Book Club & Bible Study

Studying the Bible can seem daunting and overwhelming and amazing and invigorating. Yet despite becoming a believer at a young age, I still feel like I don’t really know how to do it let alone where to start. I have always used Bible studies or commentaries or sermons to tell me what to think about a particular passage and how to apply it to my life. And while this isn’t wrong, it isn’t completely necessary–the Holy Spirit is in me just as it is in those authors and speakers meaning I have the ability to comprehend what God is saying just like they do.

Thankfully I found this book:

WotW

I devoured it in just a few hours and filled it with arrows, underlines, and exclamation marks. I  took notes and am creating a work book/journal outline to go along with Jen’s method. She makes studying God’s Word seem a little less intimidating and a lot more do-able with her 5 P’s:

Purpose

Perspective

Patience

Process

Prayer

 The Cliff Notes version: When we are to study God’s Word, we must study with the “big picture” in mind–from the first page to the last the Bible speaks of creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration {Purpose}. And as we read we need to consider the historical context of the passage {Perspective} while allowing the Spirit to work in us {Patience}. To ensure we are fully understanding what is being read and how to apply it, we need to be methodical {Process}. And finally, our study should begin, end, and be intermixed with conversations with the Author {Prayer}.

Still seem impossible?

Don’t forget we are commanded to

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”  (Mark 12:30, emphasis mine).

Love Jesus with my heart & soul?…check & check.

Love Jesus with my mind?….ummm…not as easy. In order to love Him with my mind and in turn love Him more deeply with my heart, I have to know Him. And the only way to do that, is to study the Word.

As Jen says, “…the Holy Spirit opens the Word to us, but not without some effort on our part” (pg. 23).

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Shake it off!

Life has a way of shaking us. Just this last month I celebrated a miracle baby turning one, showered soon-to-be parents with lots of pink, and rejoiced as I realized prayers were being answered. I also wept as a friend told me her marriage was over, lifted up in prayer a little girl fighting for her life, and was so filled with anxiety that I was brought to tears. I was jumping with joy and shaking with sadness for this broken world.

This year is about being intentional and this last month has shown me how intentional I need to be with my heart. Do you ever wonder what God really wants of us? Or what it takes to spend eternity with Him? Psalm 15 has the answer…prepare yourself.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

Yikes, right? I told you to be prepared. Did that cut right to your heart like it did mine? I know as hard as I try my walk is not blameless, slander has come from my mouth, and I haven’t always kept my word or given my money (or time) to those in need.

But there’s some great news if you read Psalm 16.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,

Did you catch it? God promises to keep us safe and guide us as we strive to follow Him. When we fix our eyes on Him, we will inherit the Kingdom! So even when I mess up, let the worries of the day overwhelm me, or hold tightly to the things of world, I can trust that He is still with me. We can be at peace knowing our sins are forgiven and our lives are safe in His hands.

The best part is in verses 10-11: “Because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Jesus lives and is the path to Heaven! He alone is the Way, the truth and the life {John 14:6}. When we believe in His death and resurrection, in His love for us that is so immense he bore the punishment we deserve {remember all that stuff from Psalm 15?}, we can spend eternity with Him! And as we do, our hearts and lives are filled joy.

But joy isn’t always easy to come by or hold onto. Life happens. Hearts get broken, mistakes get made, cancer invades our bodies, jobs and lives get lost and with it our joy. We begin to question the decisions we’ve made and fear taking another step. Thankfully, we have Jesus and yet another promise I myself know to be faithfully filled time and time again. Look back to 15:5b “He who does these things will never be shaken” and 16:8b “Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken“. First God promises that those who walk with Him will not be shaken then David proclaims it as true because he has experienced it. And we all know David had some troubles of his own that should have caused him to be shaking! But he trusted in the promises of God, the security and refuge he knew God would provide. He trusted in God’s forgiveness and strength. So when life comes at you and threatens to make you tremble down to your very core, know that God is with you. He is holding you up and will be your strength. Know that no sin is beyond God’s grace and nothing you are experiencing is beyond His control. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” {John 16:33} Believe in Him and trust in His strength and love for you. Life is going to happen so instead of being shaken, shake it off!

Shake it off

The truth is

The truth is last week was hard. I wasn’t ready to go back to work. My heart was full of anxiety and bitterness. My mind was full of thoughts on how to adjust, how to fight, and how to work for God’s glory. As much as I prayed, my attitude didn’t change.

The truth is people didn’t show up that were supposed to, my contractual “student-free” time didn’t happen, all the changes weren’t communicated as they should have been, and I never got any answers as to why all this was happening.

The truth is my heart was hard because I refused to let it be soft.

The truth is the changes weren’t as big as I was making them and I could have helped with the communication.

The truth is I held onto everything I knew I needed to rid myself of {1 Peter 2:1} and was refusing to love as I’m called to do {Romans 12:9-21}.

But as Friday morning began and I spent some quiet time with Jesus before work I began to feel the peace settle in, the anxiety and bitterness melting away, and the Holy Spirit reminding me why I do what I do. I teach because I love it. I teach because I can help my students. And I teach because it is what God has called me to do {for now}. I teach because it is my way of loving like Jesus does.

So as another work week begins tomorrow I will hold tightly to the truth that God graciously poured over me because the truth is love is the only way.

Take Action

What’s my goal for 2015? Take Action.
So often I wait for the perfect time, the just right moment, the page to look just so, and the list goes on. I get so caught up in my need to have it be either “right” or accepted that I miss opportunities and I waste valuable time.
My desire is just to start taking action, make decisions, get things done – whether they are how I want them to be or not – just get them done!!
My first action was to get my family reading the Bible together. So tonight, my husband and my son and I all sat for 10 minutes of Bible time. Did it go as I planned? Of course not! My son wanted to read out loud and make a “speech” out of it. My husband found the lights I had turned on too bright so I had to read in semi-dark.
Was it “perfect”? Yes, in it’s own way it was. And I look forward to this particular action taking place night after night.
So what about you? Did you make goals for 2015? Have you taken action on them yet? If not – what are you waiting for?
I pray whatever goals you may have that God’s will be done, and you are on a path that shines light on Him.
Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
English Standard Version of the Bible
retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=let+your+light+so+shine+&qs_version=ESV

Be{ing} Intentional in 2015

Last month on my birthday I prayed for guidance for the year ahead. What would 31 look like if I gave it to God and followed the path He set for me? The Lord took me to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

“6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”

And it struck me that so often when asked how I am doing, my answer is always, “Good, busy, but good”. But what was I so busy doing? Was I busy doing things for the Kingdom? Working for the glory of the Lord? Often the answer is no. Often I am just “busy”.

But this year I want that to change. I want to be busy, but busy in ways that honor God. This led to thinking about a phrase that would capture that desire and motivate me when I was watching TV for no reason, scanning Instagram for the umpteenth time, or when I find myself glorifying “busy”, something that would remind me I am not to just be “busy” but to do good and work with a purpose. Two words popped into my heart and haven’t left: Be Intentional. God wants me to be intentional with my heart, my words, my finances, my actions, my thoughts, my life. He doesn’t just want me wandering around squandering the blessings that He has given me, but to be intentional with them because that is what brings Him the most glory.

So this year my plan is to be intentional with…

My heart–by filling it with Scripture. Psalm 1:2

My love–by ensuring that it is real. Romans 12:9

My money–by spending less and giving more. 2 Corinthians 9:7

My thoughts–by worrying less and thinking of things that are true and lovely. Philippians 4:8

My time–by using it wisely–more time in the Word, serving, and spending time with godly people. Mark 10:45, Psalm 1:1

My words {spoken & written}–by carefully choosing them and not just talking to talk, but talking about Jesus!

My work–by doing it all for Him no matter how crazy my students drive me or if I don’t agree with decisions made, I will remember that ultimately I am working for the Lord. Colossians 3:23, Proverbs 31:17

It is my prayer that by being intentional this year that the Lord will be glorified and I will grow closer to Him, that I will find more joy in saying yes and peace in saying no, that my heart will be full of His word and with love for others. His will be done.

beintentional

What are your plans and goals for the new year?

This Year {2014}

“Each day it feels like nothing has changed, but when we look back everything is different.” –Unknown

Its funny how as the year passes, at times quickly and others slowly, it seems like nothing in our life is different. But if you really take the time and think about where you were one year ago, nothing is the same. I often forget all that has gone on in the last year–the adventures, the lessons, the laughs, tears, and memories; I am so thankful I take a lot of random pictures! And keep a gratitude journal. I don’t read what I’ve written until the end of the year   and it is really amazing to re-live the days and reflect on what brought me joy. 2014 was quite a year!

Babies were born that fill my life with snuggles;

Health became more of a priority (and I like it!);

Adventures were had across the country (Kentucky, Hawaii, Silver Lake, Pismo);

Nieces and nephews grew before my very eyes into amazing little people;

Beauty was seen in things big and small (the colors of the sky, the smell of summer rain and hot coffee);

Relationships flourished;

Books were read that made me smile, relax, think and get motivated;

Challenges were faced (remember Challenge-tember?);

Disappointments served as lessons learned;

Hope grew;

And Jesus poured out grace upon grace, love upon love, and mercy upon mercy until my cup overflowed.

 

My days, my life, and especially my heart are very different than they were 365 days ago and for that I am so very thankful.

This year 2

 

 

 

Highs & lows

The end of September and all of these crazy challenges is just two days away. Yay!! It really has been a super busy, productive, stretching month but more on that when the month actually ends.

Highs & lows is one of my favorite games because it really can get people to open up while remembering that though things seem bad there is always, ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Thankfully this month was filled with a lot more highs then lows.

Highs

….completing a ton of new activities  for my students

…..successful parent conferences

….fixing my fence by myself {its just a band-aid that is already falling off but I did it!}

….running more than I thought I could

….increased time in prayer and in the Word

….spending a lot of time with friends and family

….more #happymail than I’d like to admit

….some super yummy sushi

….more laughs than I can count

….fall attempting to make an appearance

….camping in San Diego

….my first sleepover with my niece

….good books

Lows

….work  to catch up on

….still having a broken fence

….not getting to write daily like I wanted to

….a few too many vet visits for my sweet pup

Tell me one of your month highs! {Lets focus on being grateful!}

 

Love the little children

I haven’t travelled the world like I someday want to but I have gone on some trips of a lifetime. Three amazing, life-changing trips were actually short-term missions with groups from my church. Two were to the South to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. These were my favorite and I hope to some day go do more of this type of work. {More on those another day} My trip to the Philippines is the one I can’t seem to shake…

Four years ago the college pastor was putting together a trip and as one of the leaders in the ministry, he asked if I would like to go. The notes we passed during a class went something like this….

Pastor: You should come to the Philippines.

Me: When?

Pastor: January 18-28.

Me: Can I go for half? I’m already back at work.

Pastor: You only love half of Jesus.

Me: I’ll ask my boss, but count me in.

Fast forward five months and our group landed in Manila. Three or four of the days we spent running a preschool program for local missionaries so that they could attend Bible classes taught by pastors on our team. Oh the joy on those kids dirty faces as they came to see us each morning. We taught them songs, preformed plays, and colored with them. We just wanted them to know that God loved them and so did we. After class we would walk them home. But “home” was really broken down buildings without electricity or running water held together with salvaged materials. Kids were bathed in the streets as people hung around, gambled, or sold homemade goods. God gave us these days to prepare our hearts for what was to come.

Next up: IT Tender Ministry– a feeding ministry for street children. Children that have been abandoned by their parents, who live under bridges and scrounge for trash they might be able to sell. Children that often use the money they’ve earned to buy glue to huff because it takes away the hunger and pain. We went one afternoon to share a Bible story and help feed a group of kids that would come for what would be the only hot meal they would receive that week. They were dirtier than I thought possible but they had smiles that lit up the room. They were overwhelmed with gratitude that we had come to play and hang out. The room was small and stuffy but filled with excitement. As I sat and spoke with one of the founders of the ministry, Gela, a little boy crawled onto my lap. I wrapped my arms around him and continued my conversation. I learned his name was John Michael, he was 6 years old and was part of a “family” of 6-7 kids. The oldest a teenager, the youngest a toddler. Together they took care of one another. When the ministry had visitors, this was his typical behavior. The food was eventually served but he refused to get up. I knew he was hungry, starving probably, but what he was really hungry for was love and physical affection from someone, anyone, a stranger even. He needed to be loved on if only for a moment. Numerous times I told him to go eat but still he refused. I stood and carried him to the table with his arms wrapped tightly around my neck. We sat and he ate, every once in a while looking up at me to make sure I was still there. I’d smile and he would return to his food and his friends.

Before we left I asked Gela about adoption. My heart ached for this little boy. Gela said that because he was abandoned he had no official paperwork making it nearly impossible. Also, the corrupt  government would add to the difficulty by constantly raising the price of adoption. I hugged him good bye and wrote his name down in my Bible. I pray for him often and wonder where he is, who he is, if he is experiencing the love of a parent or if he feels the ultimate love of Jesus. Hopefully when I get to Heaven I’ll find out.

The day after the feeding ministry we went to the Children’s Ward at the local hospital. The government calls it a hospital but what it really is, is a large hot, muggy room, filled with beds and dying children. We heard their stories and saw their wounds as we walked around and prayed. Here, people only get medical care if they can pay for it. While they may be laying in a bed with the most rudimentary IV I have ever seen, they are not getting medicine or visits from a health care professional. Not until some pays upfront. And once they do, its up to the parent to administer the medicine or re-dress the injury. Honestly, I don’t have the words to fully explain what our group experienced that day. Hopelessness, frustration, anger, utter loss, confusion….

We all walked out of the hospital, loaded into the truck and sat. In silence. Even our most boisterous college girls had nothing to say. After about 15 minutes our college pastor broke the silence with passages from Revelation. Bottom line, he reminded us all, Jesus wins. God wins. This world is filled with darkness because of our sinful nature, but in the end Jesus will triumph. Amen, Pastor, amen.

The trip went quickly–more visitations, time getting to know the missionaries, lots of food, beautiful rain storms, de-briefings with the team, all intermixed with quiet times with Jesus. And finally, the long trip home to my comfortable bed in my big house with running water, to my car and refrigerator filled with too much fresh food, to my big church that meets in a big building with bright lights, to my family and friends that support me in my walk with Jesus. Back to my simple, abundant life.

It was hard to come home but I was so thankful to be back. My heart was changed there. And a piece of it stayed wrapped around John Michael. Jesus showed me more of His heart. His heart for the poor and oppressed, for the sick and needy, for the orphan. I still pray, almost four years later, that God will use this trip for His glory and that my heart will never go back to what it once was.

Today’s post is part of the Blog-tember series!

I love me…I love me not.

Jill sends me a text reminder about the Blogtember Challenge, and I would really rather not do it because it means focusing on myself instead of others.
Write 10 things you love about you…ummmmm……really?
Not sure about anyone else out there, but I struggle with taking care of myself because I am looking out for other people in my life. I know that’s something I love about me- I have a genuine concern about the people I am associated with. Must get better at sharing my thoughts to this end out loud and acting on the thoughts I have to help others.
Let me think, I also love that my students like being in my class. Their faces light up when I walk in after being out for a day. How is that about me? I know that I care about my students and strive to provide them the best education I can while treating them like every other kid. I love that I am the kind of teacher that loves her students and refuses to give up on their abilities.
I love that I am saved. This belongs at the top of my list and the fact that it isn’t is why I love that saved part so much. I am saved through God’s grace alone; I have never done anything to deserve it. I look forward to an eternity of living in the presence of my Lord- makes this life and it’s tragedies bearable.
I love that I am an introvert. I get to see and hear so much more! I am not knocking extroverts; without them, my husband especially, I would live a boring solitary life. Yet, I really like that I take time to consider things and that I don’t mind being alone to do things.
I love that I like to read. Give me a book to get lost in or learn from.
I love that I’m a life long learner. No matter how much I know about something, there is always more to learn. The more I learn the more I have to share with others!
I love that when I know I am right, I won’t give in or give up. I may quiet down, but I will push until I get my point across.
I love that I am learning to delegate and be happy with the results, even though they may be different than I envisioned. Talk about procrastination for perfection and just put my name as the header. I struggle with wanting things just so, and this desire has hindered so many of my worthwhile activities. So many things just sit because I want to get them done right.
I love that I pray now instead of ruminating on life. It took so long for me to learn that I cannot control everything and that I just need to trust in my Heavenly Father and use the gifts He has given me. Again, it’s a gift; I cannot change what I have been given, just my response to it.
Ok, I have to confess that I keep counting how many things I have written about myself. Why? Because I am afraid to go over and sound self-indulgent! So that will be the last thing I love about myself, I have definitely learned to laugh at the error of my ways. I can be pretty ridiculous sometimes, but if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be me.
Thank you for the encouraging text Jill.
And to the rest of you…have you taken time lately to love on yourself? Try it! God has blessed you with so much and it brings Him glory when we acknowledge the works His hands have made!
I love me…I love me not. I Love ME!!!

MUST Read!

Jill told me about the Blog-tember Challenge from BraveLove; and it went in one ear and out the other. But really, I must admit that writing on this blog scares me more than I care to admit. What if people hate what I say? What if I say something that is a poor reflection on people of faith? What if I just don’t make any sense? My list goes on and on but rather than get lost in it like I do in my head; I am going to just jump in. I pray that my words resonate with those that need them; once again – To JESUS!
So Sunday’s challenge was about books. (Hey, just a few days behind!)
What am I reading right now?
1. My Bible – I pray that I get better at reading it every day. There is such a big difference in my ability to handle life when I am reading it daily.

2. Listening for the Voice of God: Growing in Faith Every Day – bought this at the local membership store for $5.48 because it spoke to the question I have had for a long time. How do you know when it’s God? I am always wondering if the nagging sensations or thoughts are my own desires or if they are really that still small voice. I started this before going back to teaching last month and am only to page 9. Mostly because life has dealt a few hiccups and sad times for my family and friends. I struggle with focus when I am sad and even though I truly find peace in God’s love for me; I am better at praying than I am at reading!

3. A Wife After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George. I just bought this Nook book today because I want to strengthen my marriage and know that I am the one who needs to work. God led me to the most amazing man; and I take him for granted. Yes, I struggle with gratitude because I think about all the stuff I am doing to keep my home running, my classroom working, and myself organized (LOL – more on that some other time). Truth is – I really want a marriage where my husband knows without a doubt that he is God’s gift to me and our children and that I long to please him and make him happy – not nag at him or make him crazy.

So that’s it. Those are my books right now. I will keep you updated on how the wife thing is going – that’s my personal challenge – being that wife – the one he can’t live without. 🙂

What about you? What books speak to your heart or mind? and WHY?
Brave Love Blog