Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Still Praying Always!

Almost a year ago we started a new text message reminder system to help women remember to pray regularly for their husbands.  If you want to read the whole story, click here!
If you haven’t been participating, or if you know someone whom you think would benefit from regular reminders to pray for her husband (or future husband, or son, or son-in-law, etc), here’s the info: text @prayalways to this number: (424) 269-7031 (Or to receive messages via email, send a blank email to prayalways@mail.remind.com). When you first sign up, the system will ask you if you are a “parent” or “student” – either answer will give you the same messages, so feel free to choose whichever one makes you smile! :-)
The messages come about every other day, at various times throughout the day, and our goal is to use them as a reminder to pray for our husbands regularly and to allow the Lord to grow and strengthen us and our marriages in the process. 

Praying for you!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wax on...Wax off!

Scripture Memorization (chapters 8-10)

So the summer is winding down, and so is our study of Sweet Journey.  Originally, I had planned to do separate entries for these final chapters, but upon reading them I realized that they really go together nicely.  Plus, she tends to follow the same pattern with each of her sections (description, practical aspects, then application), so I decided to wait and do the three chapters on Scripture Memorization together. You don’t mind, do you? :-) Don’t worry, though, this post shouldn’t be any longer than the others! Shouldn’t be…!

Task #1

So quickly, by way of review, take a few minutes and recall some of the benefits of what we’ve learned and studied this summer.  Share them with someone – ANYONE! You can comment here (I’m aware that the comments on this blogger are tricky…more on that later), or you can email me, or you can leave me/us out of the loop altogether! Tell a friend, your husband, your neighbor, or your mailman – just share with someone. I think everyone can benefit from hearing how you’ve grown or what you’ve learned.

I also want to jump right to my “cautionary statement of the week” right away, too.  I know that it seems like every time I post I have some word of caution or warning about things, and I don’t mean to seem like the woman who is always skeptical or looking for the worst, I really don’t.  But the fact is that we must be on guard – even with our “trusted” authors – to be sure that we are not promoting or continuing (or even subconsciously recommending) ideas or behaviors that are dishonoring to our holy God or that misrepresent Him in any way.  If I seem hyper-sensitive about these kinds of things, well, I’m okay with that.  In the end, I’d rather be the woman who was hyper-sensitive than the woman who allowed her sisters in Christ to be subtly led astray by wrong thinking about God.  Whew! All that to introduce my word of caution! And it’s not even a big one! But it bears noting – in chapter 8, Teri refers to “increasing the sensitivity of our spirit to Jesus’ voice.”  Please, please, PLEASE be sure you notice her context and understand what she is saying here. In the next sentence she clarifies that we “hear” His voice THROUGH SCRIPTURE. Sister, if ANYONE tells you that you can hear the audible voice of God (Jesus, the Holy Spirit, etc), they are soundly mistaken.  At best they misunderstand, but at worst they are deceived.  Why am I so crazy-rabid about this kind of thing? Well, let’s set aside for a second that fact that it misrepresents what God says in His Word and just say this: once you start believing that you are “hearing” the voice of God – in your own ear/mind/heart – then you have replaced the authority of Scripture. You can no longer rely on its trustworthiness or authority – because, after all, if God can speak directly to you, can He not speak to someone else? And what if those things contradict? When does Scripture get “trumped”? Why even read the Bible?  And do not come back to me with, “but I will test what I hear against Scripture!”  Why? Why not START with Scripture? Why risk the dangers of “listening”?  The Almighty God of the universe wrote down what He wanted you to “hear!”  And trust me, He has plenty to say to you in His Word!  You could study the Bible all day, every day, for the rest of your life and not glean all of what He has to say to you in it! It is richer and more satisfying than anything you may think you “hear”!  So why are you looking elsewhere? It’s like digging in the dumpster for leftovers when a 5-star feast is sitting on your table!  To sum up, and to give you a quick response that you can use when you hear people suggesting God is audibly speaking to them:  The Word of God is THE method by which we “hear” from God. To paraphrase the saying from a previous post – if you want to hear God speak to you, read His Word. If you want to hear him audibly – READ IT OUT LOUD! :-)

Hmm, did I say this post wasn’t going to be any longer than the others?  ;-)

Back to the book!  Following the same pattern she used for Bible Reading and Prayer Time, Teri now lays out the basics for Scripture Memorization.  I think these chapters were the easiest to read, but the toughest to implement.  Memorizing anything - in this day and age - seems old-fashioned sometimes, doesn’t it?  I mean, why memorize something that I have ready access to at any point in my day? I’m almost never without some sort of electronic device!  But here’s the thing – the Bible is like NO OTHER book or text you could memorize.  Come on, now, I just spent half a page ranting about how it is the very Word of the living God!  Hebrews tells us that it is “living and powerful,” “sharper than any two-edged sword,” and is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Tell me one other book that meets even one of those descriptors! You can’t! Now listen, I’m an English teacher, so memorizing poetry and Shakespeare are things I find useful. But when I’m looking for comfort for my soul, I don’t recite the poetry of Robert Frost!  When I’m looking for strength to resist temptation, I don’t recite Shakespeare! Those men are dead, and their words are just that: dead. The cleverly crafted prose of the Bard did not come back from the dead.  The Word did! It is alive, and when I read it and study it and commit it to memory it helps to shape and mold me into the woman that the Lord wants me to be!  Is it challenging? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!

Anything worth doing is usually challenging, right? I’m trying to learn karate (don’t judge), for example. It is worth doing – I need the exercise, and I need to know how to defend myself if necessary.  But it is tough! First of all, I’m using muscles and movements that are wholly unfamiliar to me.  Well, they’re familiar to me now – because of the aching – but you get my point. ;-)  Second of all, it requires practice. Lots and lots of practice.  I will be the first to admit that I will never be “good” at karate. I will never compete or probably even use it outside the confines of the practice dojo. So I don’t practice as often as I should. And guess what – I’m not improving at a rapid rate. I’m getting slightly better, but my poor instructor is forever having to re-teach me basic moves that I should know by now!  He regularly reminds me that much of karate is about “muscle memory.” You’ve probably seen the old Karate Kid movie and can recall Mr. Miyagi’s famous “wax on…wax off” scene.  It’s true, you know. You repeatedly work a muscle in a certain way and it becomes natural for that muscle!  I could improve my karate skills tenfold if I would take the time to develop muscle memory.  But it takes time. How many times did that poor kid “wax on…wax off” before it worked? Memorizing scripture is the same – you have to develop the muscle memory! But unlike karate, you CAN use it every day! :-)

So the challenge here is to do it. Memorize scripture.  Allow the living Word of God to transform and renew your mind (Romans 12:2).  As you memorize it, you will meditate on it, and it will strengthen you!

Practically speaking, there is no “right way” to do it. I liked her idea of having the whiteboard near the dinner table and practicing verses as a family at dinner time.  I once memorized the book of Philippians by hand-writing every verse on notecards and reading/rereading/repeating the verses day after day after day. It took me about a year, and while I was pretty tickled with myself for doing it I’m sad to say that I stopped practicing it so I’ve lost that “muscle memory.”  I’d love to do it again.

I’m a little wary of memorizing verses too far out of context.  (Look! Another cautionary word!)  I’m reminded of a that Mizpah necklace that used to be popular (maybe it still is): it had a verse on it and it broke into two parts so you could wear one half and your loved one could wear the other. The verse was Genesis 31:49, which says, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from one another.”  Now on the surface and out of context that seems so sweet – you and your loved one are apart and the Lord is going to protect you! (Cue sappy music here!) But have you ever looked at the context of that verse? It’s part of the story of Jacob and Laban, and it is actually part of a warning that Laban issues to Jacob! Even just reading one more verse clears it up! Verse 50: “If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see – God is witness between you and me!”  Mizpah wasn’t a prayer of protection – it was a word of warning not to be a jerk or break promises!  (Cue scratching sound of sappy music being cut off!)  Bottom line – check the context of what you are memorizing. Better yet – memorize whole passages! Learn from the outset that when we come to feast on the Word of God, we eat whole meals – not just nibbles! :-)

This brings me to the Verse Notebook. I’m going to step up as “leader” of this study and say skip it.  Just skip it.  The more I read about it, the more it just looks like a slippery slope. First of all, there’s a concordance in your Bible, so if you are desperate for a verse about love or covetousness or whatever then learn to use your concordance. Better yet – commit large passages of scripture to memory! ;-)  Second of all, Verse Notebooks encourage you to take verses out of context to suit your needs. See my Mizpah story for the problems with this. Don’t misrepresent God by misusing His Word! Third of all, and most importantly, I think it is dangerous to put so much emphasis on “how Scripture applies to ME.”  Yes, Scripture applies to us, but understand first that the Word is God’s revelation of HIMSELF to us.  Resist the urge to only memorize or study those portions of the Bible that you think apply to you.  You’ll miss out on some amazing stuff!  Focus first on what the passage your reading/studying/memorizing says about God – THEN ask what that implies for you.   In fact – maybe we should make Verse Notebooks for the Lord! How different would your Verse Notebook be if it was full of verses that say things about God, not about us!  

Task #2

In chapter 9 she lists some passages to memorize. I like that idea. I said before that I once memorized Philippians. I’d like to renew that memorization.  What about you? What are you memorizing? Or planning to memorize?  State your goal(s). They don’t have to be huge (like memorizing Philippians), but I think the accountability will help!

Task #3

What is your go-to way for memorizing Scripture? If you don’t have one, maybe one of the ways Teri mentioned seems doable to you?

Just a final reminder – you don’t have to respond to all the Tasks if you’re not up to it. And you don’t have to respond here. I appreciate those of you who have emailed me, texted me, or just told me face to face that you’ve been participating in this study. And as we bring this study to a close, I hope that you will remember what we’ve learned and put those things to use in your own walk with the Lord!

I said before that I’d talk about the blogger issue, but now I think I’ll save that for another time.  I may try to squeeze one last post out of this book (there is one more chapter, but it’s the wrap-up), but if I don’t, I will at least update you soon on what is to become of this blog in the future. :-)  Thanks again for participating, and be sure to contact me any time!

Praying for you!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy July 5th!

Happy July 5th! It’s a new holiday I’m inventing where we all sit around and attempt to recover from a late night of salty foods, sugary drinks, smoky fireworks, and being OUTSIDE for such a long time in a single day! :-)  We had a particularly late night last night, because our neighbors decided that the most patriotic thing they could do was to get really drunk and set off “imported” (aka: illegal) fireworks well past the time most people have gone to bed. And because my husband suffers from a health condition that causes him to be hyper-sensitive to certain sound frequencies and volume ranges, it was difficult for me not to be really angry and annoyed with them for their inappropriate and insensitive actions and behaviors.  I found myself praying a lot more last night.  The Lord didn’t answer my prayer by striking them all down (or making it so their cherry bombs would all be duds – which is something I admit I actually prayed for), nor did He see fit to have them stop at a reasonable hour or even be quieter as they were cleaning up (in fact they were louder during the cleanup phase!). In fact, you could say that He didn’t answer my prayers at all last night…at least not in the way I prayed them! And yet I was comforted by praying. It calmed me as I would try to go back to sleep after each “BOOM!”  And this morning, as I’ve been trying to recover from the contact-hangover of all of their partying, I find myself praying again, and being comforted again.  

I am reminded that we serve a Father who is always with us and who is aware of our needs even when we cannot give them voice.  When I prayed that the Lord would miraculously send rain on one of the hottest days of the summer (and then only in one of those cartoon cloud-bursts directly over my neighbors), instead He sent me no pain in my usually sore shoulder so that I could roll over and go back to sleep on that side.  When I prayed that the Lord would send the police on an unexpected drive-by into our neighborhood, instead He sent me the sounds of my husband sleeping soundly beside me – right through that last explosion!  I was continually comforted by the constant reminders (and boy, were they constant last night!) that the Lord knows our needs and He will bring us through our tough times – maybe not in the way we imagined it would happen, but He will bring us through.  Yes, I’m aware of the fact that my “first-world problem” of drunken, noisy neighbors pales in comparison to the struggles and pain that many people (including some of you!) are going through.  But if the Lord is so present in my cosmically-irrelevant “struggle” of last night, then how much more is He available for them (and you!) in your larger struggle?  To quote my sister, “Yay God!” :-)

So it’s fitting that we are wrapping up the section on prayer this week and discussing the “Practical Aspects of Prayer.”  It wasn’t a long chapter, and to quickly recap let me remind you that her main points were that we are to pray for our enemies (yes, that includes my drunk neighbors), our “fellow laborers” and missionaries – those who are spreading the Gospel and actively bringing people to Christ, and for our brothers and sisters in Christ (including ourselves!).   

She also talked about praying Scripture*, which I often do when I’m really struggling for the words to say.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: prayer is not a “dialogue.”  We talk to God through prayer, but He talks to us through His Word.  By the way, I like that this book starts with the first foundation of regular Bible reading and THEN goes to prayer. It puts the two ideas into perspective! All that Bible reading really comes in handy when I’m praying for my all my neighbors’ beer to miraculously go flat or lose its flavor!  But it is also available to me when I’m praying for more serious things and seeking the will of God for my decisions.


One of the things Teri encourages is a Prayer Journal.  I don’t keep one myself (if I did, can you imagine what it would have looked like last night?!), but I know that a lot of people do and I do see the value in it.  So my question is this: Do you keep a Prayer Journal?  If so, would you mind sharing with us how you do it? Is it the column format Teri recommends or something else?  If you don’t keep a Prayer Journal, how do you “keep track” of your prayers (and their answers)? 

Easy!  Now get to it.  
Also, I am aware that not everyone posts comments on this blog. Some of you email. Others have face to face discussions. It’s all good.  What matters is that you’re participating somehow! :-)

*Bonus: Our “Praying for your Husband” text reminder system often uses this technique of praying scripture.  If you want to sign up for frequent reminders to pray for your husband (or your future husband, or your daughter’s husband, or your son when he’s a husband, etc), just text @prayalways to (424) 269-7031.  The reminders come about every other day. No one will see your phone number, and you can always unsubscribe at any time.  You can also subscribe via email: just send a blank email to prayalways@mail.remind.com (just leave the subject line blank).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tap...Tap...Tap...Is this thing on?

Chapter 6: How to Pray

So I missed a week. “Some people” (you know who you are!) were on vacation, I was already late from the week before, and then we had the added busy-ness of getting my mother in law settled into assisted living. Looking back, I’m amazed I even got my Bible reading done over the last couple of weeks! Interestingly, though, I tried very hard to put into practice the things that we’ve been learning here and really tried to make sure that, of all the things I was putting off in the last couple weeks, reading the Word was not one of them!  I started a new Bible reading system, too! It’s pretty extensive, and admittedly not for everyone, but I love it.  If you want to learn about it or try it out you can check out this link or this one.*  I originally tried the system Teri recommends in Sweet Journey, but it wasn’t working for me (for reasons too varied and quirky to mention here!), so I set out to find another way.  The system I’m using is not a Bible-in-a-year system.  I’m not interested in being one of those people who reads the whole Bible through once a year. I’m not NOT interested in being one of them, either, it’s just not my priority. :-)  I want to read the Word of God because it is His Word, not as a simple exercise.  Bottom line, find a program that works for you and stick to it!

Okay, on to this week’s chapter – “How to Pray.”  Again, following the routine she set for the first foundation (reading the Bible), this chapter is the “exercise” portion that naturally follows the last chapter on the importance of prayer.  I found it pretty easy to follow and comprehend, so there were just a couple of things I wanted to bring up and offer for discussion or comment.

The A.C.T.S. system of praying. 

I’ve known of this system since I was a girl; I think it is probably the most commonly used acronym in Christianity! :-)  And I like the idea of it – it is a good way to help us remember that prayer is not “rub the lamp and make a wish” time.  And if you have problems with being distracted while you pray, or have problems doing anything else in your prayers except asking God to do things for you, then by all means, work this A.C.T.S. system!  But I would encourage you to use it only as “training wheels” until you develop the discipline necessary to go out on your own.  Otherwise I fear we risk the A.C.T.S. system becoming “rote” or just a list we go through on our way to the “supplication” portion of our prayers! :-)

A quick not on Psalm 66:18 (go back and read it if you’ve forgotten).   

That word “regard” has more to do with the idea of “cherishing” or “taking pleasure in” something.  I appreciate the sentiment behind Teri’s discussion of confession, and making sure we are willing to evaluate our lives for sin, but I think her use of this verse to back that up was a little weak.  It’s not that we can’t have any sin in our lives or the Lord won’t hear our prayer – if that were the case NONE of us would ever be heard!  But if there is a sin you are “cherishing,” then you know what it is; it is not some un-discovered sin or inadvertent iniquity that you need a blanket “forgive me for whatever-sin” statement for. That sin that you’re “taking pleasure in” – that sin will keep your prayer life in trouble, my friend!  But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that any tiny sin you may-or-may-not have discovered is what’s keeping God from answering your prayers.  It just doesn’t work that way.

Here’s the ultimate takeaway from this chapter, as far as I’m concerned: as a believer, you have access to the throne of the Living God of the universe! The One who created the world wants to hear your prayers and act on your behalf! 


I think it would be helpful for us to share how we are doing in this prayer area.  For me, the main problem I have is with the “discipline” of concentration. My mind is always going a hundred miles an hour and always casting about for something to stew on. I also am a firm believer in praying without ceasing, so I feel like I’m constantly “talking” to God. But one of my goals in this study is to have a set time where I am being very deliberate about my prayers; where I have specific things I pray about. It’s a habit I need to discipline myself to develop. So that’s where I am. What about you?

Next week we have one more week on Prayer, then we’re on to the final foundation – Scripture Memorization! (cue the music!)

I’ll be praying for you this week! :-)

*If you have the Olive Tree Bible app on your phone or iPad, you can get this reading plan there; that’s how I use it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I really wanted this to be a short post!

I realize that some of us who shall remain nameless (haha) are on vacation right now, so I know that affects the number of comments. But I also know that some of us are doing this study and not responding here on the blog (cough, cough, you know who you are!), so I want to encourage you to shout out – even if it’s just to swap howdies! :-)   If you’re really shy, or not in a place where you can comment or respond, we’re still glad you’re here!

This week I am behind in the blogging. I finished the chapter early, but then life happened and I just didn’t get to the computer to get the tasks up. I want to get a few weeks ahead of the game – but I also want a million dollars and I think the likelihood of either of those things happening is about the same for me right now! :-) Thanks for bearing with me.  The good news is this was a short chapter, and I didn’t have a lot to add to it!

Quick Recap: the first part of the book was about the “first foundation” – which was time in the Word. Now she’s moving to the “second foundation” – which is time in prayer.  She’ll follow the same pattern – explain it, then offer practical ways to implement it. I really enjoyed this chapter, personally.  Of the three foundational things she covers in this book (Bible, Prayer, and Memorization), I’ve struggled the most with prayer.  Maybe it’s because I come from a long line of Bible readers and memorizers, but those two things have never given me too much trouble (other than finding time!). But I’m an introvert at heart (go on – laugh it up!), and I will be honest in saying that even talking to the Lord sometimes makes me feel “shy”! Plus, I have this weird fear of being “that Christian” who is always asking for things! ;-)  So I appreciated this chapter/section, and am excited about shoring up this foundational aspect of my walk with Christ.

I want to make this week’s blog short, so I’ll jump to the tasks now, but if you are still with me by the end of this post I will “reward” you with a bonus section! I can tell you’re really excited! ;-)  Okay, let’s get to it:

It has been said that the three most important lessons we can learn about prayer are do it, do it, and DO IT!  And I am always reminded of this quote by Martin Luther: “I have so much business, I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”  Now, the language teacher in me loves the irony of that sentence, but the regular person in me also bristles a little bit at it.  Doesn’t ol’ Marty know how busy I am? I’ll be he never had the amount of work I had to do! Did that guy even have kids?* ;-)  I imagine Luther was being ironic (maybe he was attempting some 15th Century humor?), but his deeper point is solid and apt: do not neglect prayer! Pray, pray, pray, and when you’re finished, pray some more. But let’s be honest, finding the time IS often difficult.  In chapter 5, Teri mentions a few ways to combat this, including starting your Bible reading with a time of prayer, and praying as you go to sleep at night.

Like last week, these don’t require long responses – just share out quickly and try to come back to respond to someone else later this week.

Task #1: 

What is one way you are bringing more prayer into your day?  It could be one of the things Teri mentions or something of your own. 

Task #2:

In the “homework” section of the chapter, she mentions finding some way to remind yourself to pray throughout the day.  I think it would be great if we heard some of these ideas from each other, so what “tool(s)” do you use to remind yourself to make time to pray?   

Important: Prayer Is Not A Dialogue

We speak to God through prayer, but we HEAR from God through His Word (never forget this very important point!). Please be very careful if anyone ever tells you that you can hear the voice of God speaking to you.  Someday we will devote an entire blog post (or Bible study) to this topic, but for now just remember what Christian apologist Justin Peters recently said: “If you want to hear from God, read your Bible. If you want to hear from God audibly, read your Bible out loud.” 

Bonus Time!

Okay, I promised a bonus to those of you still reading. This is a bit of a rabbit trail (or some might call it a “rant”), so maybe it isn’t a bonus at all! Haha! But I feel like it is worth bringing up, so I’m doing it.  If you want to quit now and skip to the Tasks/Comments, you won’t hurt my feelings! 
Still here? Okay, here goes:  I really took issue with Teri’s use of the Luke 18:1-8 parable to make her point on praying continually.  In context, that passage is in reference to the return of the Lord and His ultimate vindication of his suffering saints, not a lesson in “pestering” God until He gives us what we want. There are a LOT of other verses in Scripture that support the idea of praying continually, and in fact she went on to show us some of those verses and I appreciated that.  And I’m not saying she’s a heretic, or that we should toss out this book! I just think it’s a good lesson in checking the context before you just “go look up all the verses that have the word ‘prayer’ in them” for a Bible study on prayer. ;-)   I know that when I point out things like this people are quick to defend the writer’s “heart” (see my “heretic” comment above), or to suggest that it’s possible to “apply” these verses to our situation, regardless of the interpretation or context. So I also think it’s a good time to bring up a very valuable point about Bible study, and that is that the old adage “one interpretation, many applications” is not necessarily accurate.  A better way to consider that idea is one that my husband is always suggesting: “one interpretation, many applications of that interpretation.” When we read and understand the Word of God, it is imperative that we do not misapply His meaning.  It is, at best, a disservice and potential misrepresentation of God’s truths, but at worst you could be leading people astray – including yourself!  Consider it this way: if we can apply Scripture any old way we want, then what is to keep us from misapplying it? The Bible means what it means – not what I “want” it to mean at any given time.  I would encourage you to read the context of EVERY passage that you are asked to read in ANY Bible study that you do. And I would encourage you to ask questions and seek to really know the truths of Scripture as the Lord intended them to be known.  THEN you will find the “applications” that He wants you to make! 
Okay, rant is over. You get extra credit for the day if you’re still with me. P.S. for more ranting on this subject, re-read last week’s blog – the part about application vs. implication. :-)

See you next week!

*Luther had 6 children of his own, by the way. Later in his life he also took in 6 of his nieces and nephews, and he regularly housed students.  I’m sure his wife was also quite busy, but history does record Luther as an active and doting parent. Bottom line: Brother was BUSY! :-)