping away the ordinary, everyday home decor so the holiday decorations can be displayed.  This year, however, my eagerness turned to anxiousness as I felt overwhelmed. I just wanted it done!  I spent a day climbing up and down stairs, going in and out of attics, opening every Christmas box and wishing I had done a better job of marking the contents.  With all the decorations displayed, the Christmas tree was the last to be put together. No ornaments adorned it as I decided to leave the tree in its natural, ordinary state, for a while anyway.   

As I sat there staring at the simple tree, I reflected back over the past few months.  I had been rushing through the fall, trying to learn a new job, heading different committees, and taking a class.  I had lost sight of what mattered.  What was important to me?  Sitting in the living room and staring at that simple tree reminded me of the extraordinary love that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has for me.  Like that tree, I don’t need to adorn myself with achievements, knowledge or good deeds for Jesus to love me. I don’t have to have my act together for Jesus to love me. 

The good news is that Jesus loves me, the real, ordinary, messed-up me.   

The Advent season is a time to reflect and prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Christ.  For me, this particular season is about refocusing on what is important, specifically the sacrificial love Christ has for me.  This love isn’t the kind of love I can manufacture myself, but it can only come from Christ.

For God so loved the world, not just a few chosen “good” people, but the world, and that, thankfully, includes you and me! Because of His love for us, He sent His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him (Jesus) shall not perish, but have everlasting life.   This love is so wide and so deep I cannot fathom it, but I feel it every time God draws me to Him, every time He convicts me of my sin, and every time He nudges me back on His path.  God sent His Son to die for me--messy, broken, ordinary me.  His love has redeemed me and restored me.

Christ loves the real me, even without all those “adornments.”

Dig Deeper |

Luke 2:1-10; John 3:16-17

Action item |

Do you know the true love of Christ?  He loved you before the beginning of time and desires nothing more than for you to know and believe in Him.  

Prayer |

Dear Father, I’m so grateful You see the real me, and still love the real me.  I oftentimes don’t feel very lovable, but I know Your love for me is full of grace, mercy, and restoration.  Amen

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How Do We Love One Another? Advent 2016

AdventMarci AnthonyComment
#advent #sowandgather Love One Another

A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 (NIV)

In a world that is full of angst and anxiety, where voices desire to be heard and differences divide, it is only the love of Christ that heals and unifies.   

Amy Grant, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, wrote a song called “Grown-up Christmas List.”   She writes:

My grown-up Christmas list, not for myself, but for a world in need: no more lives torn apart, then wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts. And everyone would have a friend, and right would always win, and love would never end.

The last part of this chorus, “and love would never end,” always speaks so loudly to me. 

This verse, “Love one another,” has been quoted many times and is one that many remember.  So often we choose just to read the “love one another,” and not the part that says, “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  It is easy to love those who are like us, who share the same beliefs and values.  Loving others is hard when they are different from us, and/or their beliefs and values are in opposition to ours.  The command is for us to love as Christ has loved us, sacrificially and selflessly.  

 “We love because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19. God, in His great mercy, loved us before we ever loved Him.  He loved us when we were rebelling against Him, when we didn’t believe in Him, and when we didn’t value what was right and holy.   How can it be that those who are beloved by God, justified by faith, and redeemed by His grace would not love others?   

This season, as we continue to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us remember the unimaginable love that was given to us.  It is a love that we didn’t deserve, but that God so graciously gave; love that we didn’t earn, but that is lavished on us.  When we love those who don’t love us, we are showing them the love of Christ.  Jesus was a living example of God’s love, as we are to be a living example of His love. 

In a world where people are hurting, searching and worried, let’s live out this command to love others so that “love would never end.”

Dig Deeper |

John 13:31-38

Action Item |

Is there someone you know that could use the love of Christ?  Be that friend for them. 

Prayer |

Dear Father, I am so undeserving of Your love, but I am so humbled by it.  Please forgive me when I don’t love those You have called me to love. Amen.

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Treasure God's Word--John 13:34-35

Advent, scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Freedom to Love - Serve One Another Humbly

freedomMarci AnthonyComment
#freedom #sowandgather Serve One Another Humbly With Love

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 NIV

“O, say can you see by the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight…”  

The Star-Spangled Banner! I have heard this song many times throughout my life and especially when I celebrate America’s birthday in July. But it wasn’t until I was standing on the ramparts of Fort McHenry on the harbor in Chesapeake Bay in Maryland that I truly understood the meaning of the song and the freedoms we have in America. 

Fort McHenry is the location of an American victory over the British at Baltimore in 1813. But more importantly, it is the place where Francis Scott Key witnessed the battle and penned the poem we now call the Star-Spangled Banner.  He composed the poem the following morning when his eyes were struck by the American flag with its fifteen white stars and red and white strips waving in the air declaring freedom.  

But just as we obtained freedom in America because of battles like Fort McHenry, we are also called to have freedom in Jesus. Jesus, perfect man and God, came to the earth to serve, to die for our disobedience and to rise, giving us victory over death. His call to us is to receive Him in our life as our Lord and become free! 

Once we choose Him and His freedom, we are to use it to love others. My life shouldn’t consist of satisfying my own wants and desires. Instead, it should be focused on thinking, loving and serving others. I am to love the people Jesus places in my life.  

This freedom may mean I have to actually make dinner for my family happily, help my kids with their homework, clean a friend’s home , feed the homeless, invite someone to church and tell them about Jesus or really listen as someone talks.  

To be free is to love! 

Dig Deeper |

Luke 4:18, 1 Peter 2:16-17 

Action Item |

Sing the Star Spangled Banner. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, Thank You for coming to die and rising again for me so that I may have freedom. Help me to use this freedom to love and serve others. Amen.

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A Father’s Love

Father'sMarci AnthonyComment
A Father's Love #sowandgather #fathersday

Because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father punishes the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:12 NIV 

There have been many lessons in my life that my rebellious spirit has caused me to learn over and over. As the saying goes, “how many times are you going to lap that mountain?” For me, too many! 

Growing up my Dad was the disciplinarian in our home. If my sister or I got into trouble, my Mom would say, “Wait till your Dad gets home!” The waiting was always the worst part because my Dad would often arrive home late. I could hear his pick-up truck coming about half a mile down the country road, then around the hill that led to our gravel driveway. Our nerves were gone by the time he finally got to us! 

Dad was swift and fair with his discipline. At least he put us out of our misery! He could have ignored our behavior or dealt with force as his father had done to him, but he didn’t. I had a healthy fear of him, and knew he meant what he said. 

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7) This fear is full of reverence to a holy God who knows what is best for me. It is a fear that draws me to God to know Him and His ways. The Bible tells us many times that God loves us as a Father loves his son, even more so. To those He loves, He also reproves as an earthly father would do. 

However, there is difference. My dad disciplined me as he deemed right, but my Holy Father disciplines me for my good so that I may share in His holiness. It is never easy to be disciplined, and sometimes it is very difficult. However, once you know that it is God training you, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrew 12:10

I’m thankful for a dad who cared enough to protect, guide and correct me when needed. I’m even more thankful for a Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for me, paying the penalty for my sin. Because of Jesus, I can stand before a holy God and know that He loves me, even when He disciplines me! 

My “lapping the mountain” has thankfully lessened over the years. As I yield myself to my heavenly Father daily, I am grateful for the training that has changed my life. 

Dig Deeper |

Hebrew 12 

Action Item |

Do you see God’s discipline as punishment or training in righteousness? 

Prayer |

Dear Father, I am so grateful that you love me enough to train me in Your ways. Often the lessons are hard, but You are a merciful God who loves me and wants to produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness in me. Amen

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Treasure God's Word--Psalm 139:13-14

scripture memory, MothersMarci AnthonyComment

Is it sweet, salty, spicy, cold, hot? Terms you might not consider when you are reading God's word. God calls us to hide, treasure and taste His word. Join the contributors and readers of Sow & Gather in tasting and memorizing God's word this week.

Memorize It |

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I  will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.   Psalms 139:13-14

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Mother May I?

MothersMarci AnthonyComment

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24(NIV)

When I was a kid, I constantly bombarded my mom with questions. “Mom, can I have a piece of candy?” “Mom, will you buy me that toy?” “Mom, can I go play with my friend next door?” Sometimes when I asked my mom for things the answer was “yes,” and sometimes the answer was “no.” Of course when the answer was “yes,” I would do the happy dance and tell my mom that she was the best mom in the whole wide world. If the answer was “no,” well, you might have thought that world as we knew it had ended as I went into a total meltdown on the floor in the middle of the store.

The look on my mom’s face was total and complete embarrassment and failure. I often think that’s how we are with God. Sometimes when we ask Him for things and He says “yes,” we are overjoyed, but when the answer is “no,” we pitch an embarrassing fit of self-pity. Other times, we don’t even ask and instead take matters into our own hands. Usually this doesn’t end well and we are forced to admit that we should have asked God first.

What I’ve learned, having been on both sides, is that sometimes we think we need something that will make our lives more complete, but in reality, God is all we need. We petition God for whatever our heart’s desire is at the time, not really searching our hearts for what He wants for our lives. John 16:24 tells us that God wants us to ask Him for things. He wants to provide for our needs. Notice I said, “needs,” not “wants.” God wants us to have our heart’s desires, but He also wants us to recognize those areas of our lives where we need Him. He wants us to depend on Him to provide those things.

As a mom, I recognize those areas where wants versus needs seem to be mixed-up. We must teach our children that our “joy” comes not from our wants being fulfilled, but from the needs of our hearts being filled by the One who know us best and makes our joy complete. When we ask for things in His name we are humbly acknowledging that He is Lord over our life. When we recognize God as our provider and ask with a heart that is pure, God will answer and we will be filled with His unending joy.

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 21:22; John 14:13-14

Action Item |

Are you in the habit of asking God for your wants and needs? Do you struggle with what to ask God for in your daily prayer life? Ask God to examine your heart and help you to determine those areas that need to be fulfilled.

Prayer |

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, please help me to establish a life that is not based on my wants but on Your needs for my life. Allow my heart to be filled with the joy that only You can provide by allowing you to fulfill those needs in my life.

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God's Seasons

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
whatever he does prospers Psalm 1:3 #sowandgather

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:3 NIV

The fall season makes me long to see the vibrant foliage that carpets the southern part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and my home. I can almost feel the crisp, cool air and the bright, warm sun envelope me as I daydream about sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latte while taking in the view of the mountains.

This mountain range isn’t majestic like the Colorado Rockies, but the intensity of fall colors is breathtaking. The dogwood, sourwood and blackgum trees turn deep red, tulip-trees turn bright yellow, and the red maples a multi-colored brilliance.

I love that God gives us seasons to showcase His glory. He is the one who plants the tree; it is chosen and cultivated for a purpose and is rooted by streams of water. Those waters are a never-ending supply of God’s grace, love and provision.

Charles Spurgeon stated, “The man who delights in God’s Word, being taught by it, bringeth forth patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, and holy joy in the hour of prosperity.”

My desire is to be so deeply rooted in God’s Word and to take such delight from His presence that I will bear the fruit in season and yield the attitude and actions that honor God.

Dig Deeper |

Proverbs 11:30, Proverbs 3:18

Action Item |

Where are you planting your roots? Dig them deep into the soil of God’s Word which is alive and active. It will nourish your soul and give your strength in the seasons of drought.

Prayer |

Dear Father, the beauty of fall is just a glimpse of Your glory! Draw me to Your Word so that my roots will grow deep in You and that my life will bear fruit for Your glory.

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When Loving Someone Is Hard

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
When Loving Someone Is Hard sowandgather.com #love #Easter

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. I John 4:7 NIV 

When my sons were young, I used to read them the stories of the Bible. I read the stories of Noah, Daniel, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus feeding the 5,000 and, of course, the story of Zacchaeus. When we read that story, we always sang this song. 

Listen as I sing: Zacchaeus was a wee, little man and a wee, little man was he. He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Savior he wanted to see. And when the Savior came that way, he looked up in the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, you come down for I am going to your house for a tortilla.” What a tortilla? You eat tortillas in South Texas. You do not drink tea as the song is normally sung. Only true Texans would appreciate this version. 

Okay, let’s get on with it. 

Who was this Zacchaeus? He was a short, Jewish man who was a chief tax collector and very wealthy. However, he was hated and despised by all and very unlovable. 

But one wonderful day Jesus intentionally came to his home and Zacchaeus’ life changed. As Luke 19:9 stated, “Today salvation came to this house in this man.” Zacchaeus became a follower, or disciple of Jesus and his life was forever changed. 

One thing always sticks out to me when I think about Zacchaeus. He was a man who wasn’t liked and was very unlovable. I think about all the people in my life who are unlovable, and there are many. They are just plain hard to love. They have consisted of my family, my children’s friends and teachers, co-workers, bosses, and even people I volunteered with at school or other organizations. 

But, 1 John 4:7 calls me to love. I am to love the unlovable; I have no choice. It is a command. The only way I can truly love others, even those difficult people, is through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. So, this command prompts me to pray for help so that I can show the love of Christ to ALL people. Through Him, I can love anyone. 

Begin to invite the unlovable into your life, and share a tortilla! 

Dig Deeper |

Luke 19:1-10

Action Item |

Love the Zacchaeus in your life. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, Thank you for your love. Help me to show and act out your love to all, especially the unlovable. Amen.

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Dreaming of a White Knight

loveMarci AnthonyComment

…behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True… Revelation 19:11

What girl at some point in her life hasn’t dreamed of being rescued by her “knight “riding in on a white stallion? If you belong to Christ, this is your “happily ever after”! Revelation 19:11 tells us “. . . behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True . . . ” Christ is our Faithful and True Savior. He loved us and died to redeem us, to make us His own. Now that we are saved, “He lives to make intercession for us.” Hebrews 7:25

Whether you are married, widowed, divorced, or single, if you are saved, you have a husband; for you are the bride of Christ. Isaiah 54:5 tells us, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” February seems like the month of sweethearts . . . love is everywhere it seems. Regardless of your circumstances, you are loved with an everlasting love that cannot be matched in a mere man. He tells us, “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. Jesus will never disappoint you or let you down. He is the perfect husband!

Did you know that God rejoices over you with singing? He is the Faithful and True One who serenades you with His love. “The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17. In this month of “love”, don’t forget that you are loved by the Almighty God who loves us with a perfect love.

Dig Deeper |

Read Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 8:37-39; and John 3:16

Action item |

Are you lonely or feeling all alone? Jesus is right there with you, draw close to Him and He will draw close to you.

Prayer |

Lord Jesus, thank you for your love for me. You love me with an everlasting love; it is too much for me to understand. Help me not to put anyone or anything before You. Thank You for showing me Your love in so many ways.

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How Do We Love During Grief?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
Lord-The-One-You-Love-Is-Sick sowandgather.com #love #grief

Lord, the one you love is sick. John 11:3 NIV
 
Cancer. Bad news. One week ago today I heard those words about a dear friend. Today I sit on an airplane flying home for her funeral. She was only 52. She was only sick for a few weeks. How? Why? Questions we will never know the answer to this side of heaven. Questions I hope I will not care about on the other side of heaven.  
 
Weather has been a nightmare. Re-routing airplane trips around the snowpocalypse has left me frazzled and worried I'll miss the visitation and funeral. Worried I'll miss the grieving and remembering not just with her family, but also with my own family. We will miss her dearly and grieve heavily for her surviving family. 
 
Death is a reminder that this life and this earth are temporary. We are not designed to be here forever. I just wish we were here long enough. Long enough to see children grow up, graduate college, get married, have grandbabies. And then see all of our grandbabies do the same. Long enough to retire and have lazy days - or busy days - with our spouses. Long enough . . . we just need to live long enough.   
 
I find myself following "long enough" with "if only." If only we knew the number of our days, would we live differently? Would we love people more or squander relationships because we have plenty of time left on the clock? 

I think of how much I love my friend. How much more and differently I love my husband and my child.  And, then how much Jesus loves me. Jesus is the perfect example of love. I used to see Jesus as this stoic example of love. The older I get and the more life I live, the more I can see the passionate Jesus. The man who hugged his disciples; the man who cried with his friends; the man who suffered for me and you. God in heaven loves each of us passionately. He hugs and weeps with us. He holds us as we sob quietly or shout in anger. 

If I quiet my soul I can hear Jesus whisper, "You will be on earth until you've completed what I have planned for your life. I've placed you right where you need to be, doing just what I have designed for you." If I listen and obey, I know that "long enough" and "if only" are worldly concerns, not Godly concerns. I still have those questions and perhaps I will for a long time to come.  
 
As the plane descends over the newly fallen snow, I give thanks for the life and love of my friend and most of all for the life, death, resurrection, and love of my Savior.  God's peace I leave with you. 

Dig Deeper | 

John 11:1-45; Acts 17:26-28 

Action Item | 

Call, write, text or email a friend from your youth. Reconnect or enrich a relationship that God established for you in your past. 

Prayer | 

Dear Loving Heavenly Father, please bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones. Please help them to understand there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Lord God, help us to accept the comfort You have for each of us and to know that Your love is perfect. Amen

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What Will I Sacrifice for Love?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
what-will-i-sacrifice-for-love-sowandgather.com #love #redbandana

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (NASB) 

Standing in the 9/11 Memorial Museum was an emotional experience for me. The graphic images of the war-torn buildings and media coverage reminded of the day and where I was when the tragic event occurred. There were amazing stories of heroic men and women who gave their lives to attempt to rescue those that were stranded in the buildings. One such man, Welles Crowther, carried with him a red bandana every day, a practice he had learned as a small child watching his dad get ready for church. The bandana became a symbol of his close relationship with his father. 

On the day of the attacks, Welles helped twelve people to safety and sacrificed his own life trying to get more out. Those rescued only knew him as "the man with the red bandana.” One of his bandanas is now on display in the museum as a reminder of his selfless acts. 

This story pierced me because as I stood there I began to think of another Father who is an example to me. Even though I cannot see the battle raging on around me every day, I know it is there. Spiritually war-torn, in need of a Savior who is our only hope; I know the selfless act that my Father performed at the cross. And yet, how many times have I said, "Tomorrow I will share."  "I’ll have time later."   

Those phrases are so simple, but they carry with them the fact that I am unwilling to sacrifice my reputation. I don't want to rock the boat or offend anyone.   Truthfully, it is an indication that I don't understand that any moment might be too late to tell that person about Jesus. Oh, when will I be willing to wrap myself in the Gospel for the sake of those dying around me? To have the courage to offend and to be hated for those that may come to know Christ. Will I be brave enough or love enough to sacrifice for those I call friend? Will I, like Welles, decide that those dying are worth the cost of my own life? Like him, it doesn't really matter if they know who I am, but only that they know who He is.  For He is the only way to truly live. 

You can learn more about Welles Crowther via this short documentary.

Dig deeper  |

Mark 8:35-38 

Action Item |

Who has God placed in your life for the purpose of sharing the Gospel?  Pray that God will give you the opportunity to tell them the "good news”.  Be bold and speak the truth. 

Prayer |

Father, please give me the courage today to be a messenger of the good news.  Let me lay aside any selfishness and fill me with Your love for those who are in need of a Savior.  Give me eyes to see them as You do Lord.  May I wear the Gospel in a way that it speaks of my relationship to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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Treasure God's Word--I Peter 4:8

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Jesus Is Our Valentine

loveMarci AnthonyComment
Jesus-Is-Our-Valentine-Sowandgather #love

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11 NIV

One of my favorite holidays is Valentine’s Day, or Heart’s Day. Valentine’s Day brings the colors pink and red, vibrant sweet-smelling flowers, ornamental lace, conversation candy hearts, romantic greeting cards and of course, chocolate. Hearts full of chocolate are so delightful!

But Valentine’s Day brings so much more: it is a day where we have the opportunity to send greeting cards stuffed with encouragement and love. There is such a variety of cards to choose from which provide an assortment of thoughts and verse. After selecting the perfect cards, I grab my Christmas list and begin to address and write cards to my friends and family. This is my favorite part.

It is my chance to clearly and boldly tell each friend and family member I love them. Throughout the year, I express my love to my family with regularity but, my friends? Well… I do not speak these words nearly enough, as it can feel slightly awkward. Valentine’s Day gives me this opportunity.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, wrote and spoke love to the believers in various churches in his letters to them. Specifically, to the church in Philippi, Paul says he has love for them in his heart. (Philippians 1:7) He even exhorted the Roman believers to do everything in love. (I Corinthians 16:14)

And my best friend, Jesus, also states that He loves me and will show Himself to me. ( John 14:21) In fact, Jesus has shown Himself and expressed His love to me by giving up His life on the cross and rising again just for me. He loves me so very much!

So this Valentine’s Day I will once again send those lovely heart-shaped cards which will distinctly declare, “I love you!”

Digging Deeper |

Psalm 103 especially verse 8

Action Item |

Speak love to a friend this month.

Prayer |

Dear Father, You are the God of love. You loved me so much You gave Your life for me. Thank You. Help me to express my love to my family and friends this month even though it may feel strange or difficult. I truly want them to know how much I love them. I love You, Father. Amen.

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How Do We Demonstrate Love To Our Kids?

loveMarci AnthonyComment

Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Psalm 34:11 (NIV)

My first pregnancy was full of surprises as I ventured into territory that was completely new. Words of encouragement and counsel poured in from friends and family and, yet, all of the preparation did not hinder the bountiful moments of astonishment. Everyone told me I would have cravings, yet that late night moment of desperation for ice cream took me by unexpected surprise. The unwarranted tears should not have shocked me, yet they did. My complete and utter disappointment in the lack of flattering clothing should have been a no brainer.

Again, the image in the mirror threw me a real curveball. None was more surprising than the moment my first born was placed in my arms. Every important person in my life had prepared me for the emotions that I would feel for this little human; however, the flood of love and devotion took my breath away. This love for my child was the most natural, innate emotion I had ever experienced. That same wonderment was present with the birth of the other two of my children as well.

It truly should be no surprise that God never has to command us to love our children. God knew we would need the encouragement to love husbands, friends, and enemies; yet, he understood we would by our very nature love these little beings with which he gifts us.

While this love is so very easy, so very intuitive, demonstrating that love has posed its challenges for me along the way. Hugs, words of encouragement, smiles, gifts, and superficial acts have come easy, yet determining what actions prove to my children that I so deeply love them and desire God’s greatest plans for them has stumped me at times.

My oldest is now twenty-two. I almost cannot speak those words, twenty-two, out loud. As I am preparing for the moment I let go of the hand that has grasped mine so many times, reflection has encompassed many a moment. That reflection has led me to understand more clearly those actions that truly demonstrated unconditional love to my children.

Teaching my children about the Jesus of the Bible was a win. In my reflection, I do recognize that there were times that I taught of a Jesus that is not reflected in his written love letter to us. In regret, I know that so many times I taught of a Jesus that condemns, rejects, and only accepts those who are good and righteous. But, oh those moments, those grace moments, when I partnered with Jesus to share of his grace, mercy, lovingkindness, holiness and, yes, even his judgment all wrapped into one God. Those were the teachable moments of sharing God's word, the real slam dunks. Love demonstrated the gifts of God to my three children through the teaching of this Savior…..AH, what a blessed memory!

During this love month, I do not encourage you to love your children, as I recognize that the love a mother has for her children is completely innate. I do, however, encourage you to evaluate your demonstration of love. I implore you, as one who has loved superficially at times, to teach them about this Savior, Jesus. Teach them about his love and grace. Teach them of his plans and his righteousness. Teach them all of Jesus. And yes, at twenty-two years old, they will look to those moments and know you deeply love them.

Dig Deeper |

Deuteronomy 6

Action Items |

Ask yourself how you are demonstrating love to your children. Make a list of ways that you can teach your children about the Jesus of the Bible.

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, thank you so much for gifting me with my children. Loving them is so very easy. Thank you for creating in me a natural, innate love for them. Help me as I seek to demonstrate my love for them. Give me wisdom as I seek to teach them all about you. Amen.

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How Do We Walk In Love?

loveMarci AnthonyComment
walk-in-love-sowandgather.com #love

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6 NIV

I breathed in, out, and smiled. The five dollar kite that was not designed to fly in 20 mile an hour winds was soaring. It was puny compared to the big fancy kits on the beach. But the string kept unfurling and the kite kept climbing higher and higher into the crisp blue sky. It danced and dodged seagulls and rooftops on its ascent.

Wiggling my toes into the cool creamy sand, I tied the kite string to my beach chair and thought of my Daddy. I can see him rounding the back corner of the house with his blue work shirt stripped off, still wearing his undershirt, work pants, and boots. He'd grab a sheet of newspaper, some garden twine, and two reed-like dried weeds to make the cross bars for our kite. Those newspaper kites always flew. Maybe not as high as the kites on the beach today, but they still reached for the heavens. They were made with love.

I can't fly a kite without thinking of two things 1) making kites with my Daddy, and 2) switches. You see, those cross bars on our newspaper kites were known by another name every other day of the week - - a switch. A switch meant business.

I've had to "pick a switch" many times. A switch dispensed discipline. The worst part was the minutes picking the switch because you needed to be fast, but you did not want to rush anything. In a child's mind you're trying to process if one switch would hurt less than another while putting off the discipline as long as possible.

Those switches had a dual role: love and discipline.

Flying those kits was pure love and joy. In fact, I never remember picking out the cross bars for the kite. Daddy always did that because he knew which ones would work the best. When it came time for discipline, I was sent to the edge of the garden to retrieve my own switch. I think how God loves us so much he disciplines us, too. And how that walk down the yard to get the switch felt like an eternity of separation from my parents. That's how I feel now when I know I have sinned and I don't want the discipline. I'll walk slower and slower toward that patch of switches.

I know now that if I am obedient, the discipline is swift, kind, and loving. God allows us to walk alone down the yard so we can process the separation. Remember, God has never moved. We walked away from him in our sin. He's always drawing us back to him.

Do you need to "pick a switch" today? Take time to confess your sins to the Lord. In love and kindness he will discipline you if necessary and heal any hurts.

Join us this month as we take a look at all kinds of love. The contributors at Sow & Gather hope you will be inspired to love deeper and draw closer to your family and your God.

Dig Deeper |

Genesis 3

Action Item |

Do something today with your family that will make a memory filled with love. Here's a link with directions for making a newspaper kite. Kite Making

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, everyday I fall short and sin. Thank you for the love and the instruction you imparted to my earthly father. Lord, give me the same wisdom in raising my child.

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His Mercies Never Cease

love, encouragementMarci AnthonyComment
his-mercies-new-every-morning-sowandgather

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT

In a few short hours we begin a new year. Maybe 2015 hasn’t been kind to you and you are looking forward to 2016. Maybe 2015 has been a wonderful year and you are sad to see it end. No matter where you find yourself, you have to admit there is something exciting about the start of something new.

A year and a half ago I became a first time grandmother. There was nothing that could have prepared me for the joy of this sweet little girl entering our lives. I love everything about being “Nana”. Well everything, that is, except when I have to send her home. I find such delight in her. I am reliving the joy and wonder of “firsts”.  I told my husband that it’s as if we’ve been given a “do-over”. We’ve been given a second chance to make right the mistakes we made as the parents of her daddy.

Last week we celebrated the birth of Jesus. The birth of this child brought unbelievable new beginnings. A new covenant, new life through salvation, and a new way to enter God’s presence. As I thought on this, the Lord brought to mind this passage in Lamentations.

So often I’m discouraged because I feel I’ve blown it in my spiritual walk. I resolve to obey but find myself doing my own thing. I give into that temptation once again. I resolve to get up early to pray but push the snooze button over and over until I have to get up and the time is gone. I then begin to feel like “Why bother? I’m never going to get it right.”  But these verses tell me that the Christ, born so long ago, is there saying, “Don’t give up. I have fresh mercy for you.  I’m always here ready to give you a fresh start.” Not only will He give me a fresh start, but He is faithful to give me everything I need to walk a life of victory with Him.

We don’t have to wait for a New Year and those New Year’s Resolutions. His mercies are new every morning, and we can have a new beginning today. Wow! What an encouragement!

Dig Deeper |

Exodus 34:5-6; I Peter 1:3-4; Hebrews 4:16: Isaiah 43:18-19

Action Item | 

If you are honest with yourself, do you or do you not believe that Jesus has mercies for you that are new every morning? In what area of your life, do you need to claim Jesus’ mercies today?

Prayer |

Precious Father, thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. The enemy would want us to believe we are failures when we don’t walk with You as we think we should. Help us not fall prey to his lies. Help us to walk in the truth that your mercies are constantly there for us. As a child of Yours, there is no failure that Your mercy won’t cover. You are a faithful Father, and we love You! In Jesus name, Amen!

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You Can't Have Christmas Without Love

Advent 2015Marci AnthonyComment
advent-love-you-cant-have-christmas-without-love-sowandgather

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. But he that loves not knows not God for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

Pies, pies and more pies! Our family holiday celebrations simply are not complete without pie. I have learned over the years to roll out the dough, mix up the perfect ingredients and cook some of the most amazing passed-down family recipes. This past weekend, I brilliantly decided to make “mini” pies. Sounded easy and fun at the time. I rolled out the dough, cut it in small round circles and poured in the famous pumpkin pie recipe. As they cooked, the house began to smell wonderful! When the timer went off, I quickly took them out.

“Wow, I should have a show on the cooking network,” I thought to myself. When they were cool and ready for serving, I decided to pop one in my mouth. It did not take long to discover that something was VERY wrong. I had forgotten to put sugar in the pies. The pies smelled good, they looked good but they tasted AWFUL! All desserts need sugar. To eat a dessert that is not sweet simply defeats the point of eating a dessert.

Just like you can’t have dessert without sugar, you can’t have Christmas without love. The whole purpose of Christmas is love. Christmas began with love from an amazing God. It continued as His son came to the earth as a baby. God very clearly states to us that He came because He loves us, because He IS love. That love for us is an invitation to relationship with Him, an invitation to know Him. As we get to know Him, something crazy happens, and we begin to love people more authentically. We begin to love the unlovable. We begin to love the difficult. We begin to love those that do not love us. Crazy right?

Loving our favorite people is so easy. Loving those who are impossible at times, is possible because of Christmas. I am sure you have heard it said, “Love came down at Christmas time.” Unfathomable love became possible because a baby was born in a manger. Let God transform your season by knowing Him and loving those around you.

Merry Christmas from the contributors at Sow & Gather.

Dig Deeper |

1 John 4

Additional Liturgical Advent Readings |

Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45, 46-55

Action Item |

Do you know God? I John 4:7-8 gives you a great evaluation tool? Has the love of God driven you to loving people? Use this Christmas season to know God and then love unlovable people.

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, thank You for Your love. Help me to know You more and more. Transform my thinking so that I will see people as You do. Jesus, help me to love through You this season. Amen.

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A Wise Woman Builds Her Home

This post is part of the Wise Woman Linkup.


A Christmas Prayer For You

Advent 2015Marci AnthonyComment
advent-love-i-bow-my-knees-sowandgather

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father….so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14, 17-19 (NASB) 

Christmas looms in the near future. Decorations have filled our homes with wonder. Festivities have dominated our schedules. Preparations for the “big day” are being made as grocery lists are prepared and schedules are coordinated. Gifts have been mostly purchased. WE ARE ALMOST READY TO DO THIS THING! 

But are we really? As we have celebrated advent these past few weeks, we have tasted peace, hope and joy. This week we have gotten a glimpse of the amazing love of Jesus. So here we sit needing to understand and grasp this indescribable love. 

My dear friends, this is your time, your time to rest in the presence of love. Jesus draws us to HIM in this very moment. Using the verse above as our guide, let’s bow our hearts before Jesus and get prepared for the celebration of love. 

Dear Jesus, 

I bow my knees before you. 

While I am not on my knees physically, my heart is bowed humbly before you because I know the greatness and power in your name. 

I pray that you will continue to strengthen my faith. Jesus dwell in my heart. 

I ask you Jesus to ground me in your love. As I approach this holiday season, plant my roots so deeply in your love, so that I am able to care for all that are in my presence. 

Jesus, help me to comprehend your love. Oh my precious Jesus, I celebrate the fact that you came down to earth and died for my sins. I celebrate your love. Your love is so expansive; help me to understand how far-reaching it truly is. 

Oh, most importantly Jesus, help me to be filled up with the fullness of God this Christmas season. God, allow Christmas 2015, to be the most full of all seasons. Reign in my heart. Reign in my family. Amen. 

Dig Deeper |

Ephesians 3

Additional Liturgical Advent Readings | 

Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7Hebrews 10:5-10Luke 1:39-45, 46-55

Action Item |

I beseech you to take the time to draw near to Jesus today and celebrate the love that He brings. Make a plan to carve out some time to sit in Jesus’ presence. 

Prayer |

Use the prayer above. 

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