Bible.In.1.Year:The Three Mighty Men

The “begats” finally let up after chapter 9 and now the book of 1 Chronicles is giving a history of King David and Solomon.  The stories that I’ve read about in 1 Chronicles sound like they belong in an old book of legends like “The Adventures of Robin Hood” or “King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table” because there’s all sorts of battles that are recorded and deeds done by “mighty men.”  The best story is one about three mighty men who overheard King David say how much he longed to have a drink from the spring of water in Jerusalem but the Philistines held the city and it was impossible (1 Chronicles 11:15-19).  Not for these nameless three mighty men!  They came together and broke through the stronghold of the Philistines to get the spring water and returned, unscathed, to King David and offered the water to him.

King David didn’t say “Thank you” to these three mighty men and then took a drink, maybe offering the three men a taste for their trouble.  I would have done that.  No, King David showed why he was a king, he took the spring water and poured it out to the Lord.  What a striking way to acknowledge God.  David took what he wanted the most, a drink from a spring in Jerusalem, and sacrificed it to God.  What an example of humility and sacrifice to God.

When I get a gift that I’ve longed for, my first thought is how much I will enjoy it, how much I deserve it.  King David shows us an example of how to be unselfish and how to give freely.  It’s also interesting that the three mighty men are anonymous, their deeds certainly deserve to be recorded, breaking through the Philistine’s stronghold and bringing back water is a notable act.  But their names weren’t recorded in the account in 1 Chronicles.  Being nameless emphasizes their actions were to honor their king and not bring honor to themselves.  It’s another example of selflessness, honoring someone else above yourself.

 

Reading the Bible in a Year

I’ve been an avid Bible reader for a long time and I believe that it is the inspired word of God, useful for teaching and correcting (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  While I’ve read the New Testament many times over I can’t say that I’ve read the Bible in it’s entirety.  I think I’ve missed some Old Testament stuff and I know for sure that I haven’t read any of the “begats” the lineage found in chapters upon chapters of some books of the Bible.  Since I believe that the whole of Scripture is worth while I decided that I should try to read the whole Bible.

My husband for Christmas gave me this beautiful olive green Bible with my name engraved in the bottom right in gold script.  It’s an ESV Study Bible and is about 2-3 inches thick, chock full of notes, commentaries, full-color maps, and in the last few pages, a year-long reading plan.  This reading plan is different than the others I’ve seen because it gives four sections of reading for each day: the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, the Pentateuch and history of Israel, the Chronicles and Prophets, and the Gospels and Epistles.  The fact that there’s a sampling of four different types of books in the Bible appealed to my dynamic personality.  I like to change things up: my nail polish is changed weekly, I like different hand soaps at my sinks, and I enjoy wearing diverse kinds of earrings.  Plugging through the Bible a book at a time, is dreary to me, and I’ve tried it, never making it past Exodus.  By the time I’ve made it through Genesis I’m exhausted.  I’m hoping this new reading plan will help with that.

I know that I will likely not make it to reading the four sections every day and so I will give myself grace when (not if) I miss a day.  I bought a spiral notebook and wrote down, in advance, the week’s readings in a section, undated.  The reading plan in the Bible broke the readings into days and has everything laid out from January to December.  I’ve taken liberties with the plan as I’ve started it on July 1.  I figure the first of July is a reasonable alternative to the first of the year.  The year begins for me in August since I’m a high school teacher, what’s one more month back for the beginning of the school year?

I’ve made it through the first week and have already got a lot out of it.  The introduction to the Daily Bible Study Reading Plan in my ESV Study Bible says that I ought to “…Pray(ing) to the Father that the Spirit will take what all the Scriptures teach about Christ and apply it to your mind and heart and life.”  I have been doing that and I’ve found throughout this week for it to be the case.  I’ve read scriptures this week that my spirit found comfort in and reassurance.  “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3).

I did make it through the first seven chapter of Chronicles without my eyes glazing over too much.  This is one of the books with all the “begats” and lists all the descendants of many, many, people, most of them men.  I perked up whenever the Chronicler mentioned the sister of so-and-so, and I wonder why she was mentioned.  What special thing did she do?  In exasperation on the first day after reading 1 Chronicles 1, I looked in my ESV’s “Introduction to I Chronicles” to find out what the point was for these lists upon lists of descendants. I counted 23 names in a list of descendants one time and thought how impressive that is.  I don’t know 23 of my ancestors!  Why would this be in the Bible?  According to the ESV’s “Introduction of I Chronicles” the point of all those lists of ancestors is to remind the newly-returned exiled Jews that they are still people of God.  It was to remind them of where they came from as I’m sure they had trouble remembering, being in captivity for all those years.

I’m excited to continue this reading plan and see where the Holy Spirit takes me.  This year-long plan may take me a year and a half but I’ll get through it.  The key is to do my reading the same time everyday: in the morning before I start my day.

Here is a link to the ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan that I’m following.  It is meant to be cut into four bookmarks and each reading checked off of as you go and starts on January 1.  I’ve started only a week ago and chose to write down the day’s listing in an undated notebook so I can read the selection and not get confused about the dates or give myself grace when I miss a day.

Yellow-Flower Weeds

The first thing that I noticed as I pulled into my driveway coming home from work were all the ankle-high weeds sprouting from my landscaped front yard. The weeds seemed to appear overnight, sprouting through the layered black lining and pushing through the decorative small rocks that make up the majority of the landscaping.  The weeds were a blemish to the perfectly textured terracotta-colored small rocks.

Seeing the front yard like this reminded me that I have weeding to do.  I added it to the list of things I had to do when I went inside the house: make dinner, supervise my kid’s homework, write my essay for my online class, and a bunch of other small tasks that I know will pop up.  I worked all day and I don’t want to do anything. Why should I have to be the one to pull the weeds? Because I’m the only one who’s bothered by them, that’s why. I parked the car, sighed, and went inside.

A little while later, changed out of my work clothes and into my weeding clothes, I began to pull up the easiest and tallest weeds to yank out of the ground.  They are bright green and have a single yellow flower perched above it’s spindly plumage. I’ve seen these types of weeds reach monstrous proportions but I never let them get that big in my yard.  I moved around the front yard focusing only on the yellow-flower weeds. My back soon started to ache and I sat down on the decorative rock which was uncomfortable on my rear-end. Why am I out here?  I already worked my 8 hours today and I still have to make dinner and have an essay to write. I looked up from my uncomfortable seat and surveyed the remaining weeds. There were so many of them, it will take me forever to weed through the whole front yard.  

I stood up and went over to my cactus garden to check the yellow-flower weed status.  I’ve received compliments about my cactus garden from strangers taking their evening walk past my house.  I am fastidious about keeping it free of weeds and there were only a few to pull. I glanced toward my barrel cactus and saw a yellow-flower weed rising above the golden spines, the lone yellow flower swaying in the breeze.

I walked to the barrel cactus, going slow to avoid the spines of the garden, intent on pulling out the offending weed.  I looked down at its base, fingers ready to grasp it like pinchers and pluck it from the earth but sharp golden spines thwart my attack.  The yellow-flower weed sprouted so close to the barrel cactus that I couldn’t get to the base of the weed as it was protected by very sharp golden spines.  The weed grew close to the green flesh of the cactus, twisting and intertwining itself through the spines like a vine. Its yellow flower sprouted just above the topmost spines of the golden-covered barrel.  

This yellow-flower weed clung to the safety of the golden barrel cactus like I am to cling to the old rugged cross.  The golden spines hugged the yellow-flower weed close to it and protected it. The golden barrel cactus was the yellow-weed’s salvation as it saved the weed from certain destruction by my hands.   I remembered the rock of my own salvation and my perspective changed. Weeding my front yard meant that I had a plot of land of my own, having a job meant I was able to provide my family’s material needs, and helping my kids with their homework meant that I had family near me.  

I stood up and looked down at the yellow-flower weed protected by the impenetrable golden spines.  There was no choice but to leave the yellow-flower weed where it was. I’ve heard it said that a weed is just an unwanted flower.  My children have picked yellow-flowered weeds and gave them to me with smiles on their faces, holding out a bouquet of very much wanted flowers.  What an amazing thing perspective is, I thought as I stretched my back, loosening the kinks that come with bending over to weed. I went inside to make dinner, satisfied that I had done enough weeding for the day and refreshed with a new perspective thanks to the rock of my salvation.

A Semi-Charlie Brown Christmas

It was Christmas Eve and we just finished breakfast.  I was off for the holidays and was enjoying a leisurely morning with my children.  My 7-year old son asked me to sit on my lap after we both finished eating. His sister had finished her breakfast already and left the table.  I enjoyed some quiet alone time with my son sitting on my lap at the breakfast table.

“Are you ready for Christmas?” I asked him.

“Yes!” He replied.  He paused a moment and said “When is Christmas, Mom?”

“Tomorrow”  I said.

My son’s whole face lit up with joy when he realized that Christmas was finally here.  His smile was huge and genuine, a reflection of pure pleasure at the fact that Christmas was a day away.

I laughed and rejoiced with him as I hugged him close.  I marveled that he didn’t know Christmas was the next day.  His world existed in the immediate present and his concern was only for what is happening today.  He had no worry about tomorrow.

Christmas has been a worry for me since Thanksgiving.  Christmas cards, family photos, Christmas cookies, potlucks, and parties hit me fast and furious this year.  My days were filled with working my full-time job and my nights spent freezing on the flag football field watching my son play half the game and sit the other half out.  I’ve felt too busy to think about Christmas much. It snuck up on me this year. I finished my Christmas shopping only a couple of days ago.

I needed to heed the cliche and “Slow down and enjoy the holiday season” but I didn’t know how.  Every task seemed mandatory and impossible to drop. Even delegating tasks among my family members didn’t seem to alleviate my sense of drowning in the holiday season busyness.  My writing and running were pushed aside by household chores and holiday tasks. Instead of being frustrated by all the commercialism like Charlie Brown in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” I was frustrated with the busyness of the Christmas season.  Why do we have to do so much during the holiday season? Why couldn’t I be more like my son who was blissfully unaware of the fact that Christmas was coming and just enjoy the holiday?

“I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is all about. Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  Yelled Charlie Brown.

“Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” said Linus  (Americanliterature).

Linus goes on to tell the Christmas story as told in Luke chapter 2 verses 8-14 and effectively reminds everyone of the true meaning of Christmas:  Jesus Christ. We celebrate Christmas to celebrate His birth into the world.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”  (John 3:16-17, NIV).

All the preparations and gatherings are all in effort to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  When I see that the reason for all my baking, wrapping, Christmas-card writing, is to spread happiness to others, I don’t see the need to “Slow down and enjoy the holiday season.”  I enjoy it in the midst of my baking cookies with my cousins, stuffing Christmas cards with my daughter, sharing Christmas present strategies with my husband, and sitting at the breakfast table on Christmas Eve with my son in my lap.  Smiling and rejoicing with him because Christmas is tomorrow.


Works Cited

“The True Meaning of Christmas (recited by Linus).”  American Literature.  https://americanliterature.com/author/anonymous/poem/the-true-meaning-of-christmas-recited-by-linus.  Accessed 26 Dec. 2018.

“John 3:16-17.”  Bible Gateway.  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+3%3A16-17&version=NIV.  Accessed 26 Dec. 2018

The Paperback Bible

My Bible is falling apart.  The maps in the back fell out a few years ago and  I have scotch tape holding together pages. Some pages have scribbles on them from when my kids were toddlers.  The front cover is always bent open from my repeated opening it and the laminate is peeling off. The spine broke and now Psalms 118 to Proverbs 6 are unattached.  It has served me well for a $14.99 paperback bought at a Walmart 15 years ago.

The paperback Bible feels like an old friend.  I’ve referred to it often in the years that I’ve had it.  Looking at it reminds me of the love and faithfulness that God has shown me through various circumstances.  It was with me when my husband and I were separated. I had it with me when we were both jobless with a baby and another on the way.  In the paperback Bible I read that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and rejoiced when he blessed us with a house. It’s familiar pages gave comfort as I was reminded of God’s love and his promises.  

There are lots of annotations throughout the paperback Bible.  It is a record of my thoughts and readings for the past 15 years.  I made a note of the scripture on the cross that’s in the hills above my parents house in Landers (Matthew 6:33) when they first moved there in 2004.  Martin Luther’s words on his deathbed were noted (Psalm 31:5) after I read a biography about him a couple of years ago. I noted the priestly benediction (Numbers 6:24-26) after I heard about it in a sermon about ten years ago.  I’ve memorized it and say it to my kids when I tuck them in bed. I’ve also noted how Psalm 66 and Psalm 100 both start out with the same verse. Corrie Ten Boom mentioned it in her book “The Hiding Place.” Have you ever heard of Psalm 166?  Psalm 66 and Psalm 100 both start the same, so together they are Psalm 166.

In the back of the paperback Bible I have notes written.  The lyrics to “I Surrender All” are written in the back of my Bible.  I heard Faith Hill sing them many years ago on “Oprah” and thought the hymn beautiful.  I wrote down scripture references that my pastor offered when I needed comfort and reassurance.  I recorded the date of my baptism along with the dates of when my husband and daughter accepted the Lord and when they were baptized.  There are also the dates of when we dedicated our kids to the Lord. Baptists must like to do baby dedications on Father’s Day as both kids were dedicated on that day by two different churches.

I learned of God’s love for me through the truths written in the paperback Bible.  It has only been the past year that I have used the paperback Bible’s cross-reference system.  Following the cross references of the Bible’s text taught me about the different contexts that the same phrase or words were used.  This has vastly enriched my Bible reading. I gave my first devotional out of the paperback Bible about worry. Look at the birds of the air and lilies of the field.  God provides for them, “. . . Are you not much more valuable than they?”

I’ve read my paperback Bible many times and each time I learn something new or see a verse in a different way.  The Bible is truly the living Word. But it’s not the paperback Bible that’s important that I keep intact. It’s important that I have the word of God.  My paperback Bible has been around me for a while but it is falling apart. It is passing away but the word of God will never pass away. I will be getting a new Bible soon to replace my paperback.  Rather be sad that I have to retire the paperback Bible I am excited to see what new truths the Lord will show me in his living Word.