Category Archives: Wisdom

Invitation To A Feast: Bible Studies That Study the Bible

Recently, a handful of women from my church joined me in reading and discussing Lysa TerKeurst’s book “The Best Yes”. Though our numbers dwindled over the six weeks we met, those of us who remained at the end agreed that our time together had been well-spent.

TerKeurst is a New York Times best-selling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s a popular, gifted teacher and ministry leader. We were entertained, challenged and informed. And in some ways, we were changed by engaging through her book and the accompanying DVD-led study.

So why, as leader of this study group, do I feel like these women were short-changed?

As only God can do, I’ve received some gentle conviction in recent weeks over where I go — and where I lead others — for the study of God’s word. At the very least, I’ve been stopped in my tracks while I think about His desired path for women who want to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not sorry that we read this book. Nor do I feel we were misled in any way by the God-inspired wisdom offered by Lysa Terkeurst. I do, however, feel I misled the women by advertising the group as a Bible study. We discussed my “false advertising” in our first session and the women graciously forgave me. But in the end, it was as if I’d invited the ladies to come for bread and wine and served them chips and cola instead.

Tasty, but not as good as the real thing.

I’ve participated in women’s Bible studies for years, as proven by my library shelf full of Beth Moore, Priscilla Shire and Jennie Allen study books. I’ve read (and studied) many wonderful Christian books about topics that interested me written by spiritual leaders I respect, both men and women. Most of them have led me to a fuller understanding of scripture.

Here’s the thing. At least one of the women in our little gathering appears to be a “baby Christian” and I got the distinct feeling she was attempting to digest savory doctrinal commentary, when what she really needs is pure, simple food. Namely, the word of God.

Don’t we all?

My concerns are backed up by Bible teacher and author Jen Wilkin. Her essay in Christianity Today, “Let Bible Studies Be Bible Studies”, addresses this very issue.

“Churches must distinguish clearly between what is Bible study and what is something else because the average churchgoer may not be able to on her own. Knowing they should study the Bible, earnest Christians sign up for what we have labeled a Bible study, assuming that it is,” says Wilkin.

In her opinion, biblical illiteracy is pervasive in our churches, in part because we fail to point out the difference between pure Bible study and book study. Her church has become intentional about precise terminology when offering studies, with an emphasis on pure Bible study.

Moving forward, our church will do the same.

When a disciple of Christ desires to understand their choice to follow Him, going to source materials should be the first step. A well-versed Bible teacher can help by setting the table and joining in the feast, utilizing commentaries and even various translations to aid in the understanding of scripture.

In her excellent book “Women of the Word”, Wilkin says this about the value of intentional Bible study:

“Sound Bible study transforms the heart by training the mind and it places God at the center of the story. But sound Bible study does more than that — it leaves the student with a better understanding of the Bible than she had when she started.”

Reading and discussing good Christian books can enhance our application and even our understanding of scripture, but reading them should not be a substitute for studying the Bible itself, word by word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book.

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16

 

 

 

 

Gather Your Team and Make a ‘Family’

“Thank you for being on my team.”

Words from my friend bear witness to this friendship we’re nurturing, to the time we’ve spent catching up over tea, in prayer, studying God’s word. The times we’ve carried one another’s burdens, rejoiced over each other’s victories.

“Gather your team” we’d heard the speaker say. This wise woman at the podium, in the evening of her life, had given a diverse group of women gathered for worship and teaching a peek into the journey that’s been her life. She’s lived simply but with a heart open to all that God placed in her path. Divorced early in her marriage, she trusted God to lead her as a single parent, to bless her remarriage, and to bring comfort in the tragic too-soon death of her beloved second husband and a son.

At a round table with friends I’ve known for decades and with several new to this season of my life, I’d heard the lovely woman communing with us remind the gathering of this:

Whatever life brings, God has gone before you. He is already there. Click To Tweet

Then she said it. “Gather your team.”

Surround yourself with people who know you, she said, those you can trust, those who’ll hang with you in the hard days and dance with you in the good.

“Some friends are for a season,” she told us. “And that’s okay.”

 

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:5-6

My Grandmothers. Sisters-in-law and lifelong teammates.

Always, always cultivate friends who are willing, committed, available. Find friends and make a “family.”

If we choose wisely, she said, we need never been lonely. Even in widowhood. Especially in the evening of our lives.

Then one more piece of advice fell from her lips — use your gifts. “I am a knitter of socks,” she said, smiling as she held up a pair in progress. “I’m using my gifts and God is pleased with me.”

More than a knitter of socks, she is a generous weaver of wise words, passed down, spread around and soaked up.

Thank you, Lord, for women who take seriously the command “to be reverent in the way they live….to teach what is good.” Titus 2:3

 

 

 

 

How To Cure An Itchy Trigger Finger

twitter-logoJust 140 characters and two minutes.

That’s all it takes to spout an opinion or start a movement. In a flurry of emotional rhetoric, we have the freedom to proclaim to the world (or whoever’s watching) a point of view we may later realize was uninformed, or just plain over the top. But we do it anyway.

In my mother’s vernacular, some of us have developed an “itchy trigger finger.”

The new leader of the free world calls Twitter “modern communication” and says it’s a very effective way of reaching his 15 million Twitter followers. No doubt he’s right. And he is prolific; the man averages about 1 new “tweet” and hour. But I wonder how much thought he gives to his words and to other social media statements before he hits “post”. Judging from what we’ve heard and seen over the past year, not much.

The Wiktionary definition of someone with an itchy trigger finger is “a person eager to fire their weapon or likely to do so unexpectedly” or someone “with a tendency or readiness to act in haste or without consideration.”

Sound familiar?

Our next President, as well as those of us responding to his presidency via social media, would do well to heed the words of James, the earthly brother of Christ:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

And if that isn’t clear enough, one could consider the wise words of Solomon:

“Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs 29:20

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

Tapping out that very witty comeback or oh-so-original opinion with our itchy trigger fingers can undermine all the hard work we’ve done in the past to put forth an image that attests to our character and integrity. Thank goodness there is a cure for trigger finger.

Bind it, stop the inflammation and give it a rest.

“The time it takes to recover from trigger finger depends on how bad it is. The choice of treatment also affects recovery. For example, splinting may be necessary for six weeks. But most people with trigger finger recover within a few weeks by resting the finger and using anti-inflammatory drugs.” (WebMD.com)

The president-elect has time to get his itchy trigger finger under control. If he heeds the advice of James, Solomon and the medical community, in two months time when he lays his hand on the Bible to take the oath of office, that kink in his itchy trigger finger could be fully healed.

 

 

“Never Trump” the Sovereignty of God

My gut reaction at the close of Indiana’s historic primary election is to say “Never Trump”. There are so many reasons I am repulsed by the idea of Donald J. Trump leading our nation, to list them here would fill a blog post. I am embarrassed and disheartened by the choice a majority of my fellow “conservative” Hoosiers have made. They’ve turned away a godly man who could help lead our nation out of darkness and instead fallen under the spell of spectacle. I believe we will be sorry.

Watching and listening to coverage of the Presidential race (it’s hard to miss, unless you live in a cave), I’ve been reminded of the leaders chosen by the people of Israel over 3,000 years ago. As recorded in the Book of Judges, the Israelites begged God for mighty kings to lead them, though God warned against it. Each time God granted their wish, the people turned from God and sinned against Him.

When the Israelites cried out to God for mercy, he delivered them by raising up the heroes of the book, the Judges. Filled with the Holy Spirit, these valiant men and women obeyed God—although imperfectly—to demonstrate his faithfulness and love.

“Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them.” Judges 2:18-19

When we were a homeschooling family, one of the books I used to teach my sons about this period in history was “Daring Deliverers” by Ollie E. Gibbs. Together, we learned what it takes to be a good leader by studying the 12 judges appointed by God during the first 300 years of the history of Israel. Each of the judges offered hope to the people of Israel, delivering them from the sin that had ensnared them. But in every instance, the godly leaders were eventually rejected and the people returned to their sinful ways.

It appears that America, a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles, has rejected a “daring deliverer” before the man even had an opportunity to enact his plan for deliverance. With Ted Cruz laying down his mantle, the future of our nation looks bleak.

But for God……

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” Ephesians 3:20

Whether or not I cast a vote for Donald J. Trump (or for his opponent), I will keep this election in perspective, believing that even in times like these, God will have the upper hand and that one man or one woman cannot set the course for a nation that looks to God for deliverance.

 

 

What Stinks in Your Back Yard?

Our two dogs are hunters by avocation, “man’s best friend” when they’re not on the prowl.

On any given day, remnants of their most recent hunting expedition can be found on our front lawn. Such was the case on a beautiful late summer evening recently. As I rolled along on my riding mower, making my perfectly straight paths, I spotted a pile of feathers up ahead. Actually, I smelled them before I saw them.feathers

You have a couple of choices when coming upon one of their specimens:

  • make a wide swath around said item and hope Husband disposes of it later
  • mow right over it as if it doesn’t exist (don’t laugh — I’ve done this with deer skeletons)
  • stop the mower, get off, find a shovel, hold your breath, scoop it up and carry it across the road to the ditch

None of these are pleasant options. Even swinging wide to miss the pile, it still stinks. This time, I decided to get rid of the offensive heap. It took several scoops and more than one trip across the road, but I managed to do the deed without losing my dinner.

Back on the mower, I got to thinking about how often we come upon stinky messes that need to be dealt with in life. We can be rolling along, making fine work of the tasks before us, when something unpleasant suddenly looms on the horizon.

It could be someone’s bad attitude, bad choices or bad news. It might be our own mistakes, hurtful words, misunderstandings.

If left to fester in the heat of the day, the mess will begin to stink. But still, we will dance around that stinky mess, avoiding it, even turning away to leave it for someone else to clean up. Or we’ll hold our noses and just pretend it isn’t there.

Over time, the stinky mess may actually rot away, becoming nothing more than a pile of dry debris. But there will be scars in the landscape. Weeds will grow over the mess and the stench will fade, but only after we’ve wasted time in denial and avoidance. And we’ll still know it was there and we didn’t deal with it.

Okay, this analogy may be a bit of a stretch, but imagine a lawn full of stinky carcasses — or a life littered with messes we’ve tried to ignore.

Scriptures that I turn to over and over are found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. There is so much good instruction in Romans for dealing with life’s inevitable messes. The one I hang my hat on is this:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

As simple — and as complicated — as that. Live at peace with everyone. There’s a limit to what you can do about someone else’s messes (though it’s good to keep a shovel handy) but you can do your part and deal with your own messes before they begin to stink.

And keep the peace.

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I’m linking up today at 3Dlessons4life.com with other bloggers sharing on Thought Provoking Thursday. Please join me there by clicking on the red chair! Thought-provoking-thursday-banner_NEW

 

Graceful or Gullible? and A Summer with “So Many Books”

“I’ll walk you to the door, Miss.” I didn’t know whether to thank my AT&T salesman or laugh in his face. So I did a little of both.

“I haven’t been called ‘miss’ for about 40 years,” I said with a girlish giggle. “But thank you.”

“I wouldn’t have known. Honest, I wouldn’t!” he called out as I walked to my car. I shook my head and slid in behind the wheel. Okay, maybe I blushed a little.

Thanks, sonny, but I’m not buying a new phone.

Why is it so difficult to take a compliment — assuming it’s intended as a kindness and not a subtle form of mockery? I’ve been called gullible more than once in my lifetime, so I’ve acquired a touch of cynicism in my old age. But when true compliments come my way, I want to field them with grace and gratitude. I know that when I say something that is sincerely complimentary to someone, I want them to receive and appreciate it — like a gift.

So, because I’m on a mission to learn new skills in this final quarter of my earthly life, I’ve decided to begin with practicing humble gratitude. People do say nice things once in awhile. And they mean them. Instead of tossing off kind words with an attitude of dismissal, I’m going to gracefully and humbly say “Thank you. I’m glad you thought so.” And leave it at that. And if it turns out they intended the comment as mockery, I may just catch them off-guard. I’m okay with being gracefully gullible, too.

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It’s summer — though in northern Indiana tonight it feels like October — and I’m seeing all sorts of summer reading lists floating around out there. It’s a little late to actually begin a list of intended literary pursuits that will be wrapped up by Labor Day, but since I read year-around, I thought I’d share what’s on my reading stack at the moment. I’m only giving you a partial list, because I’m embarrassed to reveal the enormity of my appetite, but hopefully you’ll find a few here that pique your interest. I’ve grouped them into spiritual, memoir/biography, writing and fiction. There are 16 in all (and some of them I’m already reading) so I’m sharing half of them today, a few from each category, and the rest later this week. Stay tuned.

prettybooks.tumblr.com

prettybooks.tumblr.com

Spiritual:

  • “Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence” by Jenni Catron. I’m 50 pages into it and I feel Jenni and I could be friends. From the back of her book: “We all long for significance, even as we fear we will never be good enough. We listen for God, but hear only voices of doubt and practicality. Listen again. There is a call that only you can answer.”
  • “Leading Women to the Heart of God” edited by Lysa Terkeurst. This is an inspiring collection of writings by women ministering to women in their church and their community. I’m highlighting, underlining and tagging all the great ideas and words of counsel found in this valuable book.
  • “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning. A camp counselor who worked for me back in the days I directed church camp loved this book. He said it changed his life. Three authors I regard highly — Michael Card, Max Lucado and Eugene Peterson — have high praise for Manning’s classic meditation on grace. I’m excited to dig into this one and to share it with my sons.

Memoir/Biography:

  • “A Circle of Quiet” by Madeleine L’Engle. I love L’Engle’s fiction (“A Wrinkle in Time” stands out) and I’ve read this memoir before. But, some books you just have to come back to. This is the first in her “Crosswicks Journal” trilogy, and I may have to track down the other two, “The Summer of the Great-grandmother” and “The Irrational Season”.
  • “The Boys of My Youth” by Jo Ann Beard. Reading this collection of memories from a woman who grew up in my era is like reminiscing with a cousin. Nothing profound, just scattered remembrances that add up to a life.

Writing:

  • “Get That Novel Written!” by Donna Levin. My author-son tells me you shouldn’t talk about what you’re writing, so I won’t reveal why I’m reading this one. Let’s just say this is a novel-writing workshop in a book. Wonderful, and a bargain at less than 20 bucks.
  • “The Art of War for Writers” by James Scott Bell. I heard Bell speak at a writers’ conference and was totally enthralled. His book promises “the ultimate novel-writing battle plan”. It should go well with my other “workshop” book as I revisit my childhood ambition.

Fiction:

  • “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin. I must admit that I picked this book up today at my local library from the “New Books” shelf. I liked the cover, the title and the premise that (as it says on a sign over Fikry’s book store) “No man is an island; every book is a world.” I’m a lover of books and of suspense. This just felt like the perfect summer read to me. Setting my literary and Christian historical fiction aside for awhile to try something new.

So there’s half my list. What are you reading? And as a bonus, this parting quote from the great bibliophile and philosopher Frank Zappa:

So many books, so little time.”

 

 

Saints Among Us: Living Out Her Faith

GETTING (5)I am honored to welcome a dear friend, Brenda Yoder of Beyond the Picket Fence Ministries, as she shares her tribute to her mother-in-law for the series Saints Among Us. Enjoy her reflections here and visit her blog, Life Beyond the Picket Fence at brendayoder.com.

When I think of a saint that’s among us, one who’s influenced my life, I think of my mother-in-law. Recently I was reminded of her quiet, powerful life when a piece of paper fell out of a devotional she gave me several years ago. On the paper the words “My Daily Prayer” was written on it.  It read:

My Daily Prayer
If I can do some good today,
If I can serve along life’s way,
If I can something helpful say,
Lord, show me how.

If I can right a human wrong,
If I can help to make one strong,
If I can cheer with smile or song,
Lord, show me the how.

If I can aid one in distress,
If I can make a burden less,
If I can spread more happiness,
Lord show me how.

The significance of this prayer is that my mother-in-law lived these words.  The power of who she was as a wife, mother, friend, sister, church member, is that she lived these words daily without calling significance to herself. As a farmer’s wife, she simply lived and loved well.  Not only did she come along side me as a young mom, gently teaching me the ways of motherhood and housekeeping, but she came alongside many others to which she ministered.  When you were with her, you felt as though time stopped, that you were the only person on the earth at that moment, even though her busy life went on around her.  She lived this prayer, which made her unexpected death at age sixty-seven so painful, yet okay.  She lived with no regrets — that’s the legacy she left behind.

My daughter was eight when my mother-in-law died, the seventh of twelve grandchildren who knew they had the most special place in their grandma’s heart. For a writing assignment in 4th grade, my daughter wrote:

The Person I Admire

My Grandma’s name is Lois Yoder. She would’ve been 68 years old. Her birthday is December 10, 1934. She was very kind and nice. I admire grandma for her kindness.

Many people told stories about her kindness. One story was that grandma helped a woman feel comfortable when she became English from Amish. She was kind to us grandkids by alway being “there.” She always there for me.

She was kind to animals. She raised a deer from birth. Grandma even raised a raccoon!

One gentleman from our church said, “We, on earth have lost a saint, but heaven has gained one.”

My mother-in-law died on August 17, 2000.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m reminded by her life that the most important things we do in life are what we do when no one’s looking, both for our family and others.  It’s how my mother-in-law lived day in and day out.  Perhaps she really prayed this prayer to her Lord every day.

Help me be kind.  Lord, show me the way.

A simple, yet most profound statement, lived by a woman I consider a saint, exemplifying true humility and an authentic love for God.

Who shows you authentic love and kindness?

Saints Among Us: Of Grandmothers, Nuns and Pea Soup

GETTING (5)Joining us here for today’s reflection is my friend, Shanda Blue Easterday. Shanda is a professor of composition and British literature and is a poet. Her latest work, “The Beekeeper’s Wife”, is available on Amazon.

Because I grew up in a dysfunctional family with alcoholic parents, I looked elsewhere for role models. Luckily, my maternal grandmother lived just a house away from us for many years. When things got crazy at our house, or when I was frustrated by my babysitting uncle’s pea soup, I could run to her house for relief. As far as the pea soup was concerned, the adults caught on to that trick and made a rule that I was not allowed to abandon lunch at home in favor of a possible bologna sandwich at Grandma’s house.  Otherwise, I spent much quality time with my grandmother, who taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my life.

“Grandma Gene” taught me how to crochet and that opened a pathway so I could teach myself to knit as an adult.  Now I spend many therapeutic hours doing one or the other. Grandma also taught me to love books.  She had a collection of Gene Stratton Porter’s novels that I could read whenever I wanted. I learned about the Boy and the Girl of the Limberlost and, when I am transplanting pieces of Iris around our woods and wetlands, I am reminded of them.  Maybe that’s why I married a beekeeper.

My grandmother taught me many other practical matters that I remember as I cook and keep house daily.  One of those things is to clean my stove top after every use.  This is easily done and keeps grime from building up to an intolerable or hard-to-clean problem.  Sometimes my husband asks me where I learned something particularly helpful, and I must answer “From my grandma.”

My grandmother would give me some change and send me walking a few blocks to the “Five and Dime” to buy rolls of border trim wallpaper for her living-room or dining-room.  If those rolls didn’t exactly match it was no problem for her, as long as they were in the same color family. That memory makes me more patient with my own grandchildren as they work on projects and get paint on the dining-room table or my favorite apron.

My grandparents were not perfect people. At big family dinners, where my grandfather and most male members of the family could be counted on to be drunk and become unruly, I was often the distraction for my grandfather.  Because I was the most quiet, patient child, some adult would seat me on grandpa’s lap and he would go through the set of A Child’s World encyclopedia from his bookcase.  He would ask me what interested me that day then he would elaborate on what the encyclopedia had to say on that topic.  Many years later I inherited that set of encyclopedia.  Because I was not the only grandchild to read them, the books were well used but I could remember where some of those scars came from.   Usually they were the result of eating while reading, one of my favorite occupations still.

My grandparents died when I was in my teens so I went forward in life, adopting other role models as I felt moved to do so.  One favorite was a woman who would never be a grandmother.  She was a nun, Sister Consilia Danyi. She was an outstanding artist and professor who taught at Ancilla College in Donaldson, IN.  She taught me quiet confidence and encouraged my patience.  She also taught me that my talent might be in writing, not painting. My oldest daughter is named after her, and my younger daughter is named after Grandma Genevieve.

Sr. Consilia was a welcome antidote for the nuns I remembered from a stay in an orphanage when my parents abandoned me and my three siblings in Santa Fe, NM.  (We were reunited after many frightening months of separation.)  Those nuns washed my mouth out with lye soap for a “language usage problem” and held my frost-bitten hands under painfully warm water to thaw them out after leaving me too long on the playground without mittens. I’m sure they meant well, but the experience was frightening.

Over many years I have adopted other women’s mothers and grandmothers as role models, but the one I think of most fondly is my own grandma.