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!

 

Wasting trials?

I recently bought a book that I’ve been wanting for quite some time.  It finally arrived the other day and I have to say I’ve been very pleased with my purchase!  The book is Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro.

I had heard and read several positive recommendations for this book and I have to admit that, so far, I’m in agreement with them.  The book is set up with daily readings, Scripture verses, prayers and church history as a way to channel a wildly divergent church body toward a common search for a deeper relationship with God.  It is NOT an endorsement for any particular denomination, but rather a combining of elements designed to direct God’s people to worship in unity.

Personally, I had to have it because I just plain liked the title.  Ordinary radicals?  That’s a pretty interesting concept…especially when combined with prayer and the pursuit of God.  It seems to me a reminder that followers of Christ ARE called to a radically different lifestyle which requires prayer and a common goal with other believers.

So, what does that have to do with the title of this blog?  Well, one of my first readings this week (the November 25th reading) had a repeating refrain that has kind of stuck with me:

“Wake us to your presence, Lord:  that we might not waste our times of trial.”

It was followed by a prayer that began, “What would you teach us today in our trials, Lord?…”

Those phrases resonated with me because, like you, I’ve had some pretty significant issues in my lifetime.  I’ve got to admit that there have been plenty of times when I wondered what God was up and why in the world He would choose to do it that way.  (There are those pesky WHY questions again!)

Several years ago, however, God led us through a series of issues that made us really focus on Him.  There was simply no other way to survive them.   During that time, we asked God to be clear in His directions to us AND to please help us learn the lessons He was trying to teach us so that we would make the most of the time and, from a very practical point of view, not have to repeat them.

We learned a lot.  We hurt a lot.  We prayed a lot…and we found out that our God is more than able to take the hard things and bring good from them if we will let Him do so.  Given the choice, we would rather not repeat those lessons.  However, if we had to choose between not going through them and missing out on what we learned about God and His faithfulness…well, then, we would have to choose to repeat the circumstances.

That’s very hard to say.  It’s actually hard to even think about it, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

So.  For today, maybe it does make sense to look at the difficult circumstances in all of our lives and ask God to make sure we don’t waste them.  IF–and I hope this is the case!–you’re actually in a great place today, remember to give thanks and then take time to look around.  There may be someone nearby who needs to hear this from you:

“Wake us to your presence, Lord:  that we might not waste our times of trial.”

Indeed.