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Go gently

The calendar tells me I’ve entered the second week of November already. Time flies when we are having fun. And life is a blast, this I know.

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With the final session of a ten-week Bible study completed this week, something that consumed much of my thoughts, I am setting myself a goal to go gently into the remainder of 2018. We’ll see how that goes.

Endings always bookend with beginnings. I anticipate God has something else in store. I can’t wait to see what it is.

As I consider the last two months of this year, I hear the siren song to enter into a season of frantic activity. It’s grasping fingers began reaching out as school supplies were replaced with Christmas decorations on store shelves, and my eyes wandered to the embellishments of the holiday, stirring desire.

But do I really need another ornament?

I recall the years I was crazy with activity. Not this year. This year will be different. I will be different.

Sweet William and I have already talked about celebrating with less stress, less of an agenda, less on the To-Do-List. Contrary to popular opinion, Thanksgiving and Christmas are founded in faith. They are deeply spiritual times for me.

In my effort to stay focused on the important thing, I’ve renewed my daily discipline to list gifts in my Joy Journal. The more I focus on the goodness of God, the more I see His presence all over my existence. His blessings abound. Thankfulness and contentment permeate the atmosphere.

I’m committed to keep the fall russets and burgundies, along with the mantel arrangement, through Thanksgiving. It deserves its on ceremony. I won’t rush it out the door, only to replace it with glittery reds and greens. I take the challenge to give thanks in all circumstances.

I want to be aware that these year-end holidays can be the most difficult for some who will deal with an empty place at the table. Loss and grief cannot be stored in the closet with old decorations. It will be hard, remembering past years and wondering how to make new traditions with a loved one missing. While bliss may be filling some hearts, may I be sensitive to those whose eyes fill with tears.

Weighing how I can honor the year-end holidays, I evaluate what I can let go, what I want to keep. I desire to focus on what is truly important. To fret less, to love more.

One suggestion I intend to honor is rest. “Schedule a rest day each week during the busy holidays.” This is not an option. When every day includes appointments and activities, with no down time for family to relax and refresh, stress levels rise and the enjoyment of said activities decreases. This year, I will choose carefully when to say “yes” and when to politely say “no.”

I will choose my people over my scheduled projects. How easily I can lose sight of those around me when I have lots to do. When all is said and done, what I want to remember, and what I want others to remember of me, is that we had time for each other. That we looked at faces when we talked. That we listened with the heart. That love was the main thing.

Go gently into the days and weeks ahead. Mark what is eternally valuable. Then do that.

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Monday grace

This week I’ve been practicing some remembering.

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The Bible study I’m doing with sweet sisters has led me to a point of recall. Events from my childhood and young adulthood have surfaced. Like every human on the planet, some of my memories were painful. But so many were amazing.

We’ve been looking for the hand of God in the places of our lives, sensing Him in the darkness, witnessing Him in the light, recognizing that He was there each and every time.

It’s a healthy exercise for my brain to remember 60 plus years past. What I perceive in the remembering is a loving, dependable Father who was redeeming the events of my life, conforming me ever so slightly into the image of His Son, causing all things to work together for my good and for His glory.

On Sunday morning, sitting next to Sweet William at church, it was not surprising that a song about the faithfulness of God resonated with the things I’d been studying, the events I’ve been summoning to the forefront of my mind.

And then, a few pews away from us, I saw an elderly woman lift her small wrinkled hand in praise, acknowledging the same faithful God. My eyes unexpectedly teared up thinking of the years she has lived. Perhaps a decade or more my senior, her experience with God exceeds mine. I wondered what she might tell me, how she saw Him active in her years, what hard places she walked with His hand leading hers, the victories they won together, how beauty arose from the ashes of her grief and tribulation.

We are different but we are the same. Both children of the living God who loves us and cares individually for us, always at work on our behalf, ever watchful of the journey we take, never leaving, never forsaking.

Later that evening, Sweet William and I accompanied a roomful of people singing hymns from days gone by. He and I had practiced the songs for weeks, their melodies etched in our minds. The words were old, familiar and true.

Voices echoed ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus and testified of its certainty. Our God is strong. Our God is good. And our God is trustworthy.

It is well worth remembering that.

Monday grace.

 

 

Rainbows tell a story

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

The Rainbow was God’s idea first, a symbol of promise, a sign of beauty to remind us that He is a covenant-keeping God.

And so I was intrigued to receive and review the Rainbow Study Bible, Christian Standard Bible from B&H Publishing Group.

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Opening the pages, I see color throughout, twelve different hues, distinguishing portions of Scripture with the goal for the reader to better understand.

“The design is according to a layman’s perspective to make teaching, studying, and categorizing as simple as possible.

“Generally, verses are marked as they make up a major passage containing an overall collective thought.”

The colors divide thoughts into these categories: God, Salvation, Sin, Evil, Love, Family, Prophecy, History, Discipleship, Commandments, Faith, and Outreach.

There are three pages giving details and explanation to help familiarize the reader with the topics. In addition, at the bottom of each page of Scripture is a color code making it easy to reference quickly.

Additional study helps in the book are impressive: the books of the Bible in Biblical order as well as alphabetical order, multiple maps and illustrations, table of weights and measures, ancient versions of Biblical text, 365 popular Bible quotations for memorization and meditation, a one-year daily bible reading calendar, harmony of the gospels and more.

From the 365 popular Bible quotations, I looked at the verse for today, and wouldn’t you know it. It was just what I needed to hear. So like the Holy Spirit to speak through the pages of God’s Word.

The Rainbow Bible is hardcover with a ribbon page marker. Print is large enough that I don’t have to strain my baby blues. And of course, the book is beautiful with its colorful pages.

My only concern is that the color hues are very close in shade, and sometimes it was challenging for me to decide into what category the verses actually fit. Someone who struggles with color-blindness would find it difficult to distinguish the colored categories.

Overall, it is a very nice Bible, one that offers a lot of help to a Bible student. The color alone, makes it a pleasant reading experience.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of CSB Rainbow Study Bible, provided by B&H Publishing Group, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.

 

 

I love to hear the stories

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Let me dig right into this book review because sometimes something comes to me and I wonder where it has been all my life.

CSB Christ Chronological provides a unique way for readers to experience the life of Christ in chronological order with each Gospel writer’s account of events side-by-side. Featuring a parallel format, commentary notes for each section to provide background and context, and color-coded text to differentiate between the accounts in each Gospel, readers are able to gain fresh perspective on the life and ministry of Christ. “

 

As a long-time student of the Scriptures, I love the way this book brings continuity to the gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each have their own perspectives on the life and events of Jesus Christ, and their stories are written in their unique voices.

I have often searched through my Bible to compare Mark’s version of a story with Matthew’s or John’s, thumbing through the pages to find and read each one. CSB Christ Chronological has brought the same stories together in one place. Here are Jesus’ stories side -by-side.

In CSB Christ Chronological the gospels are color coded in the text and at the bottom of  each page.  A topic is introduced, noting corresponding chapter and verses from the gospels where it is recorded. Brief commentary precedes each section.

During the seasons of Advent and Lent, I often read Jesus’ story in each of the gospels in order to see a more complete picture. I end up with four bookmarks in my Bible as I go from one writer to another. The CSB Christ Chronologicall has done this work for me.

This book would make a wonderful addition to a Bible teacher’s library or to anyone who wants to know their Lord and Savior more.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of CSB Christ Chronological provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

 

Wake up

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

I credit my mother for instilling the discipline of daily devotions. I first remember her giving me Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles Cowman, when I was just a girl. It was her way of teaching me the importance of daily time with Jesus.

By now, my collection of devotional books has grown by stacks.

The opportunity to review Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks, by Priscilla Shirer, was a no-brainer for me.  I’ve participated in Ms. Shirer’s Bible studies a number of times and always enjoy the journey of her teaching. Awaken is her first devotional book, and it is a gem.

Awaken

Priscilla Shirer is a Bible scholar who writes with the authority of one who knows the Author and His works. Awaken affirms that God wants to speak to us as individuals. Without dated pages, one can begin this book anytime and pick it up again when the schedule permits. No guilt if you miss a day. Just continue to the next entry.

But don’t wait too long to read another daily devotional because this is good stuff. For each day Ms. Shirer gives a short Bible illustration, coupled with her own experiences, then re-enforces both with Scripture verses.

Finally, she asks a question to help the reader make application to his/her life. The questions are thoughtful and thought-provoking. A blank page gives plenty of room to journal one’s thoughts.

It is in the writing that I often understand more clearly what I’ve read and how it pertains to and connects with me. Thus, I am able to hear from the God who speaks. Because He does want to speak to me.

This is a great book for teens or adults. Someone on your Christmas list might need Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks to help her start the day with Jesus. (You are already thinking about Christmas, aren’t you?)

A day without the Word and listening for God’s voice is not the way to start a good day. Just sayin’.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Words of God

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

I’ve got quite a collection of Bibles. Growing up, I was often on the receiving end of such gifts.  As an adult, I’ve wanted study Bibles and different translations so I could understand better.

While it is the trend to read any available version of Scripture online via laptops, tablets  or smart phones, I still prefer to hold the book in my hands, turn the thin pages, underline verses and make notes in the margins. Call me old-fashioned. 

So I was delighted to receive the Christian Standard Bible from B&H Publishing Company for review.

The dual shaded brown leathertouch book is thinline and light weight, a just-right size for purse or carry case.  The cover has a soft feel. Opening the book and turning its delicate, golden-edged pages is a pleasing sensory experience.

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Features of this Bible are:

  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Presentation page
  • Two-column text
  • Center-column cross references
  • Topical subheadings
  • Words of Christ in red
  • 8.25-point type
  • Concordance
  • Full-color maps

I’ve not had a Bible with cut-in tabs showing the books for quickly locating them, and I must say I am finding that very helpful, even though I learned the books of the Bible when I was a child. The Old Testament order can still be tricky, and I often sing a song that helps me with the New Testament order of books.

There is an “Introduction to the Christian Standard Bible” near the front explaining how this particular version came about. This is always important to me. I want to know that every effort was made to be as accurate as possible in translating the Scriptures to a readable format. And I am comfortable that the CSB is just that.

This is a lovely book to look at and hold. It will take its place among the varied translations and paraphrases I already have on shelves. I want to be a good student, to search out on my own and not just swallow what someone tells me. The more I am able to understand what God is trying to say, the more I get to know who He is.

And the more I know who God is, the more I love and trust Him.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the Holman Christan Standard Bible, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Let’s continue on

Completing one more Bible study is not just another notch in our belts.

A group of women and I finished Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild, and we celebrated this week. Seven weeks of meeting together created a bond of friendship that happens in the middle of opening God’s Word together. It’s amazing how we learn from the Scripture and how we learn to love one another. It’s special.

The challenge now is to continue the daily time of study and simply be in the presence of our Savior Jesus. How do we shut out the world for a few minutes each day and sit at His feet like Mary did?

We are good at being Martha, bustling about to accomplish tasks. That in itself is not bad. But in our “Martha-ness” we can become distracted, frustrated, critical and fussy. As we compare our own work load with another, we make demands and question our Lord. We lose our contentment in the gifts we have been given, gifts meant to bless others.

Our culture encourages us to work hard and find efficient ways of doing more. The “being” part is often left out, and we are left wondering how to do that.

We’ve somehow lost the art of being present, of being still.

So let’s try this. Dedicate fifteen minutes for some quiet, meditative time with the God of the Universe. Uninterrupted time. No multi-tasking. Press the pause button on your To-Do List. Turn off the smart phone. Take some time to pray, and then to listen.

Can we do that? Just fifteen minutes a day? There’s a very good possibility that the dedicated fifteen minutes will strech into thrity as we get lost in the Presence.

When we set aside a portion of our time, it becomes sacred. It becomes holy. And we find the Holy One has been waiting for us.

And in the holy stillness, our hearts will open and we will see God.