It is finished

I finished my Every Word challenge yesterday! It was a “read the Bible through in 90 days” challenge and although I had expected it to take me 97 days and end on Easter Sunday, due to my taking some time off early on in the process, I… ummm…got a little bit excited and read ahead. (grin)

Tuesday night, as I sat down in my chair, my eyes teared up enough that my husband asked me what was wrong. Nothing, actually. I had just realized that I would be through in less than 12 hours. He picked on me a little bit about it because we had already talked about my plan to start over and do it again…at a slightly slower pace. 

While I understood that, this challenge and the sharing of it with my friend Jody and her husband, the Lenten season, the discipline it took to stay on course, the joy of connecting with these ancient words and with the Ancient of Days that they illuminate and illustrate (especially in this current time of year uncertainty!)…well, this read-through has been absolutely amazing.

Along with connecting some previously unconnected dots, this chronological reading has consistently reminded me that God has a plan and it is still for our good even when we aren’t aware of it, don’t like it, or are fully committed to it! That consistency and commitment to an ages-long timeline is impressive–especially in contrast to a culture known for instant gratification, changing whims, trends, and pursuit of the “now”/”me first” focus that we typically see today.

This reading has been grounding…and I’m typically considered to already BE pretty grounded. It was challenging to my schedule and to some of my previously held ideas about what God expects of me personally, while it has solidified other areas in my faith and life-walk. In short, it has been the perfect Lenten challenge that, oddly enough, since “I” didn’t plan it (grin)…ended on the last day of Lent.

It is finished.

Those words that Jesus uttered from the cross stick with me because they are true of His short life here on earth. They are true about his personal, physical Presence in the daily lives of those He knew and lived with during that time. They are true of His unimaginably painful death on the cross. They are true in that they signal this assignment from the Father was ended and He was choosing to complete it as they had always planned. These words are true…

…and yet there’s still so. much. more!

They mean that WE–all these centuries of time later!–can still have a personal relationship with God today! They mean that our assignment to share this Good News is not completed! These words mean that our lives have a higher calling and a deeper purpose than just “getting through” and the pursuit and accumulation of personal awards and acknowledgements.

These words mean eternal life is possible for us! They actually mean that GOD IS NOT FINISHED! He has, in fact, a lot more left for us to do. 

As we celebrate this Easter in all of its familiarity and all of the simultaneous strangeness that has accompanied our current battles against a pandemic, I find both the peace and the challenge inherent in being finished with this reading through the Bible to have changed me for the better. I am celebrating with an intensely personal joy this year because I’ve been drawing closer to God through the reading of His Word. I have a deeper desire to please Him and tell others about Him. I look forward to starting over and learning even more–at a much slower pace!–as I  make my way through the pages of God’s Word AND the days ahead in my calendar.

Yes, it is finished…and life has just begun.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (CSV)

If you’re not sure what the verse above means, please contact me! I’d love to share some good news about what they can mean to you!

Grace and Peace!

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

Prepared?

Sooooooo… who saw all of THIS happen ing in 2020 and how are those New Year’s resolutions going for you? (Insert eye roll here!)

There have been so many strident voices across the airwaves and throughout social media over the past several weeks that I just decided to stay quiet here at the blog for awhile. Quiet doesn’t mean inactive. I’ve been preparing…for a lot of things. Feeling prepared makes it easier to see the joy, find the fun, and take better care of those I love. While I know we can’t prepare for every eventuality, being prepared for basic needs frees me up to find ways to enjoy life no matter what else is happening.

Having older loved ones and loving those with compromised immune systems means preparation and occasional self-isolation is a standard part of life for us. It also means that “social distancing” is probably a little easier for us than it is for a lot of people. (grin) We’ve been practicing it for years. (Although I must confess that my rebellious streak struggles more when I’m TOLD to do something…even if I would have chosen to do it anyway. Yes, another eye roll is appropriate here, as well.)

Staying home together during this time has been even more fun than I initially imagined…and I was a little bit excited about it, to tell you the truth. It helps that my husband and I actually like each other and are easily entertained whenever and wherever we find ourselves together. We laugh a lot…yes, even now, and perhaps more so these days since he’s been working from home more.

Aside from making sure we had adequate medicines and a few extra goodies to get us through the “flattening the curve” portion of this excitement, part of my preparations have been about preparing  my heart to keep hearing God’s “still small voice” (1Kings 19:12) in the midst of all the chaos. That gets tougher to do when all of the talking heads and doomsday theorists are vying for our attention… especially if we spend more time with them than we do with Him.

Earlier in the year I started a project to read the Bible through in 90 days. That’s not going to happen. It’s going to take me 97 days, but that extra week was spent loving on family, taking care of some personal business, and taking a much needed rest. I’m satisfied with those choices and the result which means I’ll be finishing up this project just in time for Easter! In fact, I’ll be celebrating both the Resurection AND the Return of Christ in the same day. It seems a fitting thing to do.

Reading through the Word–even at this accelerated pace–has made this time easier on me. I am reminded daily that God’s plan is still in process, He is still in control, and nothing–not even our panic, a pandemic,  or our doubts–can change that. In fact, as I’ve traveled the Word these past weeks, I’ve drawn significant comfort from the fact that God continues to CHOOSE to use the imperfect, the doubting, the fearful, and even the rebellious to accomplish His will and spread His Good News to others in the midst of difficult situations.

Could it be because those characteristics provide the perfect foil for a living, loving, never-changing, always perfect God with a plan to save us from our sin and, often, from ourselves? I think that’s a big ole “YES!”

Have you said your “yes” to Jesus yet? If not, right now is the perfect time to do so. We aren’t promised tomorrow–or even the rest of today. That isn’t a scare tactic. It’s a fact. Saying “yes” to Jesus and asking Him to take away the sin that separates you from God IMMEDIATELY changes your heart, your mind, and your future. Saying “yes” means you are making the most important preparation you will ever make!

Are you prepared for eternity? If not, I would love to share more about my Jesus and how He can change your life today.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (CSB)

Grace and Peace!

Time to share! What steps, if any, have you taken to prepare for “the pandemic”, the changes in your routine, or how to take care of your loved ones as we ride out this storm? What are you doing to occupy your heart, your mind, your time, or encourage your spirit?

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 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!

 

Location, Location, Location

IMG_20190916_070458056Happy Monday! Rise and shine! OR as my mama’s family used to say, “Feet, hit the floor!” (grin) To be perfectly honest, I didn’t fully understand that last one when I was a kid. It just made me laugh. These days, I’m aware that whether or not I feel like shinin’ when I wake up, my feet still have to hit the floor for things to get accomplished and for me to make the day as good as I can make it.

“As good as we can make it,”of course, is a relative term. It doesn’t mean everything will go as desired OR as planned OR that we’ll have a party and feelings of total fulfillment at the end of the day, but today I was reminded that while we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can always choose our spiritual location. We’re always just as close to God…as we choose to be.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NKJV)

That means even if our “location” today is a challenge for us, we are not alone. God is with us. He is ready to guide us and eager for relationship. We must make the choice to be guided and draw near if we have any hope of navigating this day in a way that honors Him and gives us the benefit of being His in ways that others can see and want to know for themselves.

Regardless of what you’re facing today, I hope you’ll choose to allow God to give you a song. Then, WHEN HE DOES, I hope you’ll choose to sing it loud and clear–and share it with those around you. While the highlighted Scripture above was a specific promise to a specific people, the principle is still the same because our God never changes. We can count on Him to be present–even when we fail to acknowledge Him!–because He has promised to never leave or forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5).

I pray that your week is a rip-roaring celebration of life and that you are fully aware of just how blessed you truly are today. If that isn’t the case (and it CAN be, regardless of whatever you’re facing!), I pray that you will take a moment and make the conscious choice to ask for God to help you see your circumstances through His eyes…and that you’ll be aware that His eyes are looking at you with love. You (yes, YOU!) matter to God and, more than you realize, you and your response to your circumstances matter to the people around you. 

“God Leads His Dear Children Along”  (lyrics by George A. Young, published 1903)

1. In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain: (and THIS is what I’ve been singing this morning)
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

3. Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

4. Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.

Location, location, location. Where do you find yourself today?

Grace and Peace!