the good soil

We’ve all seen the famous picture, “The Last Supper.”

The tables hold plates of food,, the wine glasses are full, and the Passover feast is being served. The seats are only on one side of the table (as we know of course) and there sit the twelve disciples and Jesus.

Out of nowhere, Jesus gets up from the table, grabs a basin of water, a towel, and kneels down at the feet of the disciples. One by one, Jesus washes their feet…including Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Him.

In that moment, the symbol of Christ changed from a manger to a water basin and dirty piece of cloth. In that moment, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of how we are to love our enemies.

Here at Grace College, I go to class to study and learn about the Bible. From stories of heroes like Elijah to doing word studies, I have definitely been taught new details, meanings, and lessons to be learned about the Bible and about Jesus.

As we were going through the New Testament, we looked at the leadership style of Jesus. He was gentle yet had a point to make. He was humble, yet confident in who He was. He was kind but didn’t stand for sin, and He had a goal to lead others towards. He was and is the very definition of good, gentle, humble, and caring.

Knowing this, it’s not surprising that He knelt down to wash Judas’s feet.

This part of the passage really stood out to me. Of course I don’t have anyone trying to sell me to the Romans for a few pieces of silver, but there are definitely those who make life just a little harder sometimes. We all have these people in our lives, especially when our main goal in life is to further the kingdom of God. These “difficult” people could be coworkers, peers, classmates, past friends, or the ones sitting in front of you at church (yes lol, I went there:)). Regardless of who they are, we are still called to love and serve them.

In John 13:2, it states that Jesus knew that the devil had already put it into Judas’s heart to betray him and yet He did not separate him from the rest of the disciples while washing feet. He could have easily lectured Judas or stun him with a snarky comment but He simply knelt

So, why does this matter to us? How is this relevant to my “difficult” person, the one I find it challenging to be around?

Well, the answer lies within the Parable of the Sower and in Luke 6.

In the Parable of the Sower, there are different soils in which a seed falls into. The rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil. As the parable says, the seed that fell into the thorny soil did not grow because it got choked out by the weeds and thorns surrounding it. The seed that fell into the rocky soil sprouted only to be uprooted because its roots were too shallow and weak. Lastly, the seed in the good soil bloomed and thrived.

Trying to love others like Christ loves them without being planted in good soil is like trying to breathe in outer space. It simply is impossible – without the right equipment. Therefore, dealing with our “difficult” person is going to be impossible if we don’t have our proper equipment – a strong foundation built upon Christ. In Luke 6:27, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

If Jesus can wash Judas’s feet, the least we can do is pray for our “difficult” people. We don’t know what all they are going through and we don’t know their home life. But we do know someone who could bring them joy and peace and purpose and that is Jesus.

If you have a difficult person in your life, pray for them and ask for God to give you peace, patience, and guidance on how to love them. For some, it might look like a water basin and towel. For others, it might look like self-control or even filtering what we say to them. All in all, just pray for them and for God to use you as a seed planter.

We all can be difficult sometimes, so think about those who might be praying for you and then add on to the trend:)

John 13:1-15


Matthew 13

Treat your self

Things stay busy for me. To be sure, I’m not a victim of my busyness. I choose it. I have an extroverted, highly productive personality, and I like to keep my days full. On top of that, I am raising two small kids and working full time (and then some) to coordinate a large nursing program. I joke with people saying that I’m a firefighter. Part of my role as a parent and a program coordinator is putting out fires I didn’t start, solving everyone else’s problems. When the day finally calms, I don’t want to do anything that makes me think so I usually fill my mind with a random book or TV show. Maybe I binge some snacks. Over time, I have bought into this idea that rest will be found in this place that lacks structure and discipline. After all, I deserve this, right? In Psalm 23:3, King David says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The reality is that God is inviting me to a place of restoration that only comes from Him. There is a temptation to buy in to the world’s version of rest, which is sometimes just a fancy word for sin. God knows that only He can provide what we need, and it will not be found in a self-serving heart. No amount of “treating yourself” will restore our souls. Restoration will be found as we humbly let the Father lead us on paths of righteousness. May we not take the bait to check out after a long day or believe that we deserve to sin. We tend to reserve that word for the “big” things, but that’s how the enemy gets us. Binge eating at the drive through and reading a trashy romance novel can be just as deadly as cocaine. Don’t flirt with destruction. The only way we can provide Living Water to fight the daily fires is to allow the Father to fill the well from which we draw. Beloved, the world needs the Living Water that God wants to pour out of you.

Above all

An excerpt from an advice book given to my 12 year old daughter:

“Above all… love yourself! Loving yourself and learning to accept all your quirks is…. truly the most important thing you can do to boost your self-esteem. Whether you start by recognizing the little things or completely fall head over heels for your fabulous self, you can start your journey to promote self-love.”

I threw it away. 

I thought about just ending this whole piece with the aforementioned statement. But somewhere between “mic drop” and “well, that was arrogant,” it may be helpful to see why I responded that way. 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” 

“…For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

“‘You shall shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

“‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

I cannot reconcile the two messages. Can you see the dilemma? I cannot possibly love myself above all AND love God above all (“with all my heart/strength/mind/might/soul”). So, this means I have to choose. I’m tempted to say this issue is layered and complicated, but really, it isn’t. This isn’t about human dignity or value. The heart of the problem here is a problem with the heart. If I love myself above all else, then nothing else matters. If I love myself above all else, then nothing else matters, because loving myself is the only thing that matters. 

How can we commit to Love Ourselves Above All Else and Love the Lord our God With ALL of Our Everything? We can’t. It seems that loving all involved with a whole-hearted “die for the whole world” kind of love belongs to God alone. So, human love doesn’t have the capacity to engulf ourselves in a whole-hearted love that also gives the same attention and affection to something bigger and more superior to us simultaneously. To love something above all means I’m going to go head first and forsake other things because what I’m pursuing out of love is most important. If I teach my daughter that she is number one and to “love herself above all,” then that also means that the lesser thing is forsaken. If she’s first, then God cannot be. If I’m first, then God cannot be. 

Know what the ironic thing is here? When God is first, all these other things are added to us.** The other ironic thing? In order for us to love ourselves above all else, unable to commit to loving God above all, then we do the one thing that God promises to never do, which for Him, is to never leave nor forsake us  (Hebrews 13:5). If I want my daughter to be kind, compassionate, considerate, and a host of other desirable characteristics including loving, then how could I possibly expect that her pursuing “self-love” above all is going to produce an outward focused human? 

Throwing away books might not be your thing. But… what message is taking up space on your shelves? That poor book. I did toss it and not only that, but I took liberty to re-write the author’s paragraph using a different Book I own. Now, you try. 

“Above all.. love the Lord your God! Loving yourself and learning your quirks is… truly the most important thing you need to surrender. Whether you start by expressing gratitude or completely fall head over heels for the God who created you, you can start your journey to living a life built on a strong foundation.” 

*Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 13:3, Deuteronomy 30:6, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27

**Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Ashley Behn




In every season I have a reason to sing.

Let me start by saying that I am NOT a singer.

I have zero musical bones in my body.

Regardless, I have learned to sing to my King.

I have always loved singing along with worship music.

I let it play in the background of my quiet times.

I keep K-LOVE on in my car.

I have some go-to favorites:

“Worthy of it All” by David Brymer

“Standing in Miracles” by Emmy Rose

“I Can’t Get Away” by Melissa Helser Naomi Raine

Worshipping along to pre-recorded songs and written words gives Him glory and honor, but there have been times when no predetermined lyric could quite reach the depths of my spirit.

When my four-day-old son was rushed to Texas Children’s in an ambulance.

When I walked through the deepest, darkest season of depression.

When I finally broke free from anxiety-induced drinking.

No words previously written could have captured my own spirit and soul.

No worship song already released properly relayed my message to God.

We were made that way.

We were created to sing our own songs.

We were made to worship from within our own spirit.

So, I just started singing.

It started out very simply.

I repeated words that resonated with me from other songs. While the worship team continued to the chorus, I sometimes stayed on the bridge, repeating the words that sparked my spirit.

Then, I began worshiping with instrumental music. I let the sounds wash over me as I waited for a song to spring up from within. Little by little, I sang words of worship strung together. Songs that were specific to my season, straight from my Savior, to be sung to my Savior.

In a time of waiting and longing, I sang this:

“I believe You will do it.

I will trust You through it.

I will praise You to it.

God, I know you are moving.

You are my victory, you defeat the enemy.

You have overcome, you said it was done.

So, I will believe. I will praise.

I will honor you all of my days.”

Over and over, I could come back to these words.

While I did the dishes. On my way to work.

“I believe You will do it.”

In a season of loneliness, isolation, and uncertainty, I sang:

“I’ve been wandering, wondering

where you went, where you have been.

I don’t feel the same. I’ve lost my flame.”

Something supernatural happens when we

open our mouths and let our message out.

We connect with God in a deep, intimate way.

We build our faith and strengthen our spirit.

We worship Him in spirit and truth.

Colossians 3:16 says, Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

There is a song inside of you.

There is a song inside of me.

And He wants us to sing.

You have words of worship in this season.

You have a voice that He wants to hear.

Your praise is a testimony of His presence.

You may simply sing, “You are here. You are near.”

Your worship is a way to wait.

You may sing, “I will wait for You. I will wait for a breakthrough.:

Your song is a plea for peace.

You may sing, “Still the water. Calm the sea. Won’t You draw near to me?”

You may just sing, “Jesus.”

No matter your season, sing.

Sing in your waiting, healing, grieving, wondering, resting, weariness.

Sing your song of deliverance, hope, waiting, believing, thanksgiving.

Psalm 96:1

Sing a new song to the Lord;

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord.

Psalm 40:3

He put a new song in my mouth,

A hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

And they will trust in the Lord.

You can

I felt deep within my soul last night that somebody needed a pep talk.

Here it goes. Pretend we are face to face.

Now, don’t you dare say you can’t do hard things. You can.

You can because He did. And He is living within you.

Life is hard. Being a Christian is hard.

But hard is rewarding.

Whatever you’re going through today – whatever mountain your are trudging up – He is with you. Walking beside you. Guiding you. Rooting for you.

You can do this, sister. You can do hard things.

“Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up.”

Galatians 6:9

He’s there

We once were all lost, but now we are found.

Sometimes we just need to ask ourselves what has Jesus saved us from today? He’s everywhere. Rooting for you. Protecting you. Fulfilling promises. Do you trust in him? At times I believe we need to remember just how mighty he is. Dig into scripture to find out. Look around to see him working. He’s there.

“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” Romans 4:20-21 NLT

God is a God of life.
God is a God forgiveness.
God is a God of rescue.

We serve a God that keeps on saving. I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful God didn’t just save me once and move along. He keeps pursing us. He keeps saving us. Do you trust in him?

In this world full of tribulations, You have to know who you are. You have to know what God’s word says about you. You have to be so rooted in scripture you know regardless of how your world is around you, your faith will not waver.

“I praise you being I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

If you don’t know this today, know that you are redeemed. You are made new by Christ. Believe this today. You are walking in love because you are loved. Commit your life to Jesus. Who you used to be is not who you are.

God is a God of faithfulness.
I hope you trust in him today.

He never will

Have you ever fallen down really hard? Maybe your mom poured that liquid in a brown bottle on your scraped-up knee? Or maybe you stubbed your toe? Now, what does all of that have in common?


All of those examples are about being hurt. I am a very injury prone person, so I know a thing or two about being hurt. But sometimes there is a greater hurt than physical pain. Whether it’s a breakup or maybe people at school or work are rude to you, eventually one day life is going to slap us all in the face.


This was the day that changed my life forever. A quick little backstory: Going into my sophomore year of high school my best friend and I committed to training for basketball everyday, and that is exactly what we did. We worked out, we played pickup games, and we practiced our skills. We both made the varsity summer league team, and we both performed very well. We were both told that we would most likely make our school’s varsity team as well.

11/13/19 was a normal Wednesday at WHS. The only twist, it was the day we would find out who made the team. The athletics period came and Logan and I were working out. They called me in and told me I would just be a “practice player”. A practice player meant I didn’t get to play in the games, but I got to run suicides, do drills whenever they let me, and watch the team from the stands. I was shocked and couldn’t believe it. After the period I was sitting in class just thinking to myself, “I know I should be on this team. I’m a good player.”

 All of a sudden, I was called out of that class to go home. Confused, I got in the car with my dad. His face was white as a ghost. We drove over to the elementary school where he told me to stay in this car because I would be driving it home. My baby sister got in the car, and she asked where we were going. As soon as she asked that I saw my mother and father walk out of the building. My mother was crying and my father was holding her. Maggie thankfully didn’t see that. I immediately went into big brother mode and drove to where she couldn’t see my mother crying. That hour drive home was the longest drive of my life. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. On top of that I had to act like everything was ok because of Maggie being in the car. We finally arrived at the house and my dad broke the news. My sweet MiMi had passed away.

I was devastated. I had just seen my grandmother two weeks before. Thankfully, I got one of her amazing hugs and got to hear her say “Mavo” one last time.

In one day I was told I wasn’t good enough to make the team and my MiMi had passed away. I was angry with God, and I asked over and over,“How could you do this to me?”

One night I put my Bible up, and I moved my Bible app on my phone to where I could no longer see it. I still went to church, but I never paid attention. I stopped praying and reading my bible. I cut off connection with God. I stopped hanging out with my friends as much, and I pushed everyone I loved and cared about away. I remember there was one night I looked in the mirror and was disgusted. I had grown to hate myself, and I no longer believed in myself. I had officially hit rock bottom.

 After my sophomore year I moved to Hardin-Jefferson, and I decided I was going to try out for the basketball team. On paper I didn’t stand a chance to make the team. HJ is a prestigious basketball program with multiple state championships, state ranked in 4A, and they make the playoffs every year. So if I couldn’t make the team at a smaller school how could I make it here? I tried out and not only did I make it, but I had the best season ever. None of it would have been possible without Coach Paul Sims. Coach Sims brought me out of the dark place I was in, and when he showed me that he believed in me and that he had confidence that I could produce at a high level for his basketball team, I started to believe in myself again. I started to love myself and life again. For Coach Sims I am forever grateful, but don’t ever call him Paul because he will make you run suicides for it.

 While I did start to enjoy my life again I still had so much anger and hurt towards God. I also had no relationship with him. The summer going into my senior year I went to church camp, but I didn’t learn a thing. I just went to hang out with my friends. Then, on November 9, 2021 HJ was playing against my old school in basketball. With seven minutes to go in the game I finally got to check in. As I was walking on to the court I remember seeing the clock and seeing 7 minutes to go and thinking to myself, “Huh, MiMi was born on March 7th.” I brushed it off and started to focus on the game. I proceeded to have one of the best games I had ever played. On our last offensive possession I caught the ball at the top of the three point line and I shot and swished it. As soon as it went through I saw the clock and time froze for me. There was seven seconds left on the clock, again my MiMi was born on March 7th. Then I heard thirteen in my head. I realized that I had scored thirteen points, and I immediately thought back to 11/13/19. In my head I was thinking, “11/13/19. Holy cow! I scored thirteen points, thirteen, thirteen.” Then out of nowhere for the first time in two years I felt God’s presence. All of the pain, suffering, and anger it all just went away. It truly was the biggest weight lifted off of my chest and shoulders. Reality came back and a player for my former school shot. I grabbed the rebound as time expired, and for a split second as I held the ball I thought, “Thank you.” I was swarmed by my teammates. We were all jumping up and down and celebrating for the game we had just played. When we got back to the school I opened up my bible app for the first time in two years. I randomly selected a verse and it was Hebrews 13:8 which says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Fast forward to today I read my bible and I pray everyday, and my relationship with God is great!

I realized that God never abandoned me like I thought he did. The incredible thing is he never has, and he never will. I wish I knew that back then so I didn’t have to go through everything I went through alone. But now that I know what I know, I can help people realize that they don’t have to go through tough times alone. I am hoping that by people reading this they realize that no matter how big the problem is, whether it’s someone passing away, bills, relationships, or work God will never leave your side. He will help you get through it. God never abandoned me, and he never will abandon you!

Just because you can

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Much of our lives are spent seeking worldly treasures to sustain our lives, the American dream, the house, the car, the friends, the vacation, the lifestyle, the shoes, the job, the success, the family. In many circumstances there’s nothing wrong with having aspirations to attain many of these treasures, however, as a child of God, a follower of Christ, sometimes the Lord places us in situations and circumstances to exercise our reliance upon him through deviant decisions so that his work, power, and testimony can be made known through our lives.

In Daniel 1 we see Nebuchadnezzar besiege the tribe of Judah and carry them to Babylon. There he takes articles from the temple of God and places them in the temples of his gods. He then does the same with the Lord’s children. He took young men from the tribe of Judah, skillful in all areas and best looking, and put them in his kingdom to train and teach and serve his empire. King Neb favors these men and gives them the royal treatment, they were to be trained in language and literature and given a daily amount of food and wine from the kings table; they were to be treated as royalty. What an honor that after being besieged, to have now been chosen, favored, allowed to work and train in the house of the King. These young men were assigned access to the greatest of foods, greatest of drink, greatest of intellectual teachings, and yet because of their foundational love for the presence of God, they chose not to indulge in the lavish appetite provided by the king. Verse 8 says 8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.

You see, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Friends, the Lord has called us to a life set apart. The King’s food and drink, was it bad? Was it blatantly wild or unpure? Was it something one would look at and scoff at because it was ‘sinful.’ There were a few meat challenges, but other than that, it wasn’t. From all worldly perspective, it made complete sense for them to eat the diet necessary to allow their bodies to grow in strength and power, however, Daniel felt that accepting the kings food meant he was accepting his patronage or friendship, his dependency on the king for the sustenance of his being. Daniel knew that although he was chosen to live in the world of Neb, he was not going to put his dependence on the king, but rather depend on God for the nourishment of his body. Scripture says that “15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” “17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” (Daniel 1:15-17)

Friend, just because you can run with ‘those people’ doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can spend your money however you’d like doesn’t mean you should. Just because you’ve been offered the promotion doesn’t mean you should. Just because you’re of age to indulge may not mean you should. Just because you can watch the TV show doesn’t mean you should. Satan deceives us into sacrificing the treasures of God on the altar of Worldly desire. The Lord has called you, set you apart for a purpose, and although many of your decisions my seem misunderstood by others, the Lord honors your faithfulness and reverence. Be encouraged that the Lord can do more with our small offerings of faithfulness than the world can do in a lifetime.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Brittnee Barnes

It’s hot in here

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:25


“It’s hot in here, I said it’s hot in here. There must some lions in the atmosphere”

If you are a Kountze kid of a certain era you can hear a sweet mom chanting that. She single handedly changed the atmosphere in many a gym.

Atmosphere is important. It can mean life or death. As Christians we need to be aware of our personal atmosphere. What am I saying? What am I watching 👀? What/who am I listening to? Is it an atmosphere Holy Spirit would choose to operate in? Is it an atmosphere that matches who we say we are? If what I say and what I do don’t match, then my witness is worthless.

Once we start aligning our personal atmosphere with Jesus we need to consider how it affects the corporate atmosphere of church. What am I bringing to the worship table? Is it my all? My best?

Am I draining the atmosphere with my less than stellar attitude, or am I attacking the atmosphere and driving back the darkness with my praise and worship?

I heard a message recently and the preacher said if we let our atmosphere slide, it becomes a climate and if we don’t address the climate it becomes a culture.

That’s scary.

What culture do I want around me? It starts with the atmosphere I accept.

No middle ground

Take a trip with me to the “Cross”. How do you feel when you go there ? Every… single… time I take this trip (whether in worship, reading, praying, or just the stillness of a moment),

I am filled with so much emotion. An overwhelming gratefulness that I know I don’t fully understand because of Jesus’ absolute perfection and holiness. His love for you and me is unconditional, and we do not earn His grace on that Cross and through eternity.

I’ve rebelled, fail daily, have made horrible choices. I’ve also prayed, begged, pleaded for, wept for, and worshipped for God’s grace / sobbing in the midst of deep appreciation for Him redeeming me.

But what do we do when someone else rebels, fails, or makes horrible choices? Choices that hurt you or someone you love? Someone that you don’t feel deserves your grace and forgiveness – just as you or I don’t deserve His.

Like, whoa… wait Kristy, right? That heartache still stings, that pain is still there, those hurt feelings are still interrupting my sleep and using my brain for a playground. Yeah, I know… I get it. But, with grace and forgiveness there is no middle ground. We either apply God’s grace or we step off into a nasty journey of bitterness. And well, bitterness is TRAGIC, destructive, and more painful, more hurtful, more heartache, and the very opposite of what Jesus did for us all on the cross.

Friend, the grace from the cross was not meant for us to be greedy with. It’s to be poured out as Jesus did. I’m not saying it will be easy. It’s not deserving (for any of us), and not usually the prettiest circumstances. But…but, have no doubt sister, Christ forgave you and me far beyond what we deserve, and He forgives others the same. Be intentional, be determined, not to fall short of the grace of God because you wouldn’t share that grace yourself. ♥️

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God.” Eph. 2:8