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!

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!