DAILY

I try every day to spend some time in the Word.

Typing that sentence makes me feel like a lame believer, a lazy Christian.

Why would one of God’s elect have to “try to spend some time in the Word” everyday? Why isn’t that priority number one?

Because we are busy. We are pulled in many different directions at once by people and situations.

We are distracted. Books, newspapers, television shows, newsfeeds, etc. are all vying for our attention.

We have legitimate obligations like going to work and taking care of our kids.

We are caught up in the trivial. Today I absolutely must do A, B, and C. Tomorrow I will read my Bible.

We follow the course of least resistance. It is easier to do a thousand other things than it is to sit down with a Bible. Studying the Word requires our minds to engage. It is intentional. We won’t stumble into reading Scripture the way we stumble into a casual phone conversation.

We know the goal, daily Bible study, and we know the hinderances to achieving that goal.

We’ve done the head work needed to reach our goal. We need now to do the legwork.

The legwork for me looks like this.

  • I choose my study materials.
  • I select a place to do my study.
  • I dedicate time to spend in the study.

I know myself well and have been at this Bible study thing long enough to know what doesn’t work for me.

Dutifully reading one chapter of the Bible per day does not work for me (Acts, chapter one today; Acts, chapter two tomorrow, etc.). There is little continuity of thought from one day to the next. I read that chapter mostly because I feel that as a Christian, it is my duty.

“Read through the Bible in one year” programs do not work for me. Like determining to read one chapter of the Bible each night before going to bed, reading the assigned passages each day becomes just one more thing on my to-do list.

Attacking a portion of Scripture as if I am writing a doctoral thesis on it also does not work. I have begun Bible studies equipped with several different versions of the Word, a concordance, a Bible dictionary, several commentaries, and a determination to complete a world-class study worthy of the topic at hand. But I soon wear out and wish I had not been quite so ambitious.

Currently, I read each day from a book of devotions. Each devotion includes a passage of Scripture. It focuses upon that scripture and is one-page long. Every devotion is well written and encouraging. This is what I call my “light” reading.

I read one selection from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. If you are familiar with this scholar, you already know his writings are anything but light. Chambers’ pieces are Scripture-based and challenging.

I then write in a notebook one thought from my day’s reading. Somehow, I don’t feel I’ve really studied if I don’t write anything down.

Is this the best way to spend time in the Word each day? Probably not. Could I do more? Probably.

But this study is doable, and it helps me in my daily walk.

Do you want to develop a daily Bible study habit?

You can accomplish that goal. Design a plan that works for you and then make it happen.

 

Thank you to Jan Thompson for buying this devotional book for me. Consider buying something similar for you and one for a friend.

P.S. It is okay to begin reading mid-year.

 

 

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STILL HANDS

What are your hands doing right now?

They’re probably not folded peacefully in your lap. My hands are rarely at rest.

Even if I sit down to take a break, my hands reach for something to do.

I pick up and reread a piece of mail. I tidy the table beside my recliner. I search some topic on Google.

“Keep my hands still” never appears on my to-do list, but maybe it should.

Hands accomplish wonderful things. They stroke the heads of our children and place checks into the offering plate. They nurture plants and cuddle pets. They distribute groceries to hungry people at the food pantry. They fold in prayer, and they squeeze our mate’s hand before we go to sleep.

They also accomplish necessary things like steering cars, pouring cereal, changing sheets, and paying bills.

But some things are more enjoyable when performed with quiet, still hands. Listening to relaxing music. Watching a baby sleep. Reflecting upon the goodness of God. Feasting our eyes on beautiful landscapes. Pondering the infinite majesty of God while looking at a full moon or a sky full of stars.

In an email conversation with a friend recently, I commented that when Mary of Bethany sat down with Jesus, her hands were probably folded peacefully in her lap. They were not mending socks or composing a grocery list.

And Scripture tells us that Mary “chose the better thing.”

Notice that in this story recorded in Luke 10:38-42, Jesus did not follow Martha into the noisy kitchen to chat with her while she prepared a meal.

Why do you suppose he conversed with the woman with still, quiet hands rather than the woman with the busy, soapy, sauce-splattered hands?

Was it because he loved Mary more than he loved her sister? Or was it because Mary chose to give Jesus her full attention?

Mary didn’t ask Jesus to follow her into the garden and visit with her while she picked lettuce. She didn’t talk to Jesus with clothespins in her mouth while she hung out the family’s laundry. She didn’t catch up on her dusting while she talked with Jesus.

Mary didn’t multitask on that day at that time.

While Mary spoke alone with Jesus, she did nothing else. Nothing.

Try to picture her serene face as she converses privately with her Lord.

The Bible doesn’t record the conversation Mary and Jesus had, but we can speculate.

I doubt Jesus shouted accusations at her as he shouted them at the hard-hearted spiritual leaders of the day. He certainly didn’t scold her for not helping Martha in the kitchen. I doubt He scolded her for anything.

People who choose to be still and listen to Jesus receive not a scolding, but an outpouring of love and acceptance. Possibly, they receive blessings those of us with busy hands miss.

That was certainly the case with the sisters in Bethany.

Is it possible that Jesus waits for you and me to slow down, rest our hands, and listen to Him?

What are your hands doing right now?

A COMEDY OF ERRORS

It had been a frustrating few days

They weren’t bad days because I have few days that can be legitimately cataloged as bad, and I am thankful.

On Monday I wrote a check for the wrong amount of money and had to straighten out that mess.

On Tuesday I caught my foot in the strap of my purse and fell out of my car right onto the Kroger parking lot.

Then yesterday I prepared to mail four stacks of paper to four family members.

I separated the papers, folded them, and placed them inside four 6” x 9” envelopes.

These envelopes had metal fasteners. Since I know the Postal Service does not like those closures, I placed wide packing tape over the backs to seal the envelopes and cover up the metal brads.

As I picked up the four envelopes, I discovered one was lighter than the other three. This meant I had accidentally left something out of that envelope.

I reopened it and found I had indeed failed to include two papers. Using my keen sense of deduction, I concluded one of the other envelopes contained two extra papers.

Using great care, I tore open the other envelopes, messing up the packing tape and damaging the flaps in several places. I found the two papers I needed, corrected my error, and resealed the envelopes, trying to patch the torn spots.

Then I added stick-on return address labels and postage stamps. (I keep on hand the special 68-cent stamps I routinely use for these mailings.) Finally, I wrote addresses on each envelope.

As I headed out the door to take the envelopes to the mailbox, I realized I had written each address upside down, so when the mailing address was readable, the postage stamp was affixed to the lower left corner of the envelope and the return address label was in the lower right corner.

The driver of the mail truck waved at me as she drove past my house.

In a wretched mood, I drove to the post office and mailed my mutilated envelopes. Then I swung by the store to pick up mint chocolate chip ice cream, the one thing guaranteed to make me feel better.

I brooded over my growing list of mess-ups as I roamed the ice cream aisle. By the time I got home from the store, I was in a major funk.

I put my ice cream in the freezer and lay down on my bed, not to pout or to have a pity party really, but just to decompress. My thoughts ran along these lines.

This constant flow of stupid mistakes is killing me. I am a beaten woman and can’t take it anymore. I’m never getting out of this bed.

Of course, I knew I would get out of bed because I refuse to spend the remainder of my life lying on sheets that never get washed. Not to mention with teeth that never get brushed or hair roots that never get touched up.

And then, of course, there were other reasons to get up: the grandchildren and brownies and springtime and another season of Victoria to watch on Netflix and an Easter dress someone would have to wear.

From my bed, I called out to Dan in a weak, mournful voice.

“If you will bring me a dish of the mint chocolate chip ice cream I bought today, I think I might be able to get up and face the world again.”

I heard Dan open the freezer door.

Then I heard him laugh.

“You just think you bought mint chocolate chip ice cream,” he said.

“The only thing in the freezer is a box of rum raisin ice cream. How many scoops do you want?”

MOVE THE POTS

As my grandchildren often remind me, I am not a good backer-upper. I proved this last summer when I backed over a decorative pot at the edge of our driveway.

Last night my husband said, “The way your car is parked, you could easily back over the pots by the driveway again.”

“I promise you I will not hit those pots,” I said, heading out the front door.

He laughed.

“You’re going to move the pots, aren’t you?” he asked.

“You bet I am,” I said.

Sometimes it is safer to remove an obstacle than try to avoid it.

A friend of mine, a very responsible Christian man, began visiting a gambling casino. At first, he wagered only small sums of money, but the habit grew on him. Eventually he realized he had a big problem.

He tried taking less money with him to the casino and tried limiting himself to staying only one hour at each visit. But he easily overcame those restrictions and continued betting as heartily as before.

Finally, he went to the casino manager’s office and asked to have himself restricted from entering the casino. Security team members would thereafter remove him from the premises if he came through the door.

Figuratively, he moved the pots.

Another friend obtained a high interest rate credit card. She planned to use the card only occasionally and to keep the amount she charged on it low.

Gradually, however, she bought several items of expensive clothing and jewelry and charged those purchases to the card.

When she realized she had run up a large debt, she determined to use willpower to pay off the credit card debt and stop charging purchases on the card. She failed.

Finally, she cut up the card, and as soon as her debt was paid, she closed her account.

This woman also, in a manner of speaking, moved the pots.

Sometimes we have too much confidence in ourselves. If I am careful and diligent, I can avoid those pots, get control of my gambling, or change my expensive buying habits.

 It is important to know when we can trust ourselves and when we cannot.

 Life usually teaches us this lesson by allowing us to fail a few times.

A married woman wishes she had changed jobs when she realized she was sexually attracted to a coworker. She did change jobs later, after the affair, and after the damage had been done.

A teacher wishes he had stopped eating lunch in the staff lounge when he realized it was a hotbed of gossip. He did stop eating there after another teacher, tainted by baseless rumors, lost her job.

A former heavy drinker wishes he had avoided restaurants that served alcohol. He did avoid those restaurants after receiving a DUI conviction and having his driver’s license suspended.

The decorative pots beside our driveway are inexpensive and easily replaced. But marriages, sobriety, integrity, financial stability and the like deserve protection at any cost.

If you suspect you are heading for a collision that could destroy one of those treasures, don’t trust too much in your own ability to avoid it. Move the pots.

These look much prettier in the spring with flowers in them.

DEFAULT SETTINGS

I want a clean and tidy house.

But as I write that sentence, I am reminded of a theory I accept as truth.

Except in extreme cases which are out of our control, we usually manage to obtain what we want.

We buy a new coat. We pay someone to paint our living room. We learn a new skill.

The common factors in attaining what we want are these: a strong desire to have the thing plus the willingness to do what we must do to have it.

I desire a clean house, but often I am not willing to do what I must do to have it.

My plans for this day were to pick up and put away various displaced items; vacuum all carpets; mop my kitchen floor; and wash, dry, and put away a load of jeans. That sounds like a reasonable list of tasks to accomplish on a Saturday.

It is now 1:10 p.m. So far today I have:

  1. Slept late. (I had not been sleeping well and took a sleep aid last night.)
  2. Gone to visit my grandson and granddaughter.
  3. Written this blog post.

Nothing is wrong with doing those things, other than doing them prevented me from reaching the goals I had set.

I have the desire to see my boring and onerous to-do list accomplished but achieving that goal would have cost me extra sleep, a visit with my grandchildren, and time spent writing.

I elected not to pay the price required to have a clean house.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and the chance that I will choose to pick up, vacuum, mop, and do laundry then is slim. I will instead go to church, visit with my kids and grandkids, do some writing, and take a nap.

Unless I deliberately elect to do something else, those are the things I will automatically do. They are my default settings. I am often shocked to realize I’ve spent hours doing them when it seemed like mere minutes.

Cleaning, mopping, vacuuming, doing laundry, etc. are tasks I must take care of at some time and I will. When I absolutely must.

But I am not drawn toward those tasks. I will not look at a clock and realize I have spent three hours dusting shelves when I had no intention to dust shelves.

I challenge you to determine what your default settings are. Do your findings surprise you?

If, while taking this inventory you discover your true passions are cleaning, vacuuming, mopping, and doing laundry, get in touch with me immediately.

Reminder: 

Visit www.upperroom.org on Friday, March 2, to read my newly published devotional based upon 1 Corinthians 2:12.

 

ON WRITING

Thank you, dear readers, for faithfully following my blog or even for looking occasionally to see what I’ve posted. Many thanks go to those of you who comment.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is expose my writing efforts to other people. All writers are terrified of rejection.

Essentially, the writer says to the reader, “After hours of writing, rewriting, cutting and pasting, using the dictionary and thesaurus, checking and rechecking facts, doing endless proofreading, sweating bullets, and chewing my nails, I present this writing effort for your evaluation. Please be kind.”

But, regardless of the reception the piece receives, the writer continues to write. She must. She knows within each new piece lies the germ of an idea waiting to be discovered and developed. Often, the writer doesn’t know what she is looking for until she finds it. But when she does, writing becomes pure joy.

My good husband Dan very kindly allows me to share our conversations and experiences within my blog posts. Even though he and I wrangle over incidentals, he remains the best man I know. I never want to show him in a bad light. Usually, when I write about Dan and me, I am illustrating how difficult it is to communicate well, even in good marriages like ours.

I am honored that The Upper Room (www.upperroom.org) has chosen to publish one of my devotional pieces in its March/April 2018 issue. My article will also be featured on its website on March 2, 2018. I invite you to log on to the website on that date, read my article, and consider signing up to receive daily devotionals online from The Upper Room. I find them to be encouraging and insightful.

If you enjoy reading my blog, the highest compliment you can give me is to share it with a friend.

COMMUNICATIONS 202

Dan and I got into the car this morning to drive to our son’s house.

As he started the engine, Dan looked through the windshield at his workshop that sat directly in front of the car.

“Hmmm,” he said. “That light always looks like it’s on even when it’s off.”

I looked toward the workshop.

“I don’t see a light on,” I said. “The only light I see is a little red indicator light on one of your tools.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“I just said the light in your shop doesn’t appear to me to be on.”

Dan shook his head.

“It never fails to amaze me how often you misunderstand me,” he said.

I braced for the next line.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Well, I looked at my shop, at the exterior light above the door of my shop to be exact, and said it appeared to be on.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Then,” he continued, “instead of looking at the prominent exterior light above the door, you looked all the way through the window of the shop, all the way to my work table in the back of the shop and saw a tiny red light.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “The way you said I looked ‘all the way through the window’ and ‘all the way to the back of the shop’ sounds accusatory, as if I should have known better.”

“Well,” he said, “Why wouldn’t you have looked at the closest light, the exterior one above the door of the shop?”

“I don’t know why,” I said. “Why didn’t you specify ‘the exterior light above the door of the shop’ when you made your first statement?”

“Because I thought you would know what I was talking about.”

“Well, I didn’t. Obviously, we miscommunicated, but my point is the way you said I looked ‘all the way through the window of the shop’ and ‘all the way to the back of the shop’ indicated to me that you think I was stupid to misunderstand you.”

“For crying out loud! I didn’t mean to indicate I think you are stupid. I don’t think you’re stupid. I simply don’t understand why when I said, ‘the light appears to be on even when it’s off,’ you wouldn’t assume I was talking about the light closest to us. Let’s not talk any more about it.”

“Yes,” I said. “Let’s talk about it a bit more.”

Dan groaned and laid his head on the steering wheel.

“You think this miscommunication is entirely my fault,” I said.

“No, I don’t. It just seems to me you should have understood what I was talking about without me having to explain it.”

“Well, when you realized I had misunderstood, you could have simply said, ‘No, I don’t mean the light inside the shop. I mean the exterior light.’”

“I wish to high heavens I had said that.”

“I wish you had too, but you didn’t. Instead, you emphasized that I missed the obvious and very unreasonably looked all the way into the shop and all the way to the back of the shop.”

“I wish I had never even mentioned that light,” he said, backing out of the drive.

“I wish you hadn’t either,” I said.

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Please understand, readers, that I don’t always push my point as hard as I pushed this one, but occasionally I feel I must.

Especially when we are discussing important things. Like workshop lights.

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.