Twenty years ago, when I first began reading through my Bible in a purposeful way, with a commitment to myself to read through annually, I had no idea how significantly God would bless me through the pages of His Word.
Yesterday, however, as I completed my annual journey and recorded the date in the back of my Bible, I looked at the previous dates already recorded there, and I began to reflect on some of the events that had taken place during those years.
These weren’t all easy years.
Some were full of joy and others full of challenge. Some were downright tumultuous.
But through the ups and downs, joys and sorrows of these years, I have had an anchor. Continue reading
One of the most shocking moments I experienced in a counseling class I took some years ago was not, as you might guess, an extreme example the instructor gave of a counseling experience.
It was at the end of the class when the instructor was thanking us as students for our attention and participation and followed with the admonishment, “Just make sure you stay on the right side of the counseling desk.”
The right side of the counseling desk?
I know what he meant: Place preemptive safeguards in your life so you don’t fall into tangled sins. And he is right. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be so consumed with helping others that we neglect our own walk with God and make excuses for sinful choices leading us to spiritual implosion.
But the reality is, I have spent time on both sides of the “counseling desk.” And we all need both sides.
I’ve had seasons when I sought needed help from ladies who are wiser than me and able to give biblical perspective and truth related to personal struggles or sinful habits I was dealing with. And I’m so thankful for them. Continue reading
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”—Mary Anne Radmacher
That quote was meaningful enough to me the first time I read it that I still remember where I sat and the time of day.
I saved it immediately, and I’ve used it in teaching since. Whenever I share it in a lesson, I see pens and paper connect as many others want to save it, too. It’s worded with such concise beauty that we easily identify with it.
But there is something about this quote’s appeal that has always troubled me a little. It’s not that the quote is inaccurate, but that it is incomplete. Continue reading
Almost three months after I moved to Southern California, I innocently asked a co-worker, who was a SoCal native, where would be the best spot to visit the ocean. “I have a couple days free, and I’ve been wanting to see the ocean. Where should I go?”
“You mean, you’ve never seen the ocean? Like, you don’t mean just not here in L.A., but no ocean anywhere?”
“I’m from Illinois. We don’t have the ocean there.”
“You’ve never seen the ocean? Never?”
Whatever, I thought to myself. It’s not like I’ve never seen anything that is memorable. I mean, look, she’s never seen unending acres of corn!
That was on Tuesday. Continue reading
So, somewhere around December 31 or January 1, you renewed your resolve to read God’s Word daily. Or maybe you set a goal to complete a new study plan or stick with a specific reading schedule.
You pictured yourself with a steaming cup of coffee, a new journal with freshly-filled pages, and the first hints of sunrise streaming in your window onto your open Bible lighting your already glowing face.
This, you decided, will be the year I really read all the way through. Or, This will be the year I study XYZ topic.
Then January 2nd happened.
Or maybe it was January 10th. In any case, you overslept, couldn’t find your journal under the mess you had meant to clean up the night before, and didn’t feel much like reading anyway. Continue reading
There’s something about seeing David Brainerd quotes posted online that makes me smile. Not a discrediting smile (I love his quotes!), but a sympathetic smile.
Brainerd’s journals have moved me profoundly. In fact, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd is the only autobiography I remember setting down mid-reading—not just once or twice, but almost every time I pick it up—moved to fervent prayer. His heart for God freely (and rawly) expressed in those pages, which he believed no one would read as he penned them, is that real and that convicting.
I smile, however, when I see his quotes because his journal was often so contradictory. Like some of us, he encountered extreme highs and lows. But the posted quotes rarely even hint of the contradictions Brainerd lived with.
Take for instance, this quote: Continue reading
A week ago today, I did something I should do more often—turned notifications off on my phone, drove to an area with no cell reception, hiked to the bottom of a canyon, and sat for two and a half hours with a good book.
For the first fifteen to thirty minutes of reading, I surprised myself at how often I reached to check my phone, even though my notifications were turned off and I didn’t even have cell service. Definitely not a habit I’m proud of.
About thirty minutes in, I was reaching for my phone for a different reason—to take pictures to share online.
Finally, as the connection-detox ran its course, I let my phone sit unnoticed on the rock beside me as I simply sat and absorbed my surroundings. I didn’t post any pictures that day, but I did leave wonderfully renewed and less stressed than I had let myself be for quite some time.
The next day, while sitting at my desk at work, it occurred to me that stress steals from us some of God’s most valuable gifts—gifts I had hardly noticed were absent forty-eight hours prior, but realized now what a treasure they are. I jotted four down. Continue reading
Is it just me, or do you sometimes have an “off day” too?
As much as I want to wake up every day ready to take the world on and, by the end of the day, have a completed to-do list, all with actions that truly made a difference for eternity, no less; that’s just not the way it always happens.
Years ago, I read a quote by Jim Elliot about not doing life by half measures: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
That quote resonated with me, as does Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
I don’t want to live by half-measures. I don’t want to just go through motions. I want to give my all from my soul. Continue reading
For years, I’ve read through the book of Psalms every month. It got so that the day of the month became synonymous with me for the first few words of, or a verse from, a corresponding Psalm.
But this year, wanting to mix up my reading a bit, I took a break from Psalms for a few months. It’s hard, though, to leave such a well of worship, so I’m back to reading through Psalms monthly. (I’ve include the schedule I use at the bottom of this post.)
As I reentered the daily intake of Psalms, what surprised me anew was the intensity of David’s emotions. Whether it was in his longings for God, adoration of God, cries of fear, resolve to praise, or any other expression of his heart, he articulated them with acute intensity. Continue reading
You and I both know that faith is more than a feeling. It’s action. Steps. Moving forward. Progress.
Wait…is it all that?
And are all of those so easily defined without feelings? After all, how do you know if you’re making progress? And what if it takes more faith to wait than to act?
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that faith and feelings get pretty tangled in our hearts. And that sometimes we don’t really do faith at all; we are content to simply feel faith without changing our actions.
So what does doing faith look like, with or without feelings?
Think of the great faith heroes of the Bible and history. I’m pretty sure Abraham wasn’t “feeling faith” as he climbed Mount Moriah with Isaac. And I’m going to guess that Gladys Aylward wasn’t “feeling faith” as she led one hundred children across Communist territory while she was burning with fever.
Not only is faith more than a feeling, but it isn’t defined by feelings. Will you read that sentence again?
Faith isn’t defined by feelings, and they aren’t required for it to be faith.
So if faith isn’t a feeling, what is it? Or more specifically, what does it do? Continue reading