Okay. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a procrastinator. My mother used to tell me all the time that Procrastination should have been my middle name. I am always thinking of things I need to do or ought to do or even just want to do yet actually doing them is often a serious problem for me. I’m a crafty kind of person and really enjoy doing a lot of different things, which just adds to my collection of UFOs. (UnFinished Objects) I’m a pack rat because I’m forever looking at things and thinking, “Oh, I would love to make one of those,” or, “I just know I can use that sometime for something.” A great case in point is the countless patterns I have for various projects, from purses to miscellaneous jewelry to cross stitch. I collect patterns like I collect fabric. (Yes, it’s an addiction. No, I have not sought professional help for it.)
Along with all my craft stuff, I also collect books. I am an avid reader. I got it from my mother, who was a heavy reader herself. Some of my earliest memories are of her reading to me. I had a “Bible Stories for Kids” book that was well worn. But there were a lot of fairy tales, too. And as I got older, a whole host of other books. Then I started reading for myself and the library became one of my favorite places in the world. We had this book case that sat in our hallway. It held our World Book Encyclopedias – my source for all sorts of in formation in the days before we all had access to the internet and it’s infinite supply of “knowledge.” Along with the encyclopedias, though, was an extensive collection of books I’d picked up through the years. From my earliest days of reading right through high school. My mother was a teacher’s assistant and she used my books as her own personal library when she was looking for something new to read to her class of 2nd graders.
These days, I still collect books. I still have my “Bible Stories for Kids” as well as the fairy tales my mother read to me when I was a child. I’ve added a few others in my adult years, including the complete “Lord of the Rings” series as well as the Narnia books – both gifts from my husband because he knows how much I love to read. There was a time when I had literally hundreds of miscellaneous books that I’d picked up through the years, though I have since gotten rid of the vast majority of them in the interest of reducing clutter. Most of them went to Goodwill or the library. I still have plenty of books on hand, though. Including a rather large assortment of Bibles. I have my children’s Bible. It has a cutesy cover and several illustrations of some of the major highlights. I have the Bible a boyfriend got me when I made it to my teens and that kids Bible just became a little absurd for me to carry. I have the Bible my mother carried most of her life and the one my father bought her to replace it. I have my father’s Bible, complete with “autographs” of visiting preachers inside the inner cover.
In addition to all these “old” Bibles, I have a number of “new” ones. My husband and I have identical study Bibles that were given to us by our former church. (Amusingly, we actually have four of these Bibles because my husband has worn his first one out to the point that entire sections of it have fallen out. He still insists on using it to read from morning and night, though. His new one is his “go to church” Bible.) Then there are my parallel Bibles, one of which I used to take to church with me on a regular basis. I have a very small Bible that I carried in my purse for a while since I read somewhere that it was a good way to get in some extra reading time. It could be pulled out while waiting at a doctor’s office or at the mechanic or wherever. These days my Bible is a program on my iPad. Just yesterday I was showing it off at church. That thing has been one of the best things in the world for me and I love it. I use it every single day for countless things from my Bible to checking email to my calender and my medical history. It has been a great blessing and also holds dozens of ebooks. Now I can take my “library” with me wherever I go.
Along with my Bibles are my collection of song books. I’ve got old ones and new ones, several old hymnals, and an entire satchel full of sheet music and song lyrics. (Music is about as much an obsession as reading,) I have enough cookbooks to open my own restaurant and cook a different recipe every meal of every day for the rest of my life without having to repeat anything. I’ve also amassed an impressive number of “For Dummies” books. And, last but not least, is my significant collection of Bible studies and other Christian literature.
I’m a big Beth Moore fan and have several of her books. I love the idea of Bible studies so I have several of them. Some in book form. Some individual studies I’ve downloaded from the internet. Some entire series that I have saved on my computer or bookmarked in my browser or otherwise made note of for some eventual day when I decide to make the time to do them. Needless to say, they number about the same as the recipes. I could never do them all. Yet I still collect them.
The sad reality is, I don’t do them because I’m always finding something else to do. My attention span seems to be unfortunately short. It has always tended to wander a bit, but going through the chemo didn’t help matters any. During the height of the treatment, I could barely keep my mind focused for more than a minute on anything at all. I bought a shirt that makes light of that particular side effect.
|Zazzle Page for this shirt|
It’s a lot better than it was, but I still catch myself having trouble keeping my focus sometimes. Anyway, all these Bible studies and books and Bibles are just sitting around, waiting for me to get myself in gear and put them to good use. I just need to commit myself. Which brings me to the real point of this post.
I mentioned my husband’s Bible which he reads each morning and evening. He’s gone through the entire Bible like this a few times now. I’ve been a Christian since my teens and know my way around my Bible fairly well. I’ve got a lot of various verses locked away in my head, mostly from so many years of being in church and hearing them read. Memorization has never been my strong suit. I can and have done it, but only in small spurts. Likewise, regular dedication to reading my Bible is one of my serious failings.
It isn’t that I don’t want to or that I don’t like to or that I don’t think it’s important. I do. I’m always amazed at the way God can take a verse or a passage we’ve read a dozen times and reveal some new aspect of it on that thirteenth – or even fiftieth – time through. And there’s no doubt at all that consistent reading and study of God’s Word is important, even necessary. But like so many other things in my life, I just keep putting it off until “tomorrow.” In all my years as a child of God, one thing I have never committed myself to is a front to back reading of His Word. I feel like that’s something I really need to do.
Now, let me quantify that by saying that I don’t put much stock in reading “by rote.” It’s kinda like repeating the same words of a prayer over and over and over again as a matter of tradition. Like countless other Christians, I know The Lord’s Prayer by heart. I don’t “pray” it as a matter of routine, however. I don’t think that’s why it was given to us. In fact, Jesus warned directly against “vain repetition” right before He gave us His prayer.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:7 (KJV)
Too often I think cover to cover reading of the Bible winds up being a bit like routine repetition of The Lord’s Prayer. It loses it’s meaning through excessive repeating. This isn’t to say that reading the Bible front to back is a fruitless exercise, but it has to be done for the right reason and with the right “heart.” Otherwise it’s a vain exercise, just like the prayer. I don’t think God likes it when we turn our worship of Him into an exercise we can “do in our sleep.” That just sucks all the depth and real meaning right out of it.
As I said, I’ve never done a cover to cover reading of the Bible. I read verses and chapters and passages more or less at random, or as part of a Bible study or a church service or when looking for something in particular. It’s possible that through this approach I have managed to read every verse in the Bible at some point or another, but it isn’t quite the same as a deliberate, dedicated devotion to ensuring that I have read them all. Moreover, that I haven’t just read them, but that I’ve taken the time to consider what they have to tell me.
I mentioned in my last post that I am a part of an online community of Christians called Worthy Christian Forums. I love the site and have learned a lot since I joined it over a year ago. I have also “met” some wonderful Christians there. It’s an awesome representation of the body of Christ, in that we are all so different, from different places both geographically and spiritually. Meaning we have members ranging from “babes in Christ” to “elders” who can offer tremendous wisdom from a lifetime of walking with the Lord. We have comedians who keep us all laughing and theologians who make us all think. And there are the encouragers, members who lift us when we’re down or prod us to dedicate ourselves more faithfully to God. One of these members started a thread several weeks ago asking the administers and moderators at Worthy if some sort of group could be started that would be dedicated to reading through the Bible chronologically in 90 days. After some back and forth with one of our mods, she started up a new thread spreading the word about the project.
She started a group on Facebook called Chronological Bible in 90 Days. There are 28 of us who have joined that group so far. Presumably all of us are committing to at least doing the reading, though the goal is to do more than that. We read, yes, but we are planning to also post our progress in SOAP format.
S = a scripture or passage that really stood out to you that day
O = your observation about the scripture’s context
A = how you can apply this passage to your life
P= a simple prayer to wrap things up.
My first thought when I read about her idea was, “cool.” Then it was, “wow, 90 days?” Then came, “Yeah, I can’t even make myself read a single verse every day.” Which immediately led to me thinking that I ought to be ashamed of that and that God certainly deserved more than what I was giving Him. So I jumped into the fray and committed myself to participating.
Most of the time I’m excited about it and looking forward to the challenge. Then I have days like today when I wake up with a migraine and have to force myself to sit down and write the post I’ve been planning to do about this project for a while now. Days like this aren’t particularly conducive to “growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord.” I’m tired, hurting, and irritable. I’d rather be asleep, where I can get away from the pain in my head, even for a little while. But once our project starts, I won’t be able to ignore it or put it off. Because what’s the point of making the commitment if I’m not determined to stick with it even when I don’t feel like it?
The truth is, I need this. I need to immerse myself in God’s Word, to dig into it and see what He has to tell me. Yesterday in church our pastor confessed that lately he hasn’t been feeling excited about reading the Bible. (He’s the kind of man who has no problem at all admitting that he isn’t perfect, which is one of the reasons we love him.) He flat out said it wasn’t God’s fault, that God’s Word had not lost any of its power or meaning, but that he was the one to blame. Because God never moves, He never pushes us away or withdraws from us. We are the ones who move away from Him.
It’s tempting to sit here and say that I need to get myself back in the “mood” to be devoted to God. That I need to “get my head and/or heart right” before I try to undertake something as big as reading through the Bible in 90 days. But that’s a lie. What I need is to just get myself into God’s Word. I need to start reading, to dive in head first and trust God to do the rest. I need to make a commitment and refuse to back away from it. I need dedication, to make a promise to God that I will be there, that I will meet Him every single day with my heart and mind open to whatever He has to teach me. So that’s what I’m doing.
Starting this coming Thursday, July 21, our little group will begin our journey through the Bible. If you’re up for the challenge, join us. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t let the problems and busyness of day to day life keep you from making a commitment to do something big. Whether it’s this Bible reading project or some other thing God’s called you to do that you keep putting off.
Life never stops. It doesn’t slow down or give vacations or time off. I have a treatment on Thursday. I’ll be tired and scattered. I won’t feel like doing anything at all, much less something that’s going to require me to actually focus and pay serious attention. But I refuse to surrender to that voice in the back of my head that keeps trying to tell me that I can’t do it. That I shouldn’t have committed myself to this. Christie, the woman who started the whole thing, has just found out that she’s going to be facing a trip to visit her daughter for the birth of a grand child, as well as a completely unexpected move from Las Vegas to Texas, all right in the middle of our 90 days. You think she isn’t tempted to call it all off? Think she hasn’t had a few moments when she thought, “Gee, Lord, I was trying to do something for You, here. You could have held off on all the big events until afterwards!” Want to know what she ultimately said, though?
i was starting to feel overwhelmed, because of the florida trip for the birth of my grandson in the middle of this 90 day schedule. so what does God do? he drops a cross-country move into the mix, and then whispers that i’m going to NEED this much time in His word every day to keep my sanity! (Posted on the group wall on Facebook.)
Man, I love that! I love that despite the craziness of it all, she can see God’s hand at work in her life. And that’s why I’m doing it. Why I’m committed in spite of my heavy leanings toward procrastination. I want to make this promise to God, I want to set my mind on Him, on His Word, on a determination to stick to it no matter what comes my way. I want to remind myself that the only way I can do anything at all is by relying on Him to get me through it. I want to take a leap of faith and trust that He will help me focus and stay faithful.
Life is hectic. We have countless distractions, both unavoidable and those we allow to creep in. But nothing can overshadow God if we refuse to allow it to do so. Nothing: no trial, no trouble, no emotion, no physical pain or weakness, no character flaw. God is the conqueror of all our failings, if we will allow Him to be. As one of my favorite songs says, “God will take away your pain if you choose to let it go.” It doesn’t just apply to pain. It applies to any and all obstacles to our walk with Him. It’s all about our willingness to “let go and let God.” We can do all things through Christ. Not on our own. So I’m going to be relying on God to keep me going as I do this.
If you would, please keep us in your prayers as we embark on this effort. We’ll all be facing our own obstacles as we go through this reading schedule. We’ll need God’s strength to stay faithful to our commitment. And like I said, if there’s something you’re feeling led to do, don’t let anything get in your way. God deserves our devotion and dedication. Remember that every time we put off answering His call, we are telling Him that He’s just not as important as whatever it is we’re choosing to do instead.