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2 Books That Clarify The Bible

Have you ever felt intimidated by the Bible – by its length, its language, its antiquity, its message? I sure have! The Bible is not a simple book. It is not quickly read or easily understood.

I was very young when I first heard stories from the Bible. They had happy endings where the good guys win with the help of God (David and Goliath, Gideon and the Midianites, Joshua and the battle of Jericho). I learned songs like “Jesus Loves Me. This I know for the Bible tells me so.” and The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God The B-I-B-L-E.” When I got older and started reading Scripture myself, I found it pretty daunting. I would resolve to start on the first page of Genesis and read it every day. Genesis and Exodus held my attention if I got through the genealogies and the description of the Tabernacle, but I would never make it through Leviticus – too weird and seemingly irrelevant.

Even though I have now loved and studied the Bible for decades, I sometimes pick it up and sigh as I consider how lengthy it is and how little I really know about it. During the past fifteen years, I’ve had the opportunity to not only be in Bible study classes, but to lead other women into the Bible’s many pages and topics.

Two years ago, I found Max Anders’ book, 30 Days to Understanding The Bible.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible   -     By: Max Anders
Anders admits that he used to be frustrated with the Bible, seeing it as “a series of unrelated stories put together in random order.” In his desire to understand it, he divided the sixty-six books of the Bible into kinds and placed them on a timeline. He then divided the history/story-line contained in the Bible into twelve eras. A key figure and relevant location were attached to each era (Creation-Adam-Eden).

I was so excited about what I learned from 30 Days to Understanding The Bible that I led a group of women through what Anders calls the Arc of Bible History and will repeat the nine-week class this fall. Women who are near East Richland Evangelical Friends Church, St. Clairsville, Ohio are welcome to join me on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. beginning September 6, 2017. We will come away with a clearer picture of what the Bible is about, how it fits together, and how it relates to us. Since learning Anders’ key to the Bible story-line, I can place events from Scripture into the appropriate era, adding context and understanding. Placing geographical locations on a mental map helps me visualize movement of people through the Middle East and know which bodies of water play into the accounts. The history of God’s people comes to life.

I’m aware that many struggle with Old Testament biblical accounts of massacres and slavery, as well as the lists of quirky laws in Leviticus. The second book I’m recommending is an Ollie’s Bargain Outlet find. Author Paul Copan addresses the ethical questions of the Old Testament in Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Copan contends that we should not gloss over the difficult portions of Scripture and he is thorough in addressing the criticisms of skeptics. With an understanding of the cultures of the time periods, he explains common Middle Eastern war language of the day and God’s progression from calling Abraham and later giving his law through Moses to completing his plan of salvation through his son Jesus Christ.

Not unlike Anders, Copan has identified the bigger picture of God’s dealings with people over the course of history. 30 Days to Understanding The Bible provides a chronological framework for putting people, places, and events in order. Is God a Moral Monster? recognizes that creator God has met men and women where they are in each time period to show them how to improve morally, how to be reconciled to himself through Jesus, and ultimately to be part of the coming Kingdom where “no social or racial discrimination will exist; swords will be beaten into plowshares; and Peace will reign.”

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

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Saying Thanks and Sharing Some Stats

What fun it was to read your comments on last week’s “Wonder” post! Collectively we expressed wonder for the delicate beauty of flowers and  amazement at creatures as tiny as hummingbirds and ants and as large as polar bears. We only need to look at God’s creation to find wonder. Beyond the things we can see and touch, the kindness of generous people and the soul-touching power of music were called wondrous. Wasn’t it good to focus on the beauty in life and tell someone else about it?

I saw this beauty on a recent walk.

I enjoyed celebrating the 1-year anniversary of Thoughts Collected By Lisa with a giveaway. The recipient of the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet gift card is Barbara Repan. She is a fellow blogger who inspired me to give writing for the internet a try. Congratulations, Barbara!

As I pick up my pencil and begin the second year of writing, I’m taking a look back and sharing not just thoughts and words, but numbers with you today.

One. That is the number of opportunities that I had to write for someone else’s blog, and that is one more than I anticipated. Thank you, Bethany Eicher!

Four to Six. The hours between beginning writing a post and hitting publish. Those hours may be spread over a couple of days and include an initial draft, looking up relevant information, a frequent re-write, getting photos inserted, and several proof readings. It’s not a small task, but it is immensely rewarding.

Seventeen. The number of countries where someone has viewed Thoughts Collected. Every continent except Antarctica is included! By far, most of the views are in the United States, with Canada, China, and Australia holding very distant second, third, and fourth places for views.

Twenty-three. The number of posts that fell into the FAITH category of my blog. The FAMILY category was a close second with twenty-two entries, some of which overlap with FAITH.

One hundred. The number of Facebook readers who have liked and/or commented on Thoughts Collected at least once. This is so encouraging to me. Thank you.

Five hundred. The number of words that I initially set as a limit for each post. I held to it for a while. Then it increased to six hundred, then eight hundred. I just LOVE words!

Nine hundred forty-eight. Number of words in my longest post, which happens to be the One I wrote as a guest blogger. Summing up 32 years of parenting and how to deal with getting older in one post was quite an undertaking!

While I’m still under 500 words, I’ll publish this 52nd post and look forward to sharing more collected thoughts with you in the coming months and maybe years. Many of them will likely relate to faith and family. My prayer is that all of them will bless you and give glory to God.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

 

 

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Wonder Under a Polar Bear & Anniversary Giveaway!

Oxford’s online dictionary defines wonder as “a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.” He observed the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child.

Have you considered the wonder of a child? In his book, The Call to Wonder, R. C. Sproul Jr challenges grown-ups to cultivate childlike qualities of wonder, trust, joy, and desire to please, particularly as they relate to loving God. I found the book at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, noticing the cover photo of a butterfly resting in a child’s hand. Now, as I sit outside with the book beside me, I am delighted to see a butterfly land in front of me, opening its wings a few times before gliding off the deck. Wonder.

Children, so inexperienced at life, often squeal with amazement at simple, beautiful things. They’re easily surprised and quickly caught up in new sights and sounds. Sadly, as adults wander though life, they’re not so easily impressed. We find ourselves “bored or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something” – Oxford’s definition of jaded. We’re busy, tired, or distracted, not noticing amazing things that are in front of our eyes or under our feet. Not so with my grown-up friend, Gail. She told me of the funny looks she got when she bent down to watch an unending line of ants, each with a triangular piece of leaf, hurrying along on their mission. Tiny wonders doing what they were created to do.

Wonderful things come in all sizes. Another friend expressed amazement at the Grand Canyon, exclaiming “His creation shouts His praises; thank you for eyes to see you!”

Wonder has presented itself in small packages in my life – seeing kittens play when I was a child, nursing my newborn as a new mom, finding a fawn in my landscaping this summer.  And I have been awestruck by the magnitude of creation – marveling at the night sky as a teen, standing on a high point at a summer festival in West Virginia, and UNDER A POLAR BEAR!

The amazing walk-through polar bear exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo. The woman with the camera is not me, but I looked just like that moments later.

So thankful this guy decided to play in the water while I was in the tunnel!

Overcome with AWE as I looked up at the bear, I couldn’t keep from crying.

Too often, I work to stay in control, not cry, act like an adult – and suppress my wonder. Once in a while, it blessedly breaks through. Many of those times involve light or music. On the first day of creation, God said, “Let there by light,” and he has been using it to communicate his awesome love to me. Two instances come to mind.

I was spending an autumn day at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Perhaps my jadedness was showing as I looked out the window at the  slopes divided by groups of trees in fall color.  I wanted to feel delight, but didn’t, so I did something bold. I asked God to open my eyes to the wonder of his creation. Then I watched and waited. The sky was overcast when the performance began. A break in the swiftly moving clouds allowed sunshine to spotlight the tree lines one – at -a- time, beginning to my right and moving across the mountain! I squealed and clapped. Then, (since I was alone in the room) I said with little girl enthusiasm, “Do it again!” AND HE DID – Wonder!

A photo from a different day when the sunshine was widespread on the mountain.

It is not necessary for me to travel to a resort or even leave my house for God to shine into my day. As I spend time in prayer in my own living room, I have seen sunlight suddenly stream in the window to illuminate the photo of a loved one or to signal His peace replacing my anxiety. Wonder!

I’ll wait for a later post to describe the wonder of music in my life  and move on to the giveaway.

As the 1st Anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa arrives, I invite you to tell me what moves you to amazed wonder. Anyone who does that here in the comments section of my blog site or on Facebook will be entered for a drawing on Friday, August 5. Since I reference so many books from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, I am giving away an Ollie’s gift card to one of my readers.

It takes a shift in FOCUS for adults to experience the wonder of a child. In her book The Magnolia Story (my sister’s copy – not from Ollie’s), Joanna Gaines tells of her obsession with keeping her house clean and the frustration of looking at the messes created by her children. One day as she was about to”lose it” in anger over black fingerprints on a white sofa slipcover, she heard her kids laughing in another room. At that moment, she made a decision to focus on their JOY rather than the dirt. With a new mind-set, Joanna replaced the exhaustion of perfectionism with the wonder of relationship with her children. More about Chip and Joanna’s story in a later post.

Stop and consider God’s wonder. – Job 37:14

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!” – Psalm 66:2

 

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Growing Up With Our Kids

The brave, humble questions of a fellow Christian blogger have sparked my introspection about parenting and aging gracefully. Bethany has five children and writes about a life and faith that I admire, giving me confidence that she will “enjoy each stage and navigate the changes gracefully.” I only have sons, but since both are grown men and she asked for advice from women with experience in transitioning from mother-to-children to mother-to-adults, I’m collecting my thoughts on what we did right, what I regret, and the role of God’s grace in parenting and aging.

Shortly after I gave birth naturally to our 8 lb 9 oz son (I repeated this 3 1/2 years later), I felt panic rising about not being equipped to handle the challenges that his growing-up-years might present. My husband calmly reassured me that we would “grow up with our kids.”

As we shaped our family life, we followed the pattern of our parents. I stayed at home and he worked hard to provide. We took our kids to church every week, encouraging them to participate in Sunday School and Youth Group and to use their talents in church. They made friends there and we spent time with families who shared our values. As I tell in Wear Out Your Chairs, we ate dinner together, adjusting schedules to do so.

Those external practices laid a solid foundation for them. Sadly, though, during their earliest years, I was rather fearful. We were protective of our kids (car seats, bike helmets, vaccinations, orthodontics, etc.), but I worried about things that were hard to control (accidents, influence of rough kids, lyme disease, failure, heartbreak, evils of the internet, etc. See Many Dangers Toils and Snares.) My faith was based more in what I did than in the love of God for me and my kids. It reminds me of Finding Nemo when Marlin tells Dory that he promised to never let anything happen to Nemo. She responds, “That’s a funny thing to promise…then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun…”

By God’s grace, none of the tragedies I imagined came to pass, but things did happen to them. One swallowed the “little vitamin” (birth control pill) I left on the table. One bone did get broken. Both had college roommate issues. And both have endured a broken heart. They have found, as I have, that tests and trials do make us stronger and more mature just as the Bible teaches.

My husband was right. We did grow with our kids. We became scout leaders for their packs; I volunteered in their classrooms; and we supported them in their pursuits. We did life together. It paid off in close relationships with them. When they set out on their own, I transitioned from stay-at-home mom to stay-at-phone mom, available when they wanted to talk. Early adult years included late night phone calls which their dad took with patience and ended with prayer.

As a mom of boys, I have learned that the role does change as they become men. Just as we did, they need to make important decisions. We are blessed that our advice and example can help. With them living two hours away now, their daily life is out of my sight. That’s not a bad thing. One regret I have about their childhood years is being a bit too protective and treating them as little kids instead of little men. In God’s grace, I became aware of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ Love and Respect message for mothers of sons when I needed to better understand how to communicate my respect for these Good Men.

Father’s Day 2008, the year Eric graduated from college and Kyle graduated from high school.

Looking back over thirty years of parenting, I’m thankful for what our sons have become and for how I have grown. Yes, the nest is empty, but I can truly say that I am content in all circumstances – loving the time we spend together and being joyful even when we are apart. Through the years, my husband has continued to listen to my anxious heart and to invest time in our friendship. True, we are growing older, but we’re doing it together in the strength of our faithful God. We aren’t crazy about some of the physical changes we see, but we try to keep our eyes fixed on what is unseen, because “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

My friend Bethany is anticipating “the wistful sadness of no more little people in the house,” and I have experienced that, especially when looking at old photos. In my case, God spared me some of the emptiness by moving us to a different city and giving me a new hobby to keep me busy. And for a few years, I’ve been investing in other peoples’ kids through visits to first grade classrooms. And, yes, Bethany, we older women are called to teach the younger ones how to love (be friendly to) their husbands and children. God has blessed me with that ministry where I rejoice to see Him working.

The good old days of 1992 when we were living in Minot, ND.

I don’t know what the future holds. I may become a grandmother and get to see my sons be dads. And, I may become a widow as most women do. My anticipated sadness of that could sap the joy right out of this day. So my best advice is to trust in the Lord’s promises to never leave us and to supply us with the grace and strength for each day. My “more experienced” older friends testify that His love never fails.

Read Bethany’s blog at http://bethany-aboutmyfathersbusiness.blogspot.com/