Happy New Year!

    He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

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End of Year Reflections

Closing the book on 2018

 “For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12

It has been said that the past is the part of our story that has already been written and set in cement. But today and the days to come are the blank pages of our story waiting to be written. We can’t change our past, but we can change our future. As this, the last day of the year is upon us, may we pause to reflect on this past year, to learn from it, come to grips with it, forgive it, and put it to rest, so that we may march forward boldly living out the story God has for us.

calendar-handwriting-notebook-636246.jpgThis past year some have had the best year of their life! Others have experienced a year of overwhelming trauma, grief, illness, or regret. But to most, it was just another year. So I must ask, are we simply ticking off the years of this one life we possess? Or are we evaluating, learning, reflecting upon, and growing from the things we have experienced?

Things I’m reflecting on? Some major and minor joys, and some major and minor disappointments. A beautiful wedding. A missions appointment. A new son-in-love. Serious illness of those I love. The rapid passage of time. Escalating pain of arthritic joints. A new puppy in the house. Another year of reading through the entire word of God. A daughter thousands of miles away during the holiday. The loss of dear Christian mentors. The year has been a mix of grief and joy, welcomes and goodbyes, hopes and fears, success and failure.

imagesMy greatest joy and sadness are one and the same this year – I have a child who has moved abroad to work and spread the love of Christ. I’m so proud of her, so thrilled with this grand adventure God is taking her on, and yet at the same time so sad that she’s not at home with us and we won’t see her for months if not years.

Our daughter is living in Peru and has shared with us some of their traditions for the New Year holiday. A few seem to correlate with our U.S. traditions. They eat their favorite foods, typically seafood, empanadas and rice dishes, which would equate with our black-eyed peas, turnip greens and ham, and at my house, tailgating food as well for watching the New Years’ Day bowl games. They throw rice around the house encouraging financial prosperity – once again the black-eye peas here in the U.S., where tradition says we’ll get a dollar for every black-eye pea we eat on New Years’ Day. They also wear yellow grapes-typical-rituals-new-yearunderwear, (?!) kind of like the way we wear goofy glasses and hats. And just like we count down to midnight watching the ball drop in Times Square, they have their own countdown. During the countdown to midnight they eat 12 grapes – representing each month of the year – for luck.

But my favorite of their traditions has a deeper meaning. The people of the community all go outside together and burn rag dolls, often dressed up to look like themselves in a piece of their own clothing. The burning of the effigy signifies that all of the past year is done and behind you and it is time to start anew.

What a great symbolic way to end the year! How often do we carry over the pains of last year into the clean slate of the next year – the fresh start that our Father gives us.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, offers us this wisdom on the subject of how to deal with our past:

God is the God of our yesterdays, and he allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.…God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all claims against our conscience.… Let the past rest… in the sweet embrace of Christ.

So I encourage you this last day of 2018, take some time to be alone with the Lord. Read in His Word – His letter to you. Reflect upon the past year. Weigh the good and the bad. Forgive. Let go. Rejoice. Mourn. Then pray to your Abba, offering these hurts and joys, pains, regrets, and hopes to Him. He will do more with the pieces of our lives that we offer Him than we can ever imagine. And this is my prayer for each of you:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV

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Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God. Philippians 3:13-14

Putting Together the Pieces

My grandmother has always loved to work jigsaw puzzles.  I have many fond memories of us spending hours in front of a puzzle working well into the night to finish the picture.  Even today at the age of 91 with her being almost completely blind and dealing with Alzheimer’s, she still sits for hours working puzzles.  The puzzles may have become fewer in pieces, but she still loves fitting the pieces together.  When she completes a puzzle she is always excited to show it off, to let you see what she has accomplished of taking all the pieces and fitting them together to reveal the complete picture.

51ktrzbp0il-_sx326_bo1204203200_That is what we are doing when we study God’s Word.  We are taking each piece of knowledge we receive from reading God’s Word and placing it in its proper place to see God’s story being revealed.  We are becoming more Bible literate.  Jen Wilkins in her book Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS gives her definition of Bible Literacy: “Bible literacy occurs when a person has access to a Bible in a language she understands and is steadily moving toward knowledge and understanding of the text…Bible literacy stitches patchwork knowledge into a seamless garment of understanding.”

I need to be up front and say I do not have it all together and I am not perfect!   It is not easy trying to be diligent and faithful in spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis.  Let’s be honest, it is a struggle for me and I am sure for many of you.  I get in a routine and then something comes along and messes it up.  One day becomes two and before long it has been a week.  One thing I do know is My God is faithful to forgive me and prompt me to spend time with him.

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The other thing I struggle with is how to approach the study of God’s Word.  No book, study plan, or Bible study book can replace just digging in and reading God’s Word and letting the Holy Spirit direct you.  That being said, I am always interested in seeing, hearing and reading how other people approach the study of God’s Word. Are you one that reads the Bible through once a year or do you select a book at a time?  Do you follow a daily devotion or reading plan?  Do you write verses down and meditate on them?  Or do you just let the Holy Spirit lead you in your reading.  Do you use Iva May’s approach in Chronological Bible Teaching reading the Bible Chronologically?  How about Jen Wilkin’s 5 P’s of Sound Study approach in her book: Women of the Word: How to STUDY the BIBLE with Both OUR HEARTS and OUR MINDS?  In Angie Smith’s study Seamless she streams all of the major stories in the Bible together in one thread.  There are so many ways to approach the study of God’s Word, but what are we doing with our knowledge and understanding?  Are all the pieces of the puzzle fitting together?

51jyryn98ul-_sx366_bo1204203200_As we start 2018, do you have a plan?  Did you make a New Year’s resolution to Study God’s Word more?   So how is it going?  No matter what plan you use, make sure that you are seeing God’s complete picture.  Don’t shy away from the things you don’t understand?  I have many times written or said to God, “I don’t understand this passage.”  You know, it is usually not long before I hear someone preach on the same passage or read a book where the verse I don’t understand is revealed to me with more understanding.  As Women of the Word let’s be more intentional in becoming more Bible Literate this next year.

Lord, may we make a commitment to spend more time in your Word.  Not just to gain head knowledge, but to gain understanding so that when the end of 2018 comes around we may be able to see each piece of your Word revealed as a beautiful picture of YOUR LOVE for us from Genesis to Revelation.

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