A Walk Through MY Bible

I wonder how many people are like me in terms of their relationship with their Bible (the sentimental value that the physical items has to them). I was about to start reading my Bible the other day, but, before I opened it up, I really stopped and looked at it. It would appear as though I had not actually “seen” my Bible in a long time even though I read it every day. If you will indulge me, I want to share my “anchor” with you. Please join me on a walk through My Bible and I pray that as you read this you might find some encouragement along the way – and perhaps something you can tuck inside your heart.

As I picked up the Word of God that night, I actually stopped to look at the physical, touchable representation of God’s love for us that I call my own – this book that, although printed and bound by man, contains the Words spoken by the Almighty, the history of His Chosen People, and the ministry/passion of Jesus Christ. Just as I call Them my own (My Father, My Jesus, My Savior, My Adonai, etc), I call this Book my own – my name is even embossed in gold letters on the front cover.

My, the stories this book could tell if it could speak of things external…. I received this Bible as a gift in 1989. Despite the years of wear, a tattered cover, and broken edges, it is irreplaceable. I have thought about buying a new one from time to time, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to even shop for another one. There are notes in the margins, highlighted passages, underlines here and there, and several notes and mementos tucked inside the pages. It has survived being dropped, melted candy bars, small children, desperate grasps during times of heartache, tear stains, and having the cover and spine taped back on/together on more than one occasion.

If you open the cover, you will find names and dates of people I have care about over the years. Marriage information, births celebrated, and deaths mourned are contained within the pages that have required the application of carefully placed tape in order to keep this well-used section together. Further within the pages, you will find notes, poetry, a picture, a little music. What amazes me about these tidbits of paper that I find tucked inside is not only the content of the paper, but also the passage it resides beside.

The first stop flipping through the pages is II Samuel 15. This is where Absalom wins the heart of the people of Israel, basically takes over the throne, and King David runs away. In this place resides a poem written for me by a dear friend many years ago:

Just a reminder of the job you’re to do
To keep His light shinning – bright and true.
His love is so deep, so vast, and so wide
Just open your arms and there you’ll abide.
Whenever you feel the need to waiver of fall
Just look to His light and send out a call.
He’s always beside you and never you cry
Because even though you might fail, He loves how you try.
Always praying for you. —

But it does not end there. After all, what would a piece of paper be without notes on the back? Notes regarding healing from sickness and sin as well as Scriptures relevant to things I was going through in my life at the time this poem was given to me stand as a reminder of how, even though sin had taken over the throne of my heart, God was victorious in the end.

The next piece is one of my favorites. It is a written in the form of a haiku (not my favorite format for poetry), but it is profound. I think I cut it out of a Sunday School lesson many years ago.

Trapped by Mark Weinrich

Helpless
bird, don’t battle
the window. I could show
you the opened door, if you’d just
“Be still.”

I find it ironic that this poem would reside where it does. It has been there so long that I do not even remember placing it inside, but it is at II Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” If we can but allow Him to show us the open door, depending on where we are in our lives, this might just be the very door we need to walk through, the door that leads to repentance and healing.

II Chronicles 20 finds a prayer egg that was prayerfully and randomly dropped into the Bible in 1991. The prayer contained on the tiny piece of paper was answered seven months later in 1992, and was regarding a damaged relationship with a former friend. The first place my eye draws to on these pages is to verse 15 (“…Be not afraid nor dismayed…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”) and verse 17 (Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you….”). As I let the problem go and allowed the Lord to have His way, He did just as He said He would do. The battle for the heart was not mine to fight, but it was mine to stand firm, be still, pray, and watch Him move in the situation. Granted, this was nothing like the situation Jehoshaphat was in, but God still showed Himself to be faithful.

A bookmark with the simple statement that “Even when clouds of pain seem to hide the face of God, we are never hidden from God’s love” marks the place in Psalms that reminds us that God will defend us and we can shout for joy because of that. (Psalm 5:11)

A few more pages into the book of Psalms finds a wonderful verse written out from a different translation (Psalm 27:4, TLB – “The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in His temple, living in His presence every day of my life, delighting in His incomparable perfections and glory.”), and the caring heart penny reminds us that “God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (Psalm 68:6)

Isaiah 50 finds another note from a dear friend reminding me of the transience of our trials. I am not sure if it taken from a Max Lucado book word for word or if it was something she wrote (it has been way too long to remember), but it is thought-provoking nonetheless. “Our days on earth are like a shadow. Each man’s life is but a breath. You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. It‘s a short journey even though it seems eternal. Just think how good it will be when we get home. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Therefore, we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are becoming renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” What a wonderful reminder of where our eyes need to be fixed up set beside a powerful reminder of just a glimpse of what He endured for us.

Another short, but poignant poem can be found at the sight of a most encouraging passage. Jeremiah 29:11-13 gives us the promise that God’s intentions for us are good, that He will be found when we seek Him, and that He will hear when we pray.

While all of these are inspirational, touching, and contain very fond memories, my favorite thing that I found in my Bible is the scrap of music at Matthew 24:12-13. When I realized where this music was, I was really surprised by the verse. (“and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold, but he that shall endure until the end, the same shall be saved.”) I didn’t really get it for a few – at least until I sat down to write this. It was then that it dawned on me just appropriate it was that I would shove this scrap of sheet music for “Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory” into my Bible in this location. So long as His joy is my strength, His love is my light, and His Word is my foundation, my love for Him will not wax cold regardless of the mess surrounding me. “It is joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh the half has never yet be told!” And one day, it finally will be. What a day that will be!

The passage regarding the good Samaritan (Luke 10:31-37) is where a picture of my two nieces sits from probably 11 years ago or so. Good memories of a good day….

Many scraps of paper, scribbled notes, Scripture studies waiting to be finished or reviewed are scattered throughout my Bible, but these are the one that mean the most to my heart. These are the ones through which the heart of God speaks to the hurting heart within me. These are things that He has given to me as a gift, as a way of remembering better times when my heart is broken and a reminder of His providence through the dark times when the ways is light and easy. They are reminders that I have been loved, I have been cared for, I have been cherished by people He has sent my way. All of these are reminders located inside the Book that contains the grandest reminder of all.

“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.” John 3:16, NIV

Just to think that our God loves and cherishes us so much that He took the time to inspire men He selected to write down His words, HIStory, and that these very words have been cherished, guarded, and passed down through time to those of us who now stand guard over our own hearts and cherish this gift He has carefully designed, planned, and given to us – a gift of not just salvation, but of His own heart.

I will leave you with one thought. If a complete stranger were to find your Bible, what do you think it would say to them? Would it appear brand new, never opened, perhaps a little dusty? Or, does it look like an old friend, worn from the years, but yet loved and treasured. Cherish His Word my friends. After all, it is His heart in tangible physical form
– a gift from His heart to yours.

Won’t Ya Be my Neighbor…

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34, NIV


How well do we really know our “neighbor” – or our friends for that matter? I once read somewhere long since forgotten that if you say you know your friend well, you should also know where they hurt. Hmmm…. I am not sure that I can answer that for some of the people I call “friend,” but I do know that I will be paying more attention.

There are many people that suffer in silence through various trials, challenges, and situations that do not have to do so alone. Many of them choose this particular avenue of dealing with their circumstances, but there are those who do so because they doubt that anyone would care anyway. There may be hints that are dropped or abstract comments made just to see if anyone is listening, but it never goes further than that. There are times when the fact that a “friend” is too busy to see the real picture of what is going on just compounds the problem and seems to “prove” that they were right to feel alone in the first place.

Are we so busy working that we forget to serve? Have we neglected to serve and care for our brothers and sisters within the body? Are we so wrapped up in our own lives and our own worlds that we forget to take the time to really see what is going on around us, to get to know those whom the Lord has brought into our lives, to step outside of our comfort zones, to dare to take an honest look at our surroundings? This is not always easy to do and I am the first one to admit that I get wrapped up in my to-do list on a regular basis. However, I cannot allow myself to do so anymore.

I pray that you will take the time during the next week to really open your eyes and your heart to the people around you. Take the time to dare to look in their eyes – and don’t shy away if you find some pain inside. Reach out to one another, pray for one another, care for one another. If you don’t cherish the heart of your brother or sister in Christ, then who will? If we don’t take the time to care for those who are hurting and suffering in silence, who will? It doesn’t even have to take up a big chunk of your day…maybe something just a simple as a “hello” or a note to let them know you were thinking about them – some way to let them know that they are not forgotten.

Be Jesus to those around you. After all, He was not afraid to reach out and touch the lepers, the untouchable ones. How can we do any less?

Wounds and Scars? Yeah, but what now?

As I am sure everyone has experienced, there has been people in our lives that have caused us emotional harm. Whether it was intentionally or not doesn’t matter. Passed over, over looked, disregarded, tossed out with the trash, taken for granted… Words have been said – or not said – that reached a quiet, tender portion of the heart and created an oozing wound. It is not a deep or desperate wound, but it is just enough to break the integrity of that space and leave a weeping cut. As the years go by, these wounds slowly scab over and stop weeping, but a scar has been left behind. Time after time, wound upon wound, these scars build up to the point where they take over the space. All of this happens so gradually that it is not even noticed. Defense mechanisms begin to be used to protect this hall of scars and become such a part of normal everyday life that they are not noticed as well. Life can continue on as if all is well and no one is the wiser to the well hidden, darkness covered depth of pain residing just under the surface. But what happens if the surface gets cracked?

In the quiet and stillness of the hall of scars residing within a wounded heart, how does one react when light is brought in? While it is very painful, that is where I find myself today. The Lord is steadily cracking open this shell I built around my heart to keep out the hurt, to shelter from the disregard, a place built to escape to when the world forgot I existed. Two unbelievable people have been sent into my life and have blasted the doors away. They have forced me to take a look at my reactions, my standard response lines, and the reality of the emotions behind the things I sarcastically say. Some of this has not been pretty at all, but it has been a huge wake-up call to my heart to start beating again.

For too many years, I allowed others and their words to determine my value or self-worth. Too many years were wasted wondering what other people thought, how I should fit in, and wondering why. But, in the midst of all of this, the Lord spoke to my heart last night: “And God chose what the world looks down on as common or regards as nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world considers important; so that no one should boast before God.” I Corinthians 1:28-29 (CJB)

Listen well to the words of life, my heart! There is hope! What it means, at least to me, is that even God has a plan for me and He finds value in me – especially because the world of my past did not. He saw me even then – and He still sees me now.

My prayer for you, my friend, is that you carefully choose your words. Cherish the heart of the person to whom you are speaking and guard it well. Some scars take a long time to heal, but the ones that were unnecessary and preventable can be the most painful.

Cherish the Body of Christ. Care for your fellow members. Do not overlook the ones who are not exactly like yourself. We were all created with great diversity so that we can each fulfill our role in His church. And it is HIS church, after all… Step out of your comfort zone, guard your tongue, think before your shoot darts out of your mouth, and learn to cherish that which is not like you. You just might be surprised at what you find – if you will dare to look beyond the veil, the mirror, and the walls.

They Said What???

It has been a very busy week of swimming lessons, work, and working during swimming lesson. Through all of the “busyness”, one thing that has stood out in my mind – and has been repeated in several forms – is the power of our words. I have, unfortunately, witnessed more time than I care to count the fact that “sticks and stones” do not break bones – they break hearts instead.

Proverbs 18:21 says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. Interesting thought…. Does that mean I believe I could kill someone with my words or bring them back to life with the same? Not necessarily, at least not in the physical sense (although I will not discount the possibility of a miracle being performed because our Lord is still in that business), but emotionally and spiritually, it is not only a possibility, it is a regular occurrence. It is so easy to spew hurtful words out of our mouths and kill another’s spirit, crush their dreams, break their heart. Listening to the way in which people speak to each other and about each other, I can only image how it breaks our Father’s heart to see and hear how often we trample on others with our words. Matthew 12:34 (KJV) tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What then does this really say about the condition of our hearts?

As Christians, we have a peculiar challenge that faces us, especially in the unique environment in which we now live. Yes, we are to live a life that is holy, set apart for Him alone. Yes, we are called to be in the world and not of it – to not be conformed to it. We are called to be Salt and Light to a world that is drowning in darkness that seems to grow darker by the day. The challenge then becomes how do we do this? How do we reach the ones who need Him the most, the ones who appear to be falling ever further into darkness? The answer is love. We must reach them with the love of Jesus first and foremost! If we do not reach them with love and look at them the way Jesus does, how will we ever find their heart?

We must also keep in mind that we do not know the road another has traveled or that their heart may contain secrets known only to God. Careless words thrown about may cause hurt and harm to another who will never say a word. Instead, they will just walk away. They will cry on the inside yet again where no one ever sees. They will fall before the feet of Jesus yet again and beg Him to hold them just one more time. An opportunity to be a blessing to someone who is desperate for a kind word uttered in love has been wasted – again.

You will never know what kind of difference you can make in the life of another just by choosing to season your words with grace. Being Salt and Light is so much more than helping bring the lost home – it is caring for hurting members of the Body, it is caring for our own, it is being Jesus to those around us. How can we fulfill what Jesus called the first and foremost of the commandments, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves if we are continually trampling others with our words? Before you open your mouth to speak, ask yourself if you would like to be on the other end of your words? If you would not, then respond as Job did when he was speaking with the Lord, “… I put my hand over my mouth.” Job 40:4, NIV

Season your words with kindness. You never know what secrets of the heart someone may have that hear them or what hurts can be unknowingly inflicted by them.

2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
3 A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin….
7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-3, 6, 7, NIV

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:33-37, NIV

Be Still, My Soul!

This past week in my life seemed to be one of back-tracking. I kept trying to push forward and continuing working on the areas in which I struggle, but the more I pushed, the more I saw myself going backward. I finally stopped and asked the Lord what it was that I was missing, what I had missed. The silence seemed deafening for a while… Something happened a few days ago that has caused me to really sit back and evaluate some places in my heart and life. A rather interesting conversation with a friend had taken place and challenged my heart and mind to go places it had not been in a very long time and try to force words to surface to express feelings long buried in the past. The fear of this was overwhelming at first, but my friend was very patient. Through a few prods and challenges, I realized that I have been held captive by this fear for far too many years – and for no reason. When I pushed beyond the fear, the expected result at the end never appeared. The fear was completely without merit – as so many of them are. The silence from the Lord was preparing my heart for this conversation and He used it to His glory to break down walls in my heart erected so many years ago that I do not remember life without them.

So begins the process of rebuilding… and renewal. I am not sure what is around the next bend, but I do know who will be with me when it is found. There will be new challenges to face, new barriers to cross, but I know that He who started the work in me will be faithful to complete it – and it will better prepare me for whatever work He has for me to do. All I have to do is be still and know that He is God – and that is all I need to know!

During this process, when the doubts and fears creep in and questions begin to swirl, it is important to remember to fix our eyes on Jesus. After all, in the midst of the storm, look what happened to Peter when he took His eyes off the Lord….he sank. However, much with like us, Jesus was there immediately reaching out a hand to pull him up again. During those dark times when you wonder why you were made the way that you were and what purpose the Lord could possibly have with your weaknesses or failures, just remember that it is not WHO you are that is important, but rather WHOSE you are. There is a reason and purpose for everything under heaven – and that those weakness are opportunities for Him to be our strength and show His strength in our lives. We just have to trust that He knows the way, He will guide, and He will comfort during the dark times through the valley and rough rapids of the River.

…And Then The Next Thing

What an incredible journey!!! Walking in the blessing of new beginnings, while a little disconcerting at times, is exactly that – a blessing! I would like to share with you a few of the lessons I have learned along the River so far.

There is far more truth in the saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” than I ever thought possible. My background is one of being raised in church, memorized Scripture, knew the order of the books of the Bible, and faithful Bible reading. Recently, while having a very interesting conversation with a friend, the suggestion was presented that the Word be read with purpose. (Hadn’t heard of that before…) Some general direction was given as to how to proceed with this quest (I love instructions!), and I was off and running. The first chapter came to life in ways I had never seen before! The next day, the Word was still alive, but it wasn’t quite as impactful – after all, I already knew what was going to happen next. By the third day, I had already fallen back into old habits – re-reading the words on the page but not finding the heart of the matter. Sitting and thinking about it now, I wonder just how much I have missed out on all these years because I felt “I know” what it was going to say. (BTW… The Lord has since re-directed my reading – and changed the version I read from.)

How often does our sense of “knowledge” get in the way of the leading of the Holy Spirit? How often do we break His heart with our calloused, self-important ways of expressing just how much we think we know? How much have we missed out on in our Bible studies because we “knew” where to go rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us where we NEEDED to go? If we were to take an honest look and examine our hearts, would we find that we are held back by the way in which we were taught years ago, by the way we view ourselves, or by the way we have/have not found a “place” in this world? These have been just a few of the challenging questions of late – a challeng to take time to sit back and really examine mindsets, values, and beliefs.

Here’s the kicker… Until the junk from the past is gone, we will not be able to walk into the fullness of the future the Lord intends for us. We have to let go of all that is holding us down, binding us up, and causing difficulty for us in reaching our goals of walking closer with Him and fulfilling His will for our lives. John tells us not only that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free, but also gives the assurance that whom the Son has set free is free indeed. Only we can hinder this miraculous freedom for which Jesus paid such a high price. It is our choice – which is what it always seems to come back to…

Until such changes are made and the freedom offered to us is embraced, walking into what the Lord has NEXT for us will be so much more challenging than it needs to be. I choose to take another step in the River of His Heart – and I can’t wait to see what He has in store around the next bend!!