Unintended Benefits

My friend Jody (hey, 3!) inadvertently sent me on a mission as she shared about participating in an online Bible study through her church. I’ve been out of the “official” Bible study loop over the past several months as we’ve worked to settle our loved one into her placement and routines. In the process of that, my own routines have quite gone out their own window and, as anyone who is part of a care-giving team for a loved one can tell you, concentration abilities can sometimes take quite the hit.

Mine did, anyway. I understood the why, but I haven’t liked the process of trying to regain ground that had always felt so ingrained as to be considered permanent. Stepping away from leading and then from even doing my own in-depth study was quite an adjustment. (So was regaining ground on some of my neglected chore list!) I reveled in the Psalms after my daily walks and God allowed David’s writings of his own struggles to help sooth my own. Over and over I read them. They are familiar ground to me, so I chose to read them in a “different” translation (ESV–English Standard Version) so I wouldn’t gloss over the meanings on my way through them. That helped. I saw things I’ve never noticed before and these new-old words were a balm and a blessing, so when Jody shared her new challenge, I jumped on board immediately.

Her online group is using a book by Susan Goodwin, Jennifer Peterson, and Molly Sawyer (all new to me), entitled EVERY WORD A Reader’s 90-day Guide to the Bible. It’s short and just exactly what the title implies:  a guide to reading the Bible through in 90 days. I’ve read through the Scriptures many times, but never really put a defined timeline on it. Even so, the 90-day thing sounded just like what I needed:  an opportunity to dive into the Word with some concentration and discipline. This isn’t intended to be a “deep” dive. It’s supposed to be more of an overview reading and the authors have included some general questions/commentary/points of interest for the reader to consider along the way. Ninety days through the Bible translates into about 10-15 chapters a day, so far, and although I generally read pretty quickly, I am finding that I’m deliberately pacing myself to match their targets instead of just racing through as I had previously thought about doing.

(Annnnnnddddd…Falling behind makes for a tough catch-up process. Ask me how I know and insert an eye-roll here!)

This journey through the Bible follows a chronological reading schedule instead of the more traditional route, so that change has been intriguing to me, as well. I already knew that Job and Abraham were likely contemporaries, but reading Job right after Genesis made me truly connect some of their cultural dots in a new way. Perhaps that is also due to my decision to read through these 90-days in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)-translation instead of my trusty NKJV with decades of notes in the margins, dates out beside SO many of the verses, and sticky notes protruding from many pages to mark topics and notes along the way.

I’m a “word nerd” and that means I’ve always loved the lyrical nature of the King James English. I typically use the New King James because that translation retains the lyrical poetry without the formal Thees and Thous for readability. I’ve used my burgundy leather-bound copy of that translation for years, so I wasn’t quite sure I would really enjoy a more contemporary language styling for these ancient Words. I wanted a fresh start for this project, however, so I picked up my purple-bound (I love purple!) CSB translation which I have used for additional clarification during previous studies. The CSB remains faithful to original text and translates in a word-for word and thought-for-thought manner to give us a wonderful readability of the truth within the covers. Win-win! (Did I mention that this one is purple?! Love it!!)

I expected to use this challenge as a way to marshall my now-all-too-often-scrambled thought processes and help me regain some stability of study habits. I hoped to be alert to learning along the way, of course, but the 90-day pace doesn’t allow for in-depth study right now, and that seemed to be all I could handle. That’s really different for me, but the logical side of my brain says I have to start somewhere to regain the ground, so this was my shot. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was something I should have thought of from the beginning: the Word of God is powerful and healing and interesting and entertaining and instructive…and just reading through it in this measured pace has sparked my interest in finding out more/digging deeper to the point that I’ve had to actually force myself not to stop and dig deeper along the way…every few minutes or so! (grin) The “new” language for these ancient truths has made me fall in love with the Words all over again and I’ve found myself caught up in the drama and the history of it all. (Even reading through Leviticus wasn’t a chore this time!)

Along the way, I’ve also been highly entertained by the way the more contemporary phrasing has caught my attention and made me laugh and see imagery I know that I’ve missed in previous readings. I’ve started a small sticky-note reminder of some of my favorites. I’ll close with the two that made me start the list:

“If only you would shut up and let that be your wisdom.”  Job 13:5 (CSB)

and

“…All fat belongs to the Lord.”  Leviticus 3:16b (CSB)

I’ve got to tell you, those two gems–and the wisdom and the hilarity that ensued in my mind as I read those words–are worth the entire project! I needed that truth and humor combination. Maybe you did, too.

Spend some time in the Word today to deliberately draw closer to the One Who made you and loves you most. I think you’ll learn more than you intend…and God has way of giving us gifts that we didn’t even know we needed as we choose to be obedient.

Grace and Peace…and laughter with God!

 

Road map for life

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Most of us have at least heard these words before. Many of us can quote them. How many of us, I wonder, apply them?

Trust in the Lord–Well, sure! Who doesn’t know that they’re supposed to trust God?! Lots of us give lip service to this part. We SAY we’re trusting, but all the while, we’re scheming and planning our own ways and trying to work the system or get the people in our own systems to meet our own goals and meet our own desires with little to no thought about whether or not those plans actually line up with God’s Word or His heart. While it sounds like a no-brainer to trust the only One in charge…do we really trust Him? What do our prayers say? Are we telling Him how we want things to go or telling Him that we’re willing to go His way? Are we even talking to Him at all?

with all your heart–Oh, my. If we’re having trouble with that first part, whatever are we doing with this one? With ALL your heart? (Did You really mean, our whole heart, God?) What are you doing with your whole heart? Are you focused–in ANY area of life–with your whole heart? Divided hearts seem to be the norm these days. Are we willing to look simple and foolish because we focus our whole (Definition: “all of; entire; total, unabridged…”) heart on the Eternal God who is actually the only way we can have a whole (definition:  “in an unbroken or undamaged state; in one piece; intact; unbroken; unimpaired…) heart?

and–you mean there’s more, God?! Yes. There’s more…SO much more!

do not lean on your own understanding,–What happens when we lean? We allow our weight to be carried by something other than ourselves. Hmmmmm…What if we were truly willing to allow for the possibility that we don’t have all of the information needed to navigate this life? Anyone else in NEED of the ability to take a break from trying to do it all on our own and get rid of the self-inflicted (not to mention totally unreasonable and unattainable!) pressure to be infallible? Would that lighten our loads in any way? Don’t we need that?!

in all your ways acknowledge Him–Oh, dear. There’s that word again:  all. Every single one? In EVERY. THING? Yes, and there’s still more! Keep reading! In every single thing we do we are to “acknowledge Him. That word means we’re supposed to:

  1. accept or admit the existence or truth of.
  2. recognize the fact or importance or quality of…to celebrate, to praise, to speak highly of, to accept the validity or legitimacy of…(Becky’s definition: believe!)
  3. show that one has noticed or recognized (someone) by making a gesture or greeting. (Becky’s definition: make a change!)
    That sounds like the ABCs of salvation to me! Admit, Believe, Confess…and be CHANGED so that all the rest of this is even possible.

and He will make straight your paths.–So many times we want to know where we’re going and what we’ll see/do along the way. Keep in mind that this verse does NOT say our paths will be easy, simple, without issues and fault lines and mountains and valleys and…we’re still going to have all of those things and–that’s what makes a trip SCENIC, y’all!! Our final destination changes once we’ve done all of that acknowledging, however, and our path will then lead us straight to HIM even when the route along the way gets “scenic” at times.

Father God, Thanks for giving us a way to come straight to You and making it possible to rest in all that You have planned for our journey. We make that harder than it has to be sometimes. Thanks for being patient and giving us a brand new day in which to make better choices. Help us to lean into You today no matter what part of the road we’re on and be at peace with knowing You’re in control. We make that harder than it has to be sometimes, too. Give us You today in ways that allow others to be blessed and see that they need You, too. Help us to represent You well, God, and give us the ability to praise You on purpose no matter what our “scenery” looks like today.

Grace and Peace.

 

Undivided

I was back on the porch after my walk this morning and back in the Psalms, as well. I love reading through these familiar words that suddenly grab my attention as though they are brand new to me.

Today, God used Psalm 86:11, to do that:

“Teach me Your way, Lord, and I will live by Your truth. Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.” (CSB)

“…Give me an undivided mind…” it says. Wow. How long has it been since you had that?! The ESV translates it this way: “…unite my heart…” and I suddenly know and remember out loud that we are the ones who divide our hearts and minds.

We call it multi-tasking and say we’re making progress, but it really isn’t progress if we lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing: walking in His truth and fearing (honoring, giving reverence to) His name.

Somewhere along the way we got that mixed up. We began to make our own “truths” and revere our own names. No wonder we find ourselves with divided hearts and minds unable to see what is real…and  too often afraid to speak it lest we annoy someone or step on toes that walk in ways contrary to what God says is good.

And sometimes, those toes are our own. Connected to minds that race when we should be resting and are still when we should be working, our divided hearts still fight for relationship with more–when GOD is the only MORE that we ever really need. 

I needed this Word today as I make plans to celebrate this season. I want my celebration to be meaningful and God-focused, praise-filled and prayer-full–AND I want it to continue throughout the upcoming year! Yes, we set aside this season to celebrate the gift of God to mankind and we decorate and we purchase and we revel… and we’re different…for a little while. I wonder what would happen if we used this time of celebration to unite our hearts and minds so that we can walk in HIS truth and be who we were actually created to be: undivided.

Hmmmm…I wonder.

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2019–Days 27-30

IMG_20171125_071335337Well, it’s here! We’re right at the end of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2019. This will be my last post for the month because I am choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving and LIFE with people who hold the biggest part of my heart. I pray that your days will be spent in much the same way. I pray that they are GOOD DAYS and, even if they are less than you’d like them to be, that you will choose to make the most of them.

I have been truly honored to share this month with you and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how well we all do carrying the lessons we learned into December and beyond. Despite all of the faults we hear so loudly proclaimed, God has given us a good world and plenty of opportunities to make the difficult places better simply by choosing to respond in positive and healing ways.

We will be people of influence…no matter what responses we choose. I hope we all choose the best ones.

Thanks for joining me this month! May God be praised by your life, your witness to the world, and your choices to make life better for those around you!

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2019–Day 26

Today is a beloved cousin’s birthday AND her wedding anniversary, as well! I remember picking roses from the bush in front of my Mississippi house and being ever so grateful that God had given us so many to decorate her wedding cake–after all, it was right on Thanksgiving Day that year! I also remember how we had so much food prepared for her reception and the family Thanksgiving celebration that the roses ended up being stored outside overnight in the cars…where the water in ALL of the vases froze absolutely solid. 

IMG_20181130_071351806_HDRIt was quite a sight and quite a shock! We weren’t expecting that. We didn’t let it change the wedding plans or have a major affect on the wedding festivities, though. We just laughed, cut the blooms off, and left the stems in the frozen water! Her cake was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I still think about it every time I pass by similar blooms here at my current Georgia home.

I picked those bushes on purpose once I got settled here. They’re my favorite…and what could have made us upset that day, just made us laugh and turned into one of our favorite family memories.

Whether its a Tuesday or a holiday, we get to choose how we react to what happens. We get to decide. Sometimes we do that really well. Other times, we realize later, we should have taken more time before we pronounced our judgments or relayed our responses.

That’s one of the most important lessons I hope we learn from NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: the rush to respond rarely leaves us with a good memory or leaves others with a good impression. Once we become determined not to complain, it automatically makes our brains become wired to look for solutions instead of becoming bogged down in the challenges. It doesn’t stop the challenges, it just changes the way we view them! They can then become adventures, funny stories, opportunities for growth, and a chance to bless those around us by illustrating creative problem-solving and a choice to add to the number of blessings we share with the world and the ones we love in it.

It’s a pretty good opportunity to share the goodness of our God, as well.

It’s a choice. Are you willing to keep making the right ones?

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

Grace and Peace! (and Happy Birthday and Anniversary, dear Cousins!)

NCN 2019–Day 25

tablescape1Happy Monday, everybody! I hope your weekend was a great one! We managed to get several things knocked off the to-do list…like…going to the eye doctor and finding out that we’re getting old..er…well, at least our eyes are! (LOL!) As we searched though all the frames in the universe for our next glasses–let me pause right here and give God praise for the patience and entertainment factor from our assistant in this venture! She was fantastic!–we realized that we’re in that “awkward stage” between not wanting to look too old OR look like we’re trying too hard NOT to be too old! HA! It was actually quite a bit of fun choosing new frames and trying on all kinds of new personas just by changing out this tiny thing about our lives.

It’s made me think: What other tiny things can we change that will make a difference in our lives. Hmmmm…MAYBE we could extend NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER into DON’T COMPLAIN DECEMBER? (did I really just hear a collective groan?! seriously?!…or was that just me? oops!) No, I’m not serious and, yet, yes! I am. While we won’t continue the official challenge, I am going to ask you to seriously evaluate “what looks better on you” as a new month approaches. Have you noticed a positive change from this challenge? Has it made an impact in your home or work place? What if you decided to keep it up…and made it a lifestyle?

Many people I know have chosen to make a list of blessing this month instead of trying not to complain. I suspect that both challenges have resulted in a more positive outlook and, hopefully, a permanent thought process shift. Why give up either of those challenges as we keep moving forward? Let’s end 2019 and begin 2020 on the high note of choosing to become better people and inviting others to join us in the adventure! Let’s find new ways to work the wonder of the Savior’s birth into our upcoming year instead of just focusing on it for the month of December! I could use some extra wonder in my life! How about you?

What kinds of lessons learned will you take with you into this next month and beyond? How will you choose to celebrate the season of God’s greatest gift? Wouldn’t an attitude of gratitude STILL be appropriate as we enter the coming new year? What if you chose to permanently be a person of positive influence in the world?

As we gather together to give “official” thanks later this week, let’s stay focused on all we truly have to consider as blessings. Stay positive, stay aware of your blessings, and keep on finding ways to “not complain” as you celebrate this last official week of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER!

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2019–Days 22-24

Has it been a great week? Are you pleased with where you are and all you’ve managed to accomplish this week? I hope so! I actually hope a lot things for you.

  • I hope you’re healthy and able to do the tasks ahead of you well.
  • I hope you’re surrounded by people who lift you up and let you know that you’re valued and valuable.
  • I hope you’re excited about the days ahead and have fond memories of the ones you’ve already passed through.
  • I hope…I hope…I hope…so many, many things.

I think the main thing I hope, however, is that you know God personally. I hope that you realize that He’s real and that He loves you even more than you can ever imagine. I hope you talk with Him and walk with Him all of the days of your life. I hope that if you don’t know Him, that you’ll want to change that.

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”  ~Stephen Covey

Getting to know God isn’t difficult, but it does require a decision. He wants to be known. He wants it so much that He sent His Son Jesus down from heaven to live a perfect and sinless life before us so that we could know God more intimately than ever before. Jesus’ life and death here on earth makes it possible for us to have life and experience God throughout eternity.

How is that even possible? Because Jesus didn’t stay in the grave! He is alive and He’s waiting for each of us to take advantage of the life He came to provide for us. All that’s left for us to do is to make a decision to believe and follow Him.

It’s a simple thing, really.

  1. You have to first realize you haven’t lived a perfect life. In short, you have sinned–that means you have missed the mark. There is no one perfect, but God. (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23)
  2. Sin comes with a price that must be paid by someone. Your sin will never go away on its own and you have no way to make it do so or earn forgiveness for it through your own efforts. Without someone to pay the price, sin will destroy you. (“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23)
  3. You need a new life and to get it you NEED a Savior. Jesus is that Savior. There is no other way and no other option that will get rid of your sin and make it possible for you to know God personally and have an intimate relationship with Him. (“You must be born again.” John 3:3 / “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6)
  4. You need to know that Jesus is your only possibility for salvation, but you also need to believe it and share that knowledge with others. (“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame,…'” Romans 10:9-11)
  5. You need to know that, once you make this decision, your life will never be the same again. Because Jesus paid your sin debt, you will belong to Him and that will mean changes (wonderful changes!) are coming your way! You will no longer think or act in some of the ways you previously lived. You can’t make these changes on your own. You will have a standard that you never had before and you will have the Holy Spirit living inside of you to guide you, but you will also need to seek out others who have decided to follow Jesus and live in fellowship with them as you learn more about God and all that He has in store for you. (“And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves…” 2 Corinthians 5:15a / “If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7)

This decision will be the most important one you ever make. By choosing to believe all the Bible says about who God is (and who YOU are created to be!), you are not signing up for a religion or joining any particular denomination. You are beginning a relationship with GOD–and that is exciting!!

I hope you’ve made the most important decision to follow Jesus. If this is new to you or you would like to know more about “what’s next” after making this decision, I would LOVE to help you learn more about my wonderful God. You can reach out to me in the comment section or send me a private message in several other social media outlets.

As for NCN and this weekend? Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Grace and Peace!