- Written by Callie Neff
29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘If you pull out the weeds you might uproot the wheat at the same time. 30 You must allow them both to grow together until the time of harvest. At that time, I’ll tell my harvesters to make sure they gather the weeds first and tie them all in bundles to be burned. Then they will harvest the wheat and put it into my barn.’”
Let the weeds and flowers grow up together.
Every year around the middle to end of summer, I suddenly realize how many weeds I missed that have grown up with the plants I intended for the garden. The differences in the plants are now more defined and easier to see and I can identify weeds from flowers. Early in the season it can sometimes be hard to distinguish weeds and intended plants. If I try to pull weeds too early, I unintentionally pull up the flowers or uproot part of a wanted plant. If I patiently wait for a day after some rain and a time when the plants are easily distinguishable, I can beautify the garden and remove the unwanted usupers. I recently have identified this similar principle when walking with women in our program. When they come, I can quickly identify what I consider the "wheat and the weeds", but as I am just getting to know her; it is too early to start plucking up and digging at all that appears as unwanted, not good or wrong: whether actions, behaviors, thought patterns, or responses. I need to let relationship and roots of love establish in order to allow the good and the bad to "grow together" so that, when it is time to "harvest", not only will I be able to distinguish between what should stay and go but she will be part of the equation. She will be more willing to respond to correction, sound teaching and see for herself what should stay and go in her life. I have to lean heavily on my Father's gracious wisdom and patiently allow both so I do not uproot the good seed He has already planted in her heart that has not fully matured. I am so glad He does this for me and I continually am learning how to do this for and with others. Sometimes even the weeds turn out to be a beautiful addition to the garden that I keep and make room for where they are not harming a maturing plant that I want to be there; and sometimes even the weeds with beautiful flowers get ripped up at the end of the season to make room for the intended, purposeful ones.
May you have patience to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit as you wade through the weeds!
- Written by Callie Neff
Proverbs 15:29-31 (TPT)
29 The Lord doesn’t respond to the wicked,
but he’s moved to answer the prayers of his godly lovers.
30 Eyes that focus on what is beautiful[a] bring joy to the heart,
and hearing a good report
refreshes and strengthens the inner being.[b]
31 Accepting constructive criticism
opens your heart to the path of life,
making you right at home among the wise.
Matthew 6:22 (TPT)
22 “The eyes of your spirit allow revelation-light[a] to enter into your being. If your heart is unclouded, the light floods in!
When our gaze is constantly drawn to what is crooked, what is broken, what is flawed, what is in bondage . . . we can quickly become what we behold...we can begin to walk as one enslaved and no longer carry ourselves as children of the freedom we have been given in Christ Jesus. It is hard not to constantly look at what needs to be fixed, what is undone, what is wrong. It is also hard to model the freedom we desire and profess for others if we forget what it looks and feels like. This has been a hard, long and ongoing lesson for me. In each journey with a new woman, hearing, seeing, feeling her bondage and pain I quickly position myself as a victim alongside of her rather than positioning myself out ahead to show her the way through. I begin to see change, uncertainty, and offers of hope as opportunities to be hurt, rejected or exposed. There is a very fine line between walking out compassion and empathy and walking as a carrier of hope, joy and freedom without taking on the burdens of fear, doubt and shame. I have not mastered that line, but I know that when I become consciously aware that I am walking again as one enslaved and I make the decision to embrace the hurt, pain and bondage of another I must CHOOSE NOT TO experience it as something that I will be victim to but as something I can trust to Jesus. Only then can I turn and walk again the road unencumbered, full of joy and unashamedly professing my hope. Then I know I become a bearer of something worth fighting for!
May your eyes be fixed on the beauty of Jesus! May revelation-light fill your being!
May your heart be unclouded so you can walk in freedom!
- Written by Callie Neff
Psalm 62:5-7 (TPT)
5 I am standing in absolute stillness, silent before the one I love,
waiting as long as it takes for him to rescue me.
Only God is my Savior, and he will not fail me.
6 For he alone is my safe place.
His wrap-around presence always protects me
as my champion defender.
There’s no risk of failure with God!
So why would I let worry paralyze me,
even when troubles multiply around me?
7 God’s glory is all around me!
His wrap-around presence is all I need,
for the Lord is my Savior, my hero, and my life-giving strength.
This week has brought me back again to the very simple place of being loved by my heavenly Father. I find I come back to "His wrap-around presence" when my heart is crushed by a disappointment, a loss, an unanswered request, a broken trust, an unspoken fear. The hurt I feel the deepest surfaces when walking with a woman who has come into my path to share her hurt and need and I so desperately want to meet it; but I am helpless to choose the path and response she has to the offers and opportunity for a safe place and support. I so quickly begin to expect my way and what I think is best for her to come to pass but often must only offer, pray and wait. My job is to share the heart and love of Jesus and to embody this safe place of trust and rest. I run back to His presence with questions, fears and anger and find myself in silence, resting in His presence with the assurance that He is at work; that He has a plan; that He is "all I need."
I desperately want the one He has brought to my path to know this and experience this as well but it cannot be forced, it is not mine to choose the how and the when, nor the response. The discouragement of seeing someone continually go back to what appears to be hurtul, unredeemed and abusive melts away in His presence when His heart beats with mine in compassion, love and anguish over how we run from Him, push Him away and try so desperately to do things on our own. His love overshadows me, His promises that all injustice, violence and evil are no match to His love, mercy and grace and that just as He pursued me over years and through hard soil so He will do for each one. He gives me the strength and courage to press in to ask again for the life of the one in front of me; to hear the story of devastation and loss and to listen for His leading and timing in my part. He gives me the assurance that standing in my place, sharing His love and choosing to trust is not failure even when it feels like I have not done enough.
May you believe along with me and know for yourself that.
The Lord is my Savior, my hero, and my life-giving strength.
- Written by Callie Neff
Isaiah 58:8 (NIV)
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
I mention often the struggle in walking alongside of others who are in a struggle. My hope in writing is to more clearly define what it means and looks like to walk as the one bearing the mark of freedom, hope, and joy! I can tell you it does not look like perfect words for every occasion, perfect execution of the presentation of the gospel, perfect knowing when to speak and be silent, or perfect waiting for the right timing and the Lord's plan. It does look like taking the steps of a child into an unknown, knowing you are fully loved, protected and covered by the arms of a loving, safe, and reliable Father. It is stepping out in faith with the limits of loving and living in an imperfect body with many unseen obstacles. It is experiencing again and again that the road rises up to meet each step, the bottom comes with a way out, and an unshakeable hope rises from barren places of great despair.
I can say this from the view of time and experience, as the one taking the unknown road, the mother walking with her children through new stages, the wife learning to walk in synchronicity with her husband in living, parenting and ministry, the friend lifting up the unimaginable in prayer, and as the daughter of Sarah walking alongside of Hagar to declare to her that she does not have to remain in slavery to sin and death and that although the way to freedom comes with pain, struggle and perseverance...it does come! I have experienced the light and healing and breaking of sin and death in my life, the cover of protection when stepping out and awkwardly addressing a hurt or a wrong, the breaking of barriers in unashamedly worshipping alone and with others. I have experienced being used to encourage, to carry, to speak, to hold, to love, and to see even through my own seasons of struggle, discomfort and regret. I am seeing the fruit of sowing seeds of love and relationship that multiply over time and under the care of the Master Gardener. I understand that the limits I see in front of me are usually only temporary to guide and protect, and that growth happens every time I say yes to the nudge of His Spirit. I am being cultivated into a grower of freedom and hope, a procuerer of treasure hidden in the darkness and a connector in His Body.
I believe you too are called to bear the mark of freedom, hope and joy! I believe you too will experience the glory of the Lord as your rear guard as good, desirable and faithful!
I believe that as you learn the way of walking in Freedom you will prepare the road for many to come after you!
Ephesians 3:16-19 (TPT)
16 And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power.
17 Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.
18–19 Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude[a] of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!
- Written by Callie Neff
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV)
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
There have been many times, in moments of self-reflection, when I have realized how inadequate and unprepared I have so often felt concerning the call to love those in front of me.
I think of my early experiences, namely working with adjudicated youth in an outdoor therapeutic wilderness program, in Alabama only armed with some head knowledge, minimal life experience and a recent broken engagement BUT also with a foundation of the saving knowledge of Jesus and His call and value for me. As I was fighting on the outside to do my job to lead, care for and guide the young girls in my care, my heart was challenged to be led by love by the Lord's Spirit and not merely through the academic, programmatic and secular lenses that I had been taught. I think of how much I did not know, how much I did not understand of the trauma I was facing, or how much of the lies of the enemy were keeping me bound from fully entering into the spiritual warfare obstructing the path to hope and healing...YET the Lord had me there then not today He knew me beforehand, the struggle I was in, and the hurt and pain of each girl...I was in the right place at the right time and though I did not have the 20 plus years’ experience and understanding of trauma, healing and the spiritual dynamics; I had a youthful zeal and a heart of compassion that moved me to action, to say yes to where Jesus called me.
In my reflection I recognize how I was asked to love to the best of my ability through my own layers of emotional struggle, self-protection and ignorance. I learned to love by desiring something better, desiring healing, and desiring hope. I have since learned and share with others the simple truth that the work of care giving, mothering and fathering, walking alongside...that each woman is an appointment and the right place at the right time for her and for me. I do not know that my knowledge, skill, or understanding make a differnece but I know that God’s love at work through me was and is making an eterenal difference. I have continued to face the inadequacy I feel with each challenge but my trust and faith is not in my skill, ability or understanding but truly in Christ alone.
1 Peter 4:10-12 (TPT)
10 Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace.
11 For example, if you have a speaking gift, speak as though God were speaking his words through you. If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you, so that in everything God alone will be glorified through Jesus Christ. For to him belong the power and the glory forever throughout all ages! Amen.