I Want to Read My Bible, but…

I recently started a woman’s Bible study. We’re reading through the book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.

Many years ago, once I returned back to the church I questioned how I was suppose to act as a Christian woman. I didn’t have role models in place to glean from, then. So I took to reading.

I picked up the book written by Elizabeth George, A Woman After God’s Own Heart. It radically changed my life. And little tips from the book helped me start making new habits that helped me grow as a Christian woman.

My group and I are presently in chapter two. It’s about reading our Bibles daily.

I have to say way back when I first read this book, this part was super hard. I wanted to read my Bible, but it was too complicated for me. And it was a great book, but I just didn’t see how it applied to my everyday life.

So I set out to find a way that one, I could understand and two, was relevant to my life.

Here is what I found that worked for me.

There are many, many ways to read the Bible.

I’m certainly not suggesting this is the only way, or that it will even resonate with everyone. But what do you have to lose?

1) Pick a topic you would like to learn about.

The Bible is packed with lessons. You can’t learn them all at once. Pick one.

Some beginning suggestions.
The face of God: What does God look like?
Women: How was I designed to be?
Fear: What does God say about Fear?

More focused suggestions.
Christian Living: How should I be living?
Mental illness: How does God feel about my son?
Honor your mother and father: How can I honor my mother, if I don’t like her very much?

2) You don’t have to read every. single. word.

Skim, with caution. Will you read anything about, Fear in the genealogy of Jesus? Probably not. But do be careful. Once you narrow your search and become more focused on a topic, you will find lessons sprinkled out all over, in places you never saw before. It’s so exciting to find hidden treasures!

3) WRITE IN YOUR​ BIBLE!

You’re going to miss stuff. You’ll want to remember stuff. You’ll want to go back and find stuff. You’ll want to reread stuff. You gotta, gotta, gotta mark up your Bible.

God won’t get mad. He’s thrilled! He wants to encounter you there. Let him. We’re stupid. We can’t see him through all the other words. He’s talking to you, so make his words stand out and speak.

4) Whenever you come across something that has to do with your topic you’ve selected, underlined it. And move on.

You don’t have to stop and meditate on it (unless it really hit you, and you want to). Don’t assume everything has some great, Aha! moment. It won’t. But accumulatively, it will.

5) Start anywhere.

I like to start from the beginning, but I guess you don’t have to. Just make sure you don’t miss anything. If you start in the New Testament, make sure you finish in the Old. We may not be under the old law anymore, but there is still a lot of lessons to be learned, or supported in there. And don’t jump around. You start the book of John, finish the book of John before you move onto something else. Again, you’ll miss stuff.

6) If you don’t have time, read until you can underlined something, then put it away until tomorrow.

A common excuse for not reading the Bible is, I don’t have time. You don’t need a lot of time. But I can tell you, there’s been plenty of times where I thought the same thing so I decided I would only read until I found the next section that talks about my topic, and then when I look up I’ve realized I’ve not only done that but find myself several chapters passed it and 30 minutes late. Don’t even care. I’m on fire!

If you don’t have a lot of time, be disciplined, not neglectful.

7) If you have questions, write them down.

Then call or email your pastor. They love this kind of stuff! They want to know you are reading. Another common excuse for not reading the Bible is, it’s too hard to understand. Pastors’ want to be there to answer any and all of your questions. Sometimes it means they gotta go searching for the answer too. That’s good. It keeps them on their toes.

8) Don’t do more than one topic at a time.

It may take you a year to get through one topic, but that’s ok. You need to stay focused. If you start different Bibles with different topics, you’ll get lost again. It won’t be as meaningful as one topic would. You don’t have to mediate on everyday readings, because once you start reading about the same thing everyday it starts sink in and changes stuff inside of you. Narrowing your focus is important.

So, when you’re done, guess what?
YOU’VE READ THE BIBLE! THE WHOLE BIBLE! That’s huge! Not many can say that. Ask yourself,

“What did I get out of that?”
“Did I encounter God?”
“What is he trying to tell me?”

And if you don’t know, flip to anywhere in the book and look at what you’ve underlined.

Now wasn’t that just the coolest thing, EVER!?

What do you do from here?

9) We’ll pick up another Bible, silly.

But remember to lable your topic in the front of each book. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

You’ve got a lot that God wants to talk to you about. He’s just waiting for you to listen.

Let me know what works for you as you’ve read your Bible, and if you try what I’ve suggested, let me know how that went too. I’d love to see how you grow!

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Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness

The most controversial thing I hope anyone ever sees or hears from me is my love of Christ Jesus. That is truly the only thing I feel strong enough to defend and the only that matters.

I don’t believe there is anything, anyone can do to get in or stay out of heaven, other than whether or not they accept that Christ paid their way. Our tickets are at Will Call. We just need to claim them.

Now, until that day comes we have lots of choices to do what we please. Some are wise choices and others, not so much. Regardless, our sins or our good deeds are not our tickets to heaven. However, we do have something to guide us while were here, you know, to help keep us safe, get us through, provide comfort, give us wisdom and a bunch of other stuff to help us. It’s call the Bible.

Let me explain.

Your boot for example. Could you use it to hammer in a nail if you needed to? Probably, yes. Was it designed to do that? Ah, no. It actually does a better job of protecting your feet. It was designed that way. The same could be said of your body. We do lots of stuff to it and with it, but are we using it the way it was designed? I see the Bible as like an instruction booklet for your boot…I mean body. It explains how it was made, what it was made for, and how to use it properly, all for the gain of getting its most benefit from.

We all arrive here the same way, and we will all leave here the same way too. But how we live differs greatly.

So for me, it doesn’t matter who’s the president, or who he’s selected to help him do his job, what rights are being perceived as being taken from me, or what brand of peanut butter is the healthy one. There is no point in getting upset and have it consume me when I know…

… that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. –  1 John 1:9

The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. – Psalms 145:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

Not everyone will agree with me, and that’s ok. I will still respect you. But please don’t be upset if I don’t join on your bandwagon.  I would rather you know what I’m for, than what I’m against. God calls me to love, so I will do that.

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

“Do Not Fear”… But I Do

Precursor… Yesterday, I informed my eighteen year old son, he would once again, have to leave my house.

Yesterday, I was beyond grief. I was mad. I was scared.

Today at church we were introduced to a new song. I meditate on it as we are always encouraged to do.

“I am no longer a slave to fear.
I am a Child of God”

… and yet I’m afraid because I’m not sure of where my son is in all of this.

He is also a child of God.
Isn’t he?

Is he still saved?

Could he just be screwing up his time here, but still be with me in eternity?

Am I responsible for where he spends his life in eternity, or how he spends his life here on earth?

If he suffers here while he’s here on earth, but not when he’s in heaven, am I OK with that?

He had accepted Christ as his Savior at one time. Is it still true if he doesn’t give him that position right now?

Is there an age requirement? Was he too young at the time, and therefore irrelevant?

I believe our sins are not what keeps us from entering heaven, but rather, not accepting God’s gift; which is acknowledging Christ came to die for our sins.

Is my son still saved?

Am I upset over his choices because of the consequences he will suffer here on earth, or because of not knowing his eternity?

I’m also aware that one could live a life that looks good but still not spend eternity in heaven.

Which would I rather him live with?

I’m so confused.
My heart aches.

“I am no longer a slave to fear.
I am a Child of God”
… how can this be true?

You are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. – Galatians 4:7

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

“Do not fear”…but I do!

No, I do not fear for myself, but I do fear for the life of my son.

What am I missing?
What do I not get?

One Less Chain that Binds Me

I talked to my amazing Aunt, recently. The day I did, was the day before she was heading to Chicago for exploratory surgery, to confirm whether or not she has lung cancer.

Praise God, she doesn’t!

I’m so in awe of her, because although she’s my aunt, she lives very far away, and although I have many fond memories of her as a child, I’ve never reached out to her as an adult to tap into her loving wisdom, that was always available, but didn’t think I needed, and the day before a possible life changing event was about to occur, she unselfishly gave her time to me.

She loved on me.

This one particular day, she became the aunt I always wished I had. The one I wish I could always be.

I spoke to her about my aging mother because I knew she helped care for her grandmother, before she passed, as well as her own mother.

I called, and asked her for advice about caring for my own. Mind you, mine is not dying, but I struggle with my relationship with her.

“Oh, is she having personality changes?”

“No. I think my mom has always been this way. I’m just tired of the guilt and feeling bitter towards her. My fear is she will die one day, and it won’t be resolved.”

I want to love my mom.

We talked for hours.

She told me things I knew in my heart, but never felt validated until I heard them from her.

Our conversation ended, like all of my conversations about my mom end.

“She’s never going to change.”

“I know”, I told her. But then I heard myself say, “I guess if anyone is going to change, it’s going to have to be me.”

Right now, I can hear in my head, all of my friends and family, who I’ve agonized over this with, are screaming, “That’s what I said!”

I know. I know.

My relationship with my mom always plagues me, because like everything in my life, I try to push it up against what Christ would do.

The verse I beat myself up with is,

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12

So how? How do I do this when she hurts me, manipulates me, makes me feel responsible and guilty for her life choices? She insults my children, puts me down, and speaks poorly of me to others.

Moms don’t do this. I know because I am a mom. I’m a mom, who didn’t even want to be a mom, and I still don’t do this.

Acts 16:16-19 tells of an account, where Paul casts a spirit from a slave girl, who although she is speaking truth about them, is still annoying; and who then outrages her owners because she can no longer bring them a profit.

I AM THIS GIRL!

For years I have felt used by my mom. Cried to so many people about it. All who have said the same thing. “She’s not going to change.” Then hear me justify, “But I need to honor her”, all the while, not feeling honoring.

(See, she’s completely me, even with the annoying part.)

I don’t know what my aunt said that made me think of this passage, but it has been completely freeing.

I am no longer her slave to profit from.

She may have burnt all of her bridges and ruined all of her relationships, but that’s not my fault. That doesn’t obligated me to be her only one, trying to hold it together; trying to prevent her from feeling lonely.

That doesn’t make me honoring. That makes me a slave, a victim. I don’t have to live this way. I don’t have to feel this…this contempt.

I have been freed!

Lord,
I thank you for loving me by sending your Son, your Word that reminds me of your truths and my Aunt. (That was just a nice touch.) Amen.
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.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Why Are You So Concerned?

I got a special treat tonight.

My daughter asked if she could borrow my phone to call her brother, Tunes. Not really believing he would answer the phone, I gave it to her anyway.

He came over and had dinner. We talked about his life and work. We talked about his plans for his future and his struggles.

Somehow we turned to our phones and started sharing funny videos and amusing posts from Facebook.

As the night grew later, each one of the kids took their showers and headed off to bed. Mike joined them.

And then there was just the two of us.

For the next two hours he shared with me videos he had found, or posted online; all of which were centered on how corrupt the United States was.

From its education system, to the pharmaceutical companies, to its politicians in office, to the banking industry, America was doomed.

His light demeanor turned dark. He plans on one day, moving to another country.

He doesn’t know which one, but any of them, is better than this one.

Knowing I was about to start something he doesn’t like to talk about, I took a deep breath and pondered if this was the right time. If it was worth jeopardizing the small precious time I got to spend with him.

I started with…

“I know you don’t want to hear it, but…

“Everything, everything you just showed me, everything you just told me about, you can find in Revelation.

Silence.

“You are not telling me anything I don’t already know. There are dark, dark times coming.

“Christians study Revelation and watch for the signs and feel the need to share it with everyone they know, just like you are doing.

“It’s not new. The New Testament says the end of the world will come like labor pains. Fathers will turn against sons, and daughters against mother. (Matthew 24:3-51)

“I wonder though, if you can spend this much time, researching how dark this world is, why can’t you spend as much time investigating what I’ve been telling you about Jesus, to see if it is true?

“Start with the Bible. There is plenty of scientific proof that the Bible is for real.

“There are archeological evidence that back it up.

“There are sources outside of Christianity, that provided historical evidence that support the validity of what it says.

“There are people who have done more than simply thrown their hands up in the air and said, ‘Well I don’t believe it’, and have actually done their research and set out to prove Christianity as a hoax, and have converted because of what they have found.

“If it is so important for you to educate others on the demise of this country, why can’t you spend just a little bit of time researching what I have been telling you?

“There is nothing you can do about it. It does not matter which country you try to run to. The whole world is coming to an end.

“So, you can watch it. You can study it. You can get mad and outraged about it. You can go out and proclaim it to everyone you know about it.

“Or you can look to God, someone who has overcome it.

“You say you don’t understand. You don’t know how there could be a God, but I will tell you His brain is so much bigger than ours. He is supernatural, and just like trying to explain how a car works to an infant, it is impossible for us to understand it in our puny little brains. (John 3:12)

“So he shrunk himself down in the form of Jesus so that he might dumb it down it for us.

“Now I don’t claim to understand it all, but I know he gave us the Bible, which has been evidentially proven as true, and in it says the way to the Father, is through his Son. (John 14:6)

“He sent his son, so that we may spend eternity with him. He gave us a way out of this sick, dark and destructive world. (John 3:16)

“And yes, it sucks living here, especially if you see what is coming; but life here is only temporary. We are only here for a short time.” (James 4:14)

I rolled my ball of yarn out on the kitchen table and I told him to imagine that it didn’t start here and stop there, but actually went on infinitely in that direction and eternity in the other.

I then placed my index finger on one spot of the yarn.

“This is were we are at. Your birth started on this side of my nail and your life here on earth will end here on the other side of it. Everything you experience here is but a breath, and then you live in eternity. (Psalm 144:4)

“So my question to you, is what are you going to do with the education, gifts and skill sets you have, during this short amount of time you have?

“What legacy do you intend to leave?

“The legacy I want to leave to my children, and my grand children and my grand children’s children, is that I loved.

I loved everyone.

I made sleeping mats and hats for the people who live on the street. Probably some of them deserved to live on the street, but I love them anyway.

“I love the needy as well as those who are mean.

“And even though I have a child who doesn’t believe what I believe; I want them to know, as well as you, that I will still listen to you, I will still be there for you, I will still support you, because I will always still love you.

“I want to impact the world that way.

“I want every person I come in contact with, to be better for it.

“But not because of me, but because of Jesus.

“Because he took a single mom with four kids who had nothing and made her something.

“I may not be rich with money, but I am rich with love.

“I have more friends who are family now than I ever did my whole childhood.

“And I want those in my small world to know Him, and what he has done for me. He has transformed me.

“I am fully aware, without being ‘fully’ aware, that life sucks and bad things happen. But my trust is in the one who has overcome this world.

“Why are you so concerned about what is going to happen right here, when you have eternity to worry about?

“Which eternity will you live?

“Because there is a Hell and it’s not under ground. It’s here.” And I let my finger run forward on the yarn.

“And it is here.” I pointed to my finger sitting on the yarn.

“It is full of pain and regret, and anger and despair.

“Or will you spend eternity with our Father?

“I don’t know if I will be spending my eternity in heaven with him, or I will be spending it here on earth once Jesus returns and brings the New Jerusalem, but I will be spending it with him in one of these two places.”

“Mom.” He showed me his phone and it was nearly 11 pm. “It’s time for me to go home.”

“No. You are home, but I will drive you to where you are living.”

My time to talk was over.

As I got back home, and set my head on my pillow after changing for the night, I texted him, “Love you. Thank you for coming over tonight. You’ve been missed. :)”

He responded, “At least know you raised a son with the same beliefs as you.”

“Look it up. Find the proof you need. Investigate. You are not a dumb kid. You are an educated man. Research and then make your own conclusion. Not one that your mom has given you.”

Good night.

My Distraction

I’ve been so distracted.

Not that what I’ve been doing has been a bad thing. I just haven’t been able to do everything I want; everything I have been doing.

Stuff that I had been doing, good stuff, like walking five miles a day, making sleeping mats for the homeless, reading my Bible; looking for scripture for the Peacemaker idea, and writing consistently on my blog, has not been getting done.

What have I been doing instead? Mostly? Creating. Crocheting, specifically, but ultimately creating.

I love creating! Taking a long piece of yarn and turning it into something useful. Turning it into something beautiful.

Often when I’m trying to make something my first time, I end up taking it apart like at least five, six times. Ok, probably more. I just want it to be right. And I’m ok with taking it apart if it’s not. My first hand bag took me a week to finish it. My second one, only about a day. It’s because I’m not afraid to start over if I make a mistake. It’s good practice.

Sometimes I laugh at myself and think, God created the world in six days, yet it takes me seven to create just a bag. Quickly I am put in my place.

I don’t stop, though. I get so excited once I finish something. I just want to show everyone. I show my kids, who by the way, can’t care less. I share it on my social media, where everyone thinks I’m awesome and don’t see all my mistakes.

And I picture God being the same way with what he’s created. He probably showed, I don’t know, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, his creations after each day and he probably said, “That’s so cool! I wonder what else I can make?”

See, I don’t think God only looked at the light, after making the heaven and the earth, and thought that it was good. He probably thought, that’s STINKIN’ AWESOME! Cuz I know how excited I get after I’ve completed something out of nothing and I know my excitement has come from somewhere.

And by the time he finished making man he was probably just like DONE with it. I’ve been there too.

Tried working on a pair of shoes this weekend. Yeah, they didn’t go as planned. Let’s just say, I didn’t look at them and say, “It is good.” It was more like, “Yeah, I’m done.”

They were hard and complicated. I was a little over my head too. They frustrated the crap out of me. I eventually gave up. Brought me back to my place.

I may like to create, but I’m not God.

I’m sure he didn’t feel we were all that complicated. He wasn’t overwhelmed. But I do believe he gets frustrated with us, just the same.

But look what he’s done. He created the heavens and the earth, day one. Separated the water from the sky, day two. And he made land and trees, day three. He made the sun and the moon, day four. Birds that fly and fish that swim, day five. And on the sixth day be made man to rule over all the animals be made earlier that day.

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! – Genesis 1:31

He was stoked, I tell you. I know this because he created me in his image. We’re all able to create something. And those feeling we get after we do…well they come from him!

Think about that the next time you make something. You are sharing the feelings of God. What an awesome experience that is! Does it bring you closer? It should.

He’s right there…inside of you.

What an awesome distraction!

Deaf and Blind

Today I was interpreting for someone who was having trouble with her eyes. This is a huge concern for anyone, but even more so for someone who is Deaf.

I’ve met quite a few Deaf/blind people, and I have to say, they are among the most impressive people I have ever known.

But for someone who’s been Deaf all their life to suddenly lose their sight, it can be quite devastating.

During the exam she had to expose herself to tests that took away her already poor sight and made her virtually blind. She kept asking me to come closer and closer as if she wanted me so close that she could mold me into her own eyes and replace them within her own.

She didn’t like this vulnerability. I can’t say that I blame her. She had no control of her outside world and any information that it was trying to communicate with her.

She grabbed my hand to feel the signs I was using. She wasn’t terrified, but she was definitely trying to take control.

I wanted to reassure her that everything was ok; that she was safe. I didn’t. Although it would have been very compassionate of me, it wouldn’t have been professional.

The most I could offer her was remaining calm, getting as close to her as I possibly could, and letting her feel my presence.

By the time we had left the office, she had regained enough of her vision back to feel in control again and safe.

I left her, feeling confident that she no longer needed my services but she hasn’t left my mind all day.

On a physical level, I can’t possibly pretend to say I understand how she felt. It would be insulting if I did.

To be somewhere in between, being physically somewhere but completely disconnected to the environment around me. It would have to be terrifying.

Imagine the amount of trust one must have. Trust that even when you are not in control, that someone else is. Trust that no harm will come to you in a vulnerable state.

The amount of confidence one must have to maintain any quality of life. Confidence that would overcome your fear to get up everyday and move. To see what kind of impact you can make, in a world that you are disconnected from.

Perseverance. How much perseverance you must have to try and try and try again. To develop the mindset of not giving up but of endlessly trying something one more time; learning how to do something differently.

Physically, I can only imagine, however, spiritual I can say I have felt this deprivation.

I have felt disconnected from my world. I have felt out of control. I have felt vulnerable. And I have felt the need to reach out to find peace.

I live in a world that doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t understand it’s hate. I don’t understand it’s greed. I don’t understand it’s motive. I feel very much, lost, somewhere in between; in between this world and the world of my Father.

Lord, I want to trust in you. Trust that although I am not in control, you still are. Trust that you  will keep me safe when I am vulnerable.

I want to shine your light. Give me your confidence that even though I don’t understand this world I live in, I can still relate to it. I still have purpose. I can impact it not because of my confidence, but with confidence.

Perseverance. This world is pretty brutal. I get knocked down quite a bit. I have bumps and bruises and even scars but I ask for strength to go on. Because you have asked me too. I have been sent on mission. Your mission of love in this world of hate.

Thank you for remaining calm when I feel out of control. Come close to me. May I share the eyes of your son so I may see you.

Let me feel your hands and bring me peace. I take comfort in your presence.

Lord, I am deaf and blind. Your Word says Jesus came so I might see (John 9:39).

Make these eyes of mine, see and my ears hear. All for your glory, in my spiritual blindness I say, amen.