What Matters Most

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her,“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

There is only one thing worth being concerned about: knowing and loving Jesus

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work hard and do my best in other areas of life – I should. But my #1 priority should be spending time with Jesus and getting to know Him better. Falling in love with Jesus. If I’m not spending time with him every day I need to re-prioritize.

This lesson took me 39 years to figure out.

Up until a few years ago, I’d try to read the Bible regularly, but I’d lose momentum or get distracted. I’d do Bible studies and try different devotional books, but I’d lose interest. My time reading the Bible and praying was very inconsistent. I was swamped with work and marriage and parenting . . . and Jesus got my leftover time and energy.

Then a perfect storm of things happened:

  1. My work-life had become unmanageable. I was working 60+ hours a week, traveling all the time and completely stressed out.
  2. I read the book The Divine Mentor and it was like a lightbulb went off: devotional books are fine, but the most important book – really the only book I need – is the Bible.
  3. I applied “S.O.A.P.” while reading the Bible. I don’t do it by the book, but I keep a journal with me and write done what I am learning in the Bible. This helps keep me focused and on track.
  4. My small group at church discussed the idea of reading through the Bible in a Year.

This perfect storm led to a breakthrough for me. I put my devotionals away. I opened my Bible. I signed up for a “Read through the Bible” in a year plan on Bible.com (I use the corresponding YouVersion app). I started going to bed earlier so I could get up an hour earlier and have an hour of peace and quiet to spend with Jesus before my family woke up. Eventually, I let all my clients go and made some major career changes.

The change has been amazing.

I’m far from perfect and realize I never will be on this earth, but Jesus is changing me. I still get stressed. I still lose it and yell at my kids (I did this morning when my daughter refused to get ready for school). But I don’t get nearly as stressed as I used to. I don’t get as angry as often. I feel peace. I feel love. I’m a better mom and wife. I know that God is in control. And I know that the time I invest in my relationship with Jesus is the most important investment I’ll ever make and it can never be taken from me.

Slowly but surely, by the grace of God, I’m being more like Mary.

 

 

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Benefits of Daily Bible Reading

Prior to the end of 2015, I didn’t read the Bible every day. I’d read other devotional books or Bible studies that usually included reading a few verses. I was rarely reading whole chapters in the Bible. Let alone whole books. Most of my quiet time consisted of reading what other people had discovered in their quiet times.

Then everything changed.

  • I was frustrated with the lack of progress I was making in become more Christ-like. I know Jesus wants me to be loving, patient, kind, etc. But I wasn’t seeing any changes in my life. I was a Christian . . . so why wasn’t I becoming more like Christ?
  • I read “The Divine Mentor: Growing Your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Savior”  by Wayne Cordeiro (More here).  Basic premise – spending time reading and studying the Bible everyday is the key to life transformation.
  • My church small group voted to read through the Bible in 2016. I decided to get a head-start and begin in 2015.

Here are the tools I use:

  1. Bible Reading: I use the YouVersion app and read the Bible on my phone.  I like it because I can highlight verses, read a passage in another version (NIV vs. NLT), create pictures from the verses, etc. Lately, I have found myself getting distracted on my phone. It seems like the minute I start ready the Bible an all-important Facebook notification pops up. I may be switching back to my actual physical Bible soon!
  2. Bible Reading Plan: Last year I used Wayne Cordeiro’s “Life Journal Reading Plan”. This year I am using Skövde Pingst’s “The BIBLE in a Year” plan. Both have been great – they include some New Testament, Old Testament and usually either some Psalms or Proverbs. And remember, you don’t have to start a plan on January 1st. I started in November 2015. Start today!
  3. S.O.A.P. Journal. In The Divine Mentor Wayne Cordeiro explains the S.O.A.P. method of journaling while reading the Bible. I’ve adapted it a bit. My journal includes my own personal journal, my prayer journal and my daily SOAP. In this video Wayne explains the method (and it doesn’t hurt it is filmed in Hawaii – I think I could spending hours doing S.O.A.P on the beach!).
    • S: Scripture
    • O: Observation
    • A: Application or Action
    • P: Prayer

Personally, reading the Bible every day has been the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done. I’m finally seeing my life changing – from the inside out. No, it hasn’t happened at the speed I’ve wanted. And sometimes I get in a slump. But I am seeing changes. Slowly and steadily.

Here are a few passages that also explain the importance of reading the Bible.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.Psalms 119:105 

Instruction for the kings of Israel:

When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.   Deuteronomy 17:18-20 

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8 

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

 

 

In a Slump

I haven’t written my blog for a while. I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual slump. I’ve still been doing my daily Bible reading, but nothing seems to sink in. I’ve been doing my SOAP . . . but the “A” (Action) has been lacking.  I’m distracted.

I read the Bible on my phone on the YouVersion app and lately in the middle of reading I’ll get a text (or remember a text I “need” to send) or receive a Facebook notification and soon I’m 20 minutes deep into social media and my Bible reading is forgotten. And then by the time I get back to the Bible my mind keeps wandering back to social media.

Looking back over my journal the last few weeks some lines I’ve written stand out:

  • “I am irritable” (July 7th)
  • “I am worn out” (July 6th)
  • “Sometimes I’m embarrassed to say that I am a Christian . . . not because I’m ashamed of Jesus but because I’m ashamed of the terrible job I do showing His love to others” (July 5th)
  • “My mind is distracted by social media, TV, etc. I don’t have peace” (June 29)
  • “I am having a hard time focusing and praying right now” (June 27)

Interestingly, just a few days before my “slump” started I had attended a Bible Study on “The Invisible War” by Chip Ingram. The study I attended was on prayer. We are in an invisible war and we need prayer at all times. Our prayers should be constant, intense, and focused.

Satan hates when we pray.

Satan wants us distracted. He wants our Bible reading and prayers to be a half-effort. He wants us to just go through the motions or not at all.

When I let myself slide in my prayer life and Bible reading I can see the effects in my actions and attitudes. I become irritable and unloving. I don’t have peace.

Is it a coincidence that I made a conscience decision to get more focused in my prayer life and then – BAM – suddenly a million distractions seem to pop up every time I sit down to pray and read the Bible?

I doubt it.

Satan doesn’t want me praying and applying what I read in the Bible. He knows that amazing things will happen if I do. This race is not a sprint . . . but a marathon.  I will have distractions and pains along the way. But I need to push through. Persevere. Run the race before me.

“Get behind me Satan”.

Set my sights on Jesus.

Onward.

 

 

Am I Loving?

Using 1 Corinthians 13 as a Barometer of my Love Life

#DailyBibleReading

The love passage.  One of three Bible chapters I have ever memorized (along with Psalm 23 and Matthew 5). It is a beautiful passage about love and about what really matters in life.

1 Corinthians 13-13.jpg

But what does it look like in practical terms?

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1‭-‬3 NLT

I can go to church and spout Bible verses and knowledge; but if I am not loving the people in the church it doesn’t matter.

I can go to Bible studies and spend time reading the Bible and praying, but if it never penetrates my heart and changes me . . . there is a serious problem.

I can write a check to a charity or volunteer at a food pantry, but if I turn around and am mean to my husband and kids and co-workers, my “good deeds” don’t count.

The number one “good deed” that God wants to see – and that should be naturally flowing out of me if I am spending time with Jesus and focusing my attention on Him – is Love. Not perfect love because we aren’t going to be perfect until heaven. But if God is filling us we should gradually be becoming more loving.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

I don’t think these verses are a threat or a list of actions for us to attempt, but more of a barometer for us to examine ourselves. Is Jesus’s love in us, flowing out to others?  Over years spent with Jesus, am I becoming more loving? Am I becoming more like the list above?

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:11‭-‬12 NLT

Like a child growing up, change doesn’t happen right away. And I won’t be perfected until after death, but right now I should be becoming more like Jesus. If I am spending time with him on a daily basis, praying, doing spiritual disciplines like memorizing Bible verses, fasting, and meditating; I should be maturing. And the best way to tell if I am maturing? If I am becoming more loving.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.                                           1 Corinthians 13:8-10

When reflecting on my life, if I see I am becoming a more loving person I know I am on track.

If I don’t see growth in this area – if I am not becoming more loving or if I am going backwards –  I need to make adjustments in my life and make sure I am spending my time, mental focus and energy on what matters most: Jesus. Reading the Bible, praying, praising him and meditating on his words. I can’t change myself to become more loving, but when I am full of Jesus, his love will natural seep out of me.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

 

 

Top Five Devotional Books for Tween Girls

This blog post is for all the moms of tween girls who are hoping to instill a habit of daily time with Jesus.  I have two girls ages 9 and 11.  I’ll be honest with you; most of the time I feel like I am barely pulling off this “mom” thing.

  • We rarely eat a meal at the kitchen table.  Usually we’re eating Taco Bell in the car or processed chicken nuggets on the couch while watching The Middle re-runs on the Hallmark channel.
  • After I’ve asked  my youngest to clean her room 50 times without a response I end up yelling at her and threatening to ground her from screen time for a month.  #MomFail
  • I put up job charts and forget about them.
  • I read lots of parenting books and blogs and the concepts sound great, but usually my implementation falls flat.
  • While I completely believe in the importance of consistent discipline, I don’t do it.  Half the time I don’t discipline and half the time I’m overly strict.  So I guess I am consistently 50/50.  Does that count?

mother and daugther-103311_1920.jpg

But there is one thing I think I have done a good job of and that is having a pretty consistent nightly devotional time with my girls.  (And “pretty consistent” in my house is about 70% of the time.  I call that a huge accomplishment!)  I started with they were little and some months we’ve done it almost every night.  Some stages of life I’ve been lazy and had my priorities out of whack and we’d go months without reading and praying before bed.  But we always come back to it.  My girls are the ones who usually remind me when I’ve fallen into bed exhausted.

Here are my top recommendations on devotional books for girls ages 7-12, in no particular order:

  1. The One Year Mother Daughter Devo by Dannah Gresh and Janet Mylin
  2. 3-Minute Devotions for Girls by Janice Hannah Thompson
  3. You’re God’s Girl by Wynter Pitts
  4. A Girl After God’s Own Heart Devotional by Elizabeth George
  5. The One Year Be-Tween You & God Devotions for Girls by Sandra Byrd

When my girls were a little younger sometimes I’d run across a topic that I thought was too mature, and we’d go to a different devotion, but most of them have been great for their ages.  Some examples of topics:

  • Happiness vs. Joy (A Girl After God’s Own Heart)
  • How Do I Speak Love? (You’re God’s Girl)
  • Me?  Stuck up? (3-Minute Devotions for Girls)
  • The Beatitudes:  Peacemakers (The One Year Mother Daughter Devo)
  • I’m Not Popular at School (Be-Tween You & God)

This devotional time has not only been a great opportunity to build a habit of daily time with God, but it has also opened up opportunities for discussion about what my girls are dealing with in their lives.  And when it comes down to it, that is what is the most important thing to me: teaching my girls to be more like “Mary” by spending time on what matters most.

Even if they don’t always eat healthy, have messy rooms, and unfinished job charts . . . if they are spending daily time with Jesus everything else pales in comparison.

Times of Refreshing

When I started this journey – and shortly after started this blog – my intention was to become like Mary.  To sit at the foot of Jesus and focus my energy and attention on what mattered most.  My walk with Jesus.  My husband.  My kids.  Serving others.  Loving others.

A year and a half ago I told all my clients I was quitting – shutting down that chapter of my life to find a new pace where I could be more balanced.  I felt strongly that God was leading me every step of the way.

But I still need to pay bills.  I still needed income.  The doors of another job opportunity opened and I walked through those doors.  I prayed for God to open the doors and they opened.  I never felt 100% peace in the decision . . . but I felt 90% peace.  And the doors were wide opened.  So I walked in.

It wasn’t a good fit.

So, why did the doors open?  I am not sure.  Maybe God wanted me there for a short season. Maybe it was to teach me once again that my “career” doesn’t define me.  That I need to find my definition in Christ.  Maybe it was to teach me to wait on Him.

Now that I have quit that job I can see even more clearly the importance of being still with God.  Listening for His voice.  And experiencing His refreshing.  And once again to focus on the things that matter most.

Acts 3:19:  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (NIV)

Today’s Reading:

  • Joshua 13
  •  Joshua 14
  •  Acts 3:11-26
  •  Psalms 43

Reading Through the Bible – 2017

In 2016 I read through the Bible in a year.  And I highly recommend it.  Without a goal and direction I find myself aimlessness reading random verses . . . which often leads me to get out of the habit of reading.  With a challenge of finishing in the year I have motivation to stay on track because I know what happens if I miss too many days.

Last year I used the Life Journal Reading Plan on YouVersion app or Bible.com.

This year I’m using the same platform, but using the BIBLE in a year plan.  So far it seems like a little less reading than last year.  The daily reading includes passages from the Old Testament and New Testament everyday and a chapter from Psalms or Proverbs every second day.

In addition to reading the Bible, I use the SOAP method:

  • Scripture Reading
  • Observation
  • Application
  • Prayer

Without using the SOAP method I tend to read . . . and then quickly forget what I read.  The SOAP method helps me to retain and think on a deeper level about what I read.

I’ll also be using this blog to track some of my Observations and Applications.

And of course, if you would be willing to join me in this challenge it will help keep me motivated and we can discuss what we are learning together!