The News

What is your reaction when you hear incredible news? Do you scream and shout? Gasp? Are you vocal or silent? Are you reserved or outspoken? Do you worship?

Worship? You might ask. But what if it was bad news? I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter the type of news we get, our first response needs to be to worship God with whatever we have in us.

Imagine being Mary. An angel of the Lord visits you and tells you that you’re going to be pregnant, even though you haven’t known your husband, and–wait!–that son will be the Savior of the world. My reaction might have been something along the lines of:

giphy-1

or

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But Mary seemed to respond calmly as she asked the angel how this would be possible. When the angel explained, Mary’s response was to declare herself a servant of the Lord: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word'” (Luke 1:38).

Man, I wish I could have that response to situations. I mean, I also wish an angel of the Lord would appear to me and tell me how things are going to work out (am I right? anyone?). But to have the confidence that it was God’s word that was spoken to you and to be excited about it is incredible.

According to the definition in my Bible, “word” here means something that is spoken, and the additional study material at the back of Luke (in my Bible) says this scripture is telling us to submit our plans and future to God’s will. So, she knew God told her this would happen, and she faithfully accepted the plan and submitted herself to Him.

That is remarkable to me. Mary had no idea what would happen next. All she knew was that she would give birth to Jesus. She left her uncertainty with God.

Granted, I have no way to know if she felt any uncertainty, but I know I would. And how often has something happened that I say “God, tell me what’s going to happen,” but He only gives me a piece at a time. Because that’s what He does. He works in such huge ways that He can only give us a small piece of His plan at a time, otherwise we would be overwhelmed. Imagine if He had told Mary everything to expect with Jesus. She may not have departed with such faith–she may have felt more fear and uncertainty, which would not propel her forward into God’s plans.

When something happens, we often want the whole picture right away. But, more often than not, God deals in short utterings, telling us only what we need to know right then. It’s a gentle nudge, a whisper of “do not be afraid…for with God, nothing is impossible.”

And worshipping is our indication to Him that we know that.

Why Start There?

One of the questions that was asked at my small group last night, and which is very fitting to my personal study right now, was: why is the book of Luke is the book most people navigate to when they begin to study the nativity or the story of Jesus? So that is where I wanted to start: why I’ve chosen to follow the story of Jesus through Luke.

The Bible I own is a New Spirit Filled Life Bible. It was gifted to me by a friend in ministry when I was in college, when I chose to actually declare my faith. If you’re not familiar with this type of Bible, let me explain why I like it. Each book has an introduction that includes the history, proposed authorship, context, connection to Christ, and personal application that can be found in that book. Then, there are a multitude of footnotes and Word Wealth boxes that help you navigate and analyze the text further. As someone who spent years studying words and texts, I appreciate this on a deep level.

Luke 1:3 explains that his aim is to “write…an orderly account” of Jesus’ life. For someone like me who likes chronological explanations, this is a hug contributing factor to using this book. But the introduction to Luke states that “Luke stresses the fact that Jesus is not merely the Jewish Deliverer, but the Savior of the entire world.” In other words Luke writes for the gentiles, the rest of us.

This time of year is the also the time most of us want to feel closer to and see the Lord. And the introduction to the book of Luke states that “no one who reads this book should feel he [or she] is beyond the reach of the gospel of salvation.”

I pray that as we begin reading, we remember that: we are never beyond the reach of Jesus.

. . . . . .

What faithful reminder do you need this season?

Have you read Luke before? What were your thoughts?

What is your “go-to” book in the Bible when you want to refresh yourself?

We All Do It Differently

I know that in church we are told that to spend time with God, we must pray and meditate on His Word. While I agree wholeheartedly, I also feel that spending time with God looks different for each of us.

I listen to Christian podcasts on my drive to drop Belle off at daycamp and then to work. (I navigate between Journeywoman and Proverbs 31 Ministries.) I pray in the car and periodically during my day. I am currently reading through The Middle of the Messand taking notes. Every time I go on hikes and weekend adventures with Belle, I find myself thanking the Lord for not only the ability to do those things, but also for the mere existence of Belle. I find myself just speaking with Him, saying “Jesus” over and over again. I find Him in the moments I break down in tears and unexpected peace washes over me. Sometimes I find Him in the tears. Plus, of course, I go to church every Sunday.

I try to do Bible journaling. I try to read my Bible and let it sink in and take notes. More often than not, though, I fail. I go back to the same verses I have read over the past year because of the comfort they provide me as I fight this storm. Sometimes I’ll find a new verse and write it down. Sometimes I find the verse, but I just read it a few times. Sometimes I spend a few seconds reading, sometimes more.

Unfortunately, I’ve allowed life to get in the way of spending time with Him the “right” way, but I know He is present in my every day.

I know He is there because I feel peace in moments I’m a mess on my bedroom floor. I know He is there because I can discern His voice to me in moments I am doubtful, questioning, or in distress. I know He is there because of how I have changed.

My point is this: as Christians, yes, we need to spend time with the Lord. We need to find that quiet, uninterrupted time to be with Him. But it’s okay if those moments don’t look the same for you that they do for others. We are individuals, made uniquely by Him, and He knows how we best communicate with Him. So spend time with God in the way you feel closest to Him.

It doesn’t matter how you spend time with Him. What matters is that you do.

Time Doesn’t Stop

Head’s scared, heart broke
Burned from a band of gold
Rather just be alone…
Bang, bang on a drum
You’re not a setting sun
You ain’t even close to done…

The clock don’t stop ticking away…
–Clock Don’t Stop, Carrie Underwood

. . . . . .

A year ago, this song brought me to tears yet I played it on repeat. Maybe because, even then, I knew the truth in it.

In any relationship we are in, we fight. In marriage, though, every fight feels like it’s the fight. We sometimes forget that we can take a step back, breathe, and reorganize our thoughts–we don’t have to engage right then and there. We get ramped up and we forget to slow down.

The interesting thing for me is that I teach conflict management. In the past, I would analyze our conflicts through the lens of theory until my husband got upset that I was putting everything in that perspective. I never understood why he got upset. It helped me to cope and step back, so shouldn’t he like that it helps me be more level-headed? What I failed to see is that it made him feel like I was studying him and our relationship instead of being in it.

And instead of turning to my education, I should have been turning to Jesus.

. . . . . .

The Bible actually has some things to say about conflict:

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” — Proverbs 15:1

“‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath…” — Ephesians 4:26

These ideas have been whispered in my spirit this last year, and they are things I have been actively working on. I want to say, though, that this does not mean as Christians (and, frankly, as Christian women) we can’t ever be frustrated. We are human; God knows this. That is why those verses are there–to remind us the best way to handle those situations.

It’s also important to remember that no day is guaranteed, and we should try to make right as soon as we are able. “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath” reminds us to forgive quickly.

And that is what Carrie Underwood’s song reminds me of: forgiveness. Even in the middle of a fight, no matter how big or small, step away from the emotions and turn to Jesus. Ask Him to give you a loving heart and to help you forgive, even when you think the other person doesn’t deserve it.

Because the truth is the clock doesn’t stop ticking, and you don’t want to be caught wishing things could have been different.

 

 

 

Day 24: Practice

How did it go? 

Another week, another “Therapy Friday.” For the first time in a few weeks, I didn’t leave wiping away tears. (I’ve noticed I still struggle to make eye contact with my therapist though. Is this normal?) Whatever clicked yesterday (or when I was in California) seems to have stayed.

I feel more confident in my abilities. I have a better idea of what I want. I feel more empowered, more capable, to change my current environment.

I feel a little more at peace with myself.

I’ve also started reading my Bible differently.

What did I learn?

It’s interesting what you can learn from the unlikeliest of places. The Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast reads Harry Potter “as if it is a sacred text.” (Note: as if. It does not treat the novels as a Bible.) The hosts discuss one chapter a week through a specific theme, and they use sacred reading practices to analyze pieces of the text.

Regardless of how you may feel about using sacred reading to read Harry Potter, the podcast has actually taught me new reading practices for reading my Bible. My favorite reading practice they use is lectio divina.

The practice is adjusted for reading the novels—the hosts choose a short passage, discuss what is literally occurring in that moment of the text, discuss what the text could mean allegorically, discuss what that particular passage reminds them of, and then discuss what the passage calls them to do.

Reading my Bible in this way has made me feel closer to God. It has made me feel that certain passages are speaking to me, that I can find meaning in places I didn’t think I could before.

I’ve decided to work through the book of James and start from the beginning. While I am not very far along (since I just started), I’ve already noticed a difference in the way I approach my Bible reading time. I credit this reading to helping me maintain some positivity, even when I don’t know if I can.

Most of all, I’ve learned when we don’t know how we can push on, God will be there to help us to our feet.