It’s that time

The new year is approaching. A time to set new resolutions and set up Bible reading plans. I also lurk on LibraryThing where people are setting up all their reading plans for 2015, with great expectations of being distracted and derailed through the year.

On the topic of Bible Reading plans, Tim Challies and Ligonier, among others, have put out good lists of options. And they do a good job of covering the good and difficult aspects of a reading plan.

Then today I found this post about a reading plan for people who love to read. This one resonated with me. I think my most successful reading in one year was the year I just trekked through every book of the Bible one after the other, reading however much I could, when I could. I even included it in my LibraryThink reading tracking for that year.

I have been avoiding setting a reading plan. I did purchase the book God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment sort of with the intention of using it for my reading plan. But I realized I get overwhelmed when I start to think it through.

And I realized the reason I get overwhelmed is also the reason I won’t be using a “specific” Bible reading plan this year. Although I am really liking the thought of maybe taking the 4th quarter to do the plan for readers.

Here’s how I will get in my Bible reading this year. I attend and teach (one month a quarter) Sunday School. I hear preaching every Sunday as our pastor walks through a book of the Bible, usually in good detail allowing lots of study. I attend (and often lead) two Bible studies. I’ll attend the Ligonier National Conference in February. I have an intern living in our house who loves to discuss (and debate) all kinds of topics. I am 3/4 of the way through a Bible study on the book of James. I have two books by Jonathan Edwards that I want to read this year. I am listening to a series of sermons on the book of Ephesians and this year I would really like to read Christian in Complete Armour on Ephesians ch 6.

I also have Sin and Temptation by John Owen, and God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde on my reading list for this year. Sure, these aren’t the Bible, but they will send me back to in in many ways.

I fully support having a plan to read the Bible, and I think it is very helpful to read the whole Bible in a fairly quick time period (one year is better than taking 6 or 10 years to cover the whole Bible). And I also think reading and studying  a smaller portion is helpful.

And some years you have to do what you can do :-)

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This won’t surprise most people, I admit that I am an introvert. Last year I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain.  And I enjoy reading Tim Challies who has reviewed Quiet and has a few other things to say about introverts. This blog post by him is about a scene that is also described in Susan Cain’s book, and one I read with laughter and complete understanding. (And lived this August when we were at  Brooklyn Tabernacle for worship one Sunday.)

And in many ways my blog post today is just a big “me too”. I was talking with a friend today about how different I am from 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. (School is hard, and it’s a little bit harder as an introvert.) We talked about why I changed. I mentioned the people I thought had influenced me. First is my husband. By giving me a safe haven in a solid marriage for 20 years, he convinced me, slowly but surely, that I could let my guard down a bit, step outside my comfort zone, and be safe. To this day, he still is alert that I’m likely to be ready to leave the party or group event long before he is. We laugh at times when he admits “we stayed longer than I expected tonight.” I haven’t been easy for him to convince, but he’s just been patient and steady.

Another person who has influenced me greatly is my best friend of the last several years. She’s an extrovert and comfortable in her skin. She’s pushed me outside my comfort zone a number of times, but she’s right there at my side when she does it. I’ve learned a lot from watching her.

I also have to admit that I’ve had some very good friends and neighbors for the past 15 years or so. I’ve felt safe to change and try things and go back even when I didn’t do something right.

Because, that’s what is behind most of my introversion. I’m afraid of failure, because when I fail I cry and get upset, and I cannot seem to control that. It’s much much safer to just not be in a position where I could fail. I blush at the drop of a hat. Having all attention on me, even when telling a story to friends, still brings a deep blush to my face. Definitely easier to not tell stories or speak up or have attention on me ever, for any reason. :-)

And yet, I’ve never been happy as an introvert. Or maybe it’s really that I’ve never been happy being afraid of blushing, crying, or messing up. There is a song popular on the radio right now about the Cool Kids.

I wish that I could be like the cool kids
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids

Read more: Echosmith – Cool Kids Lyrics | MetroLyrics

That’s what I always envied. People who seemed to know what to say or do, and even if things didn’t go right, they didn’t have to fight tears or blush deeper at the realization they were blushing.

Anyway, where I was going when I started thinking about this blog post, is that I’ve gotten better at some things. The tears don’t come quite as easily and most of the time I ignore the hint of a blush so it doesn’t get deeper. I’ve learned (often) to laugh at myself or the situation and keep going.

I never had much patience with myself as a shy, quiet, and “fragile” person who could get upset so easily. And while I try to remember that I was, and sometimes still am, just like that. I am not always patient with other people who are that way. I work to be merciful and full of grace for those who are introverts and who struggle to interact with others and figure out how to handle attention.

But I also wish I could go back to my middle-school and high-school self and shake me a little bit. Remind me that I’m not the center of the universe and too much of my introversion or shyness is really self-centeredness.

Ah well, those are my rambling thoughts for today.

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Thoughts on busy-ness

Some resources I’ve come across lately:

David Murray entry on a book by Bill Hybels called Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul. Energy levels, friendships, scheduling are the key subjects David pulls out.

A mom over at Lots of Scotts talked about service and doing things that aren’t specific to our gift set or even seen as critical and important. And yet they are necessary. “Somebody has to blow up the kick balls.” She has some good thoughts on the fact that most of our day is not spent in the sweet spot, but doing the stuff that just has to get done.

This summer I read What’s Best Next by Matt Perman. Some interesting thoughts about getting things done and how the gospel should transform what we do and how we do it.

A blog article about that book actually led me to The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris. The first half was stronger than the second half, but it really spoke to me and introduced the term “acedia” which describes where I was a two years ago in some languor or lassitude funk.

Like everyone else this year, I read Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. Some good thoughts about prioritizing. Similar to What’s Best Next and The ONE Thing in that you have to know what you are here for and make sure that’s what you spend your time and energy on.

Early this morning while trying to get back to sleep, I started reading another book, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller.And of course it has an article about multitasking not being good. I have talked about that in the past, too. And as I’ve aged 2 years since then, I have to admit that multitasking wears me out and I’m not that good at it. But I can’t figure out how to do my job without it. Interrupt driven is the other popular term these days. I can’t finish one thing before I have to go to the next meeting or answer the next instant message. Or I get off a meeting to find I got 25 emails while I was on the phone.  I look forward to seeing what the rest of this book has to say.

Then there was this blog post about stay at home moms and complaining.

And this article about why we should stop saying we’re busy. It’s focused on the work environment, but the concept is still true.


I have a few thoughts go through my head when I think about this. Why am I so busy should really lead me to ask Am I that busy?

I can list out all the things I do, but the I can never identify any that I want to stop doing. I can have weeks that seem like I have something to do every single night. But they are good things that keep me with friends, held accountable, having fun, and in the Word. What’s to complain about? That I didn’t get to sit at home and read a pointless novel?

The other side of that, is that I do need time to think these things through. What’s the point to reading all those books or articles if I never actually do anything with what I read? I need to test theories, meditate on revelations, maybe even write a blog article or newsletter article. :-)

I had yet another full weekend planned. Dinner with friends and a Presbyterial meeting. But always remember it happens as God wills. He decided to change my plans. I ended up canceling the dinner and missing the Presbyterial meeting, and then having the energy and time to do other things I had been trying to get to. Most of the time, God lets my plans run as I expect, I think I’m using wisdom in making those plans. But this was a reminder that when I tell God “I don’t have time for…” some issue, He can make the time. And I’m glad I slowed down and accepted His timing this weekend.

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Perfect and Complete

Let’s start with the bad news. You are a sinner, who sins. It’s easier to sin than to do right. And you cannot do anything to save yourself. I’ve used the term before, we are not just insufficient, we are non-sufficient. We are completely incapable of saving ourselves. We can’t even sort of help to save ourselves. We bring such negatives to the field that we move further away from being saved in ourselves.

The good news is really great news. There is a Savior who can completely save us. Christ died to pay for our sins, He took our sins upon himself. He lived a completely righteous life of perfection and that righteousness is imputed to us. Our sin is paid for, and we get the credit of His rightousness. How wonderful is that!

As great as that news is, we are still here in this Fallen world surrounded by the effects of that Fall as others sin, as we continue to sin, and illness and pain fill our lives and those of our loved ones. The goal of this life is not happiness. Living a life of faith in Christ as our Savior is not a one-time victory that we win and then have a life of ease and pleasure for the rest of our days. The goal isn’t complete success and decisive victory here in this life. If that were the goal, that is what God would do in us. But He doesn’t do it that way. He calls us to live out our faith day after day.

James 1:2-4 tells us “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

We also see the concept of being perfect in Hebrews 2:10

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Hebrews 5:8-9 and Hebrews 7:28 also mention this concept of Jesus being made perfect through sufferings. Yet we know Christ was perfect and had no sin in Him. What does perfect mean for Him?According to Merriam Webster perfect is defined as satisfying all requirements – accurate. Lacking in no essential detail – complete. One definition (mentioned as obsolete) said certain, sure, contented, satisfied.

Christ fulfilled His purpose in all that He did and experienced, including suffering and trials. We certainly need to be made perfect in that we need to be changed, transformed to be righteous and conformed to the image of Christ. But we also are made perfect in persevering, trusting God’s promises in all circumstances. We fill our purpose and meet the goal set for us.

How do we do this? How do we meet trials and have our faith tested? We must have faith, and we must have that faith strengthened. Faith in what? In our Savior, Jesus Christ, who then indwells us and strengthens us and grows our faith. The next verse in James shows us how to meet trials, and identifies what we might lack and need to gain to be perfect and complete. James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Wisdom is knowledge of what is proper or reasonable; good sense or judgment. Wisdom is also personified in the Bible and often refers to Jesus himself. Our faith in Christ, reading His Word, meditating on what He teaches us change our perspective, the way we view reality. We need this perspective to understand and remember our purpose, to change how we view trials, and how we view the promises of the sovereign God so when our faith is tested we are steadfast and grow in perseverance. So we can be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


First published in the Fall 2014 Newsletter at HARP.

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Some essays on love

Some essays on love

From Pastor Lee, with love

For a few months Pastor Lee preached from 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. His sermons started with the point that we need a better understanding of what love is and the need to be intentional about it. We use the word too often and too glibly. I admit, I love my refrigerator. But Lee encouraged us to rethink the phrases we use so we don’t overuse the word love and lose sight of what an amazing thing love is. We are trying to do this in our house.

Then he showed that we should want Christ and the love of Christ more than anything else. Without that we are nothing.  If we do lots of good things but with the wrong attitude or motivation, it is still nothing. Like parenting in the pew, it matters that we do it the right way – not with an “attitude”.

His next sermons demonstrated that to love well we need humility and patience. I noted that he said “how dare we be defeatists about love.” No, we can’t do this in ourselves but we do this in Christ. Through Him and with His love, we can serve others without worrying about what we need or losing patience. I should be humbled by what I have received from God.

He mentioned that when revenues are down, we cut expenses. But the reverse is true with love. When we are getting less love we are called to be merciful and gracious and give love, and in abundance. I know this is not my natural tendency. I can hold a grudge, and if I’m snubbed I want to snub back to make sure it’s clear I know I was snubbed.

Clearly, getting irritated, being grumpy or short with people, a rude tone of voice, holding grudges – all of these are not how Christians should behave. In fact, to be baldly honest, they are all sins. They describe sinful behavior. Not just undesirable behavior, or socially awkward attitudes. They are wrong, an affront to a holy God who has called us, sent His Son to die for us, an affront to the Holy Savior who bore all our sins and died on a cross for us, and an affront to the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us to change our hearts and minds and transform us into new creations.

Pastor Lee makes it clear that all of these things cannot be done in our own strength. He admitted that all of the things in this chapter are impossible to do on our own. And the opposite behaviors are our natural tendency. When we fail (which is all the time) we should repent, turn to God, admit our behavoir is wrong, and actively seek His power and help to change.


Black Water

What does patience look like? During one sermon I realized that some of the latest conflicts in my house and at work were due to my habit of speaking in shorthand. I have developed a bad habit of starting many conversations in the middle. I seem to assume the person I’m talking to is aware of the internal conversation I’ve been having with myself for the past few minutes, or hours, or days. And then I get upset or frustrated when they respond in their ignorance of my internal conversation.

Maybe it’s related to a desire to be efficient. We’re all busy and have many things to do, so the less time we spend rehashing and spelling out details, surely the better off we are. We can quickly move on to something else. I’m now trying to be more conscious of what I’m going to ask someone. I ask myself whether I need to be clearer in describing what I was thinking about or assuming that led up to the question I want to ask or task I want them to do.

Another area where I need patience is when my ‘need to be understood’ is rearing its ugly head. This is closely related to the internal conversation dilemma. I will not always be understood. Even close friends and family will not always know or be able to understand me. And its likely that at any given moment it is more important for me to seek to understand the other person instead.

Relationships can be so much work, and often get messy. Relationships can be so easy and provide encouragement and support and laughter. They are worth the effort, but it is too easy to focus on the wrong things. We all talk about how busy we are and how much we are all doing. That is probably true and we should evaluate our lives to see if we are doing too much, sacrificing excellent things for time spent doing too many good things. But often, what we are really saying is we are so busy doing things we are called to do, serving others as God has given us opportunity, that we don’t have “me time.” Time to spend on my own personal pursuits or hobbies.

This can lead us to get impatient and even rude with others because they are keeping us from something else we had planned to do. But really, how much “me time” do I need? And which is more rewarding and encouraging, time spent serving God or time spent watching tv or reading a novel? Being patient and present with people, showing love, makes them feel valued. We all know we appreciate when someone really pays attention to us, takes time to see us, listen to us, and really understand where we are at that moment.

Besides, being rushed and stressed instead of accepting where we are makes us anxious and worried. Then we aren’t a blessing to others, and we don’t bring glory to God.

The Doobie Brothers song Black Water has these lyrics

And I ain’t got no worries
‘Cause I ain’t in no hurry at all

We can be impatient, in a hurry, rushing through life and past people. Or we can be patient, kind, gentle, not insisting on our own way, and loving. And that usually means we have less worries.


Bearing and enduring

According to a personality test I took in grad school, my job right now is a very bad fit for me. I’m not one of those people who thrives in critical situations or turning around struggling projects. Yet I’m supporting a tool that is mostly used during critical situations when tempers are already flaring and our project is in serious need of turning around. Add in the economy and the reactions by the company to that economy that keep reducing our labor force and increasing our workload, and I’m usually not in a good place at work.

I feel the stress when I’m not able to do my job well and knowing my team is working as hard as they can, and I have customers sending me more emails and instant messages and phone calls to explain why their one request is really the most important one. At these times my tendency is to get frustrated, angry, irritated, and grumpy.

As Pastor Lee has taught, these are the times I need to proactively prepare for. With prayer before the day starts, with responses composed when I am calm that I can use when I’m not calm, and then with prayer and a present awareness of God’s love for me and His calling me to sanctification while I’m in the middle of the emails or chats or phone calls. I have to remind myself not to take it all personally. I should do good work, and be concientious. But my identity is not in how good I look at work or even really how well I seem to handle the stress.

My identity is in Christ. I am a Child of God and I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit. God is passionate about my holiness and He will use whatever it takes to change me. This includes all the interruptions, problems, and policy decisions at work. None of those are hindrances or evidence of God’s lack of love or attention. Every single one of them is an instrument in the hands of the God of love. My goal is to joyfully accept what God gives me each and every moment of the day. And when I fail to meet that goal, or find myself in the midst of the struggle to meet the goal, I must turn to Him. That’s really what he’s trying to show me, that I need Him every moment of the day. (Yes, I’m talking about my favorite term, non-sufficiency again.)

RC Sproul Jr. said in his recent Ligonier Connect course on Understanding God’s Sovereignty in Suffering, joy is the settled conviction that God is able, and He is for me. That is what I seek: joy. And being intentional about understanding and appreciating love, being loving in all my relationships and thoughts, words, and actions are ways to be joyful and evidence of that joy. My God is an awesome God!

First published in the HARP Newsletter Spring/Summer 2014

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