Thank you, Dr. Chapman, for the foreshadowing, and for the affirmation

Dr. Robert Chapman took a few moments to skim over the papers brought to his desk one at a time as the students had finished the in-class assignment. The prompt was a series of bullet items defining a hypothetical conference; the task was to write a promotional appeal for folks to register for the conference, including all of the essential information (what, where, etc.).

Selecting one paper from those turned in, the professor began reading aloud: “Register now for…”

Pretty quickly I recognized that it was my work being read, being shared with the class as an example of a job well done.

I wish I knew today whether kindly, white-haired Dr. Chapman [view his image here] was watching for my reaction from the outset. I do know he smiled at me once as he read, no doubt seeing in my face how gratified I felt to have my paper selected.

At the time, the incident was for me simply another instance of rising to or near the top of my class academically, a pattern established early in grade school and something I had grown to depend heavily upon for affirmation, generally, because I lacked social and personal confidence.

Looking back now, I recognize that vividly memorable moment as a foreshadowing of the kind of writing I would do many years later, over a 15-year period, as a church administration employee creating posters, emails, and newsletter articles – the kind of writing I continue to do on social media as an author with books in print.

As a senior at Mars Hill College, enrolled in Business Correspondence that fall semester in 1981, I instinctively began my promotional blurb with a call to action, what now would be associated with a link, placed front and center, on a webpage or in an email appeal, taking interested persons directly to the registration form.

I suspect that most of the papers Dr. Chapman bypassed in order to read mine began with statements that were straightforward and factual: “The such-and-such group will hold a conference called XYZ on whatever date in some city. The cost is $…”

Please realize that in telling this story my purpose is not to brag about having produced better work than the prof thought my classmates had produced. This memory, and today’s account of it, are about seeing, long after the fact, evidence of God’s leading and of His preparation. And not just seeing it, but testifying to it. This is the way of a loving, good Father who is providing in ways we seldom realize until a time of later reflection.

Along came my first paid writing assignment!

1983 Camp Mundo Vista quiet time booklet

The path of my interest in words has been a long and winding one. Last month at Opelika Public Library I set up a three-table display of items connected to my newest book or depicting my general writing background. One of those items is dated 1983, on the heels of my college graduation. It’s the first thing I was ever invited to write for pay (a momentous event most writers probably remember). The assignment was to provide the content of that year’s devotional guide for children used at Camp Mundo Vista near Asheboro, North Carolina.

Some of many display items at Opelika Public Library, January 18, 2022

To the left of that blue and purple booklet on the display table lay some magazines representing a long stretch of word puzzle submissions published by Dell and Penny Press. Namely, two original formats they titled What’s the Difference? and Phone Words, plus standard logic problems.

At last: an actual book

A little later on, my first book was published: a 365-day devotional resource for women – and I managed to incorporate, thematically, some half a dozen works of poetry, the form of literature I had been longing to get in print at the time.

Pages 42-43 of Pause: Everyday Prayers for Everyday Women (Revell, 2004)

Not until 2010 would I endeavor to create a lengthy work of fiction, and that type of irresistible inspiration would surface again a year later when the basis for A Stranger’s Promise came from something I saw on television while staying in a Gatlinburg hotel room that was rather dated but had a picturesque location on the river. That inspiration was a captivating documentary about Appalachia titled Southern Highlanders.

It took me eight years to complete that first novel, but the upside is that a sequel came from it. No Doubt It’s Love was released simultaneously. Therefore, I guess you could divide it out and say four years per book. Somehow, that sounds more steady or planned or professional.

For the love of words

I still write – and love doing so – word puzzles, Bible-prompted meditations, anecdotes, letters, journal entries, knitting patterns, and material for speaking. That’s not even counting the novels! And I have an entire Instagram account devoted to Scrabble. I love it all. And I am very thankful for all of it, for every word of it.

Aren’t synonyms simply fascinating?

A case in point: While reviewing and editing daily “Bible journal” entries begun in 2020, which is my current daily study and meditation project, I sat mulling over the difference between the verbs declared and proclaimed at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 3. This was the same day I posted the following photo on Facebook with the caption, “May your day begin with the best coffee you have ever tasted – while reading the best words ever written.” I invite you to take a moment to ponder the difference between declaring something and proclaiming it. (“There has to be a difference, however subtle, else both words would not exist.” That’s my firm opinion about synonyms, and identifying those subtle differences brings me word enjoyment and stimulating thinking on a recurring basis.)

Coffee and Bible time

All trails are paths, but not all paths are trails.

Another case: learning the difference in definition/usage for trail versus path, and for if versus whether. Both of these educational opportunities came my way as I was writing Love Ever Green, and the first of the two was employed right here in this article where I changed trail to path, intending to convey the sense of a wake created behind a boat or the places my footsteps had landed, i.e., “the course one took to get somewhere.” Here is an article that explains, among other concepts, that “all trails are paths, but not all paths are trails.”

I wish you joy today – and a great-tasting cup of coffee – as you bask in your love of words, whether it be as a writer, a reader, a solver of crossword puzzles, a devotee of Wordle, or a finder of typos on billboards. :0-) 

Coincidence, anti-coincidence, and God’s incidents

credit: Olya Kobruseva on pexels.com

On December 16 I was rummaging through my recycling for a discarded newspaper, looking for one particular item. I never found it that day. I did find later. I had already clipped the item and had placed it in a folder meant to help me stay better organized… No further comment on that, and no “senior moment” remarks from you, either, please!

I was trying to find the printed subscription form on a page of the weekly newspaper Opelika Observer. Yes, I do still enjoy the experience of holding actual paper things in my hands, fairly often spurning the idea of choosing to be on trend by taking care of certain matters online with simple clicks and a credit card. (I know. “Clicks” is not as trendy as “touches” or “taps.” And “credit card” is not as trendy as “wallet app” payment.)

What’s so special about Opelika Observer?

Why the interest in subscribing to the weekly Opelika Observer based in Lee County and having it delivered to my home in Jefferson County more than 100 miles away? And what does that goal have to do with coincidence?

I’m glad you asked.

The briefest answer I can land on goes this way, in bullet form for readability:

  • Opelika Observer is a gem of a “hometown” and “community” newspaper.
  • Auburn and Opelika happenings have escalated in importance since my husband and I established a residence in that area in 2020.
  • Opelika Observer was wonderfully responsive to a Facebook item I posted last summer. Their news intern requested an interview that resulted in a half-page, color feature on the placement of my two 2019 novels on the fiction shelf at Auburn Public Library: https://opelikaobserver.com/local-author-lands-novels-in-auburn-public-library/.
  • Besides news and local features, this newspaper has comics, puzzles, and recipes I had suddenly decided would address my grossly unmet need for genuine and recurring relaxation! Readers of this article who know me won’t be surprised by the admission that I find it very difficult to gear down and to unwind.

The best example of coincidence I’ve run across in a long time

The best example of coincidence I’ve seen lately I observed on December 16 while searching in vain through my used copy of Opelika Observer already in the recycle bin: Lee County is the setting for my latest novel, Love Ever Green; and Lee is the name of a character in my first novel, A Stranger’s Promise. This is not a jaw-dropping coincidence. But I noticed it.

Coincidence: Lee County is the setting for a 2021 book ten years after Lee was my choice for a fairly important character in A Stranger’s Promise originally inspired in Gatlinburg in 2011. Is that fact more than mere coincidence? Is it kismet? Is it God’s holy timing? Uh, no. I don’t think so.

After my imagination had started running on that “higher level” stuff, I laughed at myself. “Don’t be silly,” I said, and probably said out loud, alone in the kitchen during morning coffee and quiet time that usually happens between 5:00 and 8:00 a.m. “That is a case of simple coincidence,” I decided. “Classic coincidence and nothing more. Still, it is one of the best examples of coincidence I’ve run across lately.”

What is anti-coincidence?

From there, I indulged in a brief rabbit trail on something I was calling anti-coincidencedefined as a similarity in circumstance that is so explainable and thus so insignificant it doesn’t even qualify as coincidence. For example, that twenty other people are wearing red sweaters, same as you are…at a showing of White Christmas during December at the Alabama Theatre.

credit: cottonbro on pexels.com

And, just like that, I’ve explained “anti-coincidence” before I could follow through on my original plan of telling you I would not spend your time that way.

And what was that about a new novel?

Love Ever Green, my aforementioned “newest novel” set in Lee County, is a Christian romance and my first romance novel. It is set in the fall of the year, in Auburn, with some events happening in the neighboring city of Opelika.

Love Ever Green was released on December 17 through WestBow Press and is available online.

I wrote this book between June and October 2021, incorporating a number of real-time and true events including some football statistics and local (Lee County) holiday happenings connected with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. To achieve realism, I attended as many of those local events as I could manage, dragging my supportive husband along in order to enrich his retirement life. Prior fiction research has never been more fun, nor has it offered such delightful discoveries:

  • “Enchanted Forest” on October 22 at the Louise Kreher Preserve and Nature Center on North College Street, Auburn.
  • 2021 Iron Bowl and prior Auburn home football games.
  • “Christmas in a Railroad Town” holiday festival in historic downtown Opelika on December 10.
  • The district privilege of engaging in hands-on research at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
  • Touring Dewberry Lands in Lineville with its gracious owners, Lamar and Felicia Dewberry – made known to me by the kind folks at Alabama Forestry Association in Montgomery.
  • Discovering an information resource very close at hand in the form of my husband of 35 years, Jeff Lowery, Auburn alumnus and 40-year veteran retired from Spire (formerly Alagasco) natural gas utility. Jeff’s knowledge of the Auburn campus and of its outlying areas helped me to make critical decisions for my novel, from setting locale on the west side of town to acting out the campus walk some of my characters take in chapter 10.

I am finishing this blog article on January 1, in Auburn. Somewhere “out there,” a shipment of 50 copies of my new novel is on its way to Hoover in Jefferson County, where another hugely supportive family member, my daughter, is on standby to go and grab the cardboard parcels off the front porch in case of rain before I arrive there myself.

Did you catch the implication there? I have not even held a copy of this book in my own two hands yet. And there you have a glimpse into how and why this authoring process has so many emotionally draining ups and downs. Here’s another “ups and downs” glimpse: Writing is exhilarating; editing is agonizing!

As the euphoria of book completion and release settles into a calmer degree of overall joy regarding this amazing 2021 project, the workload of logistically distributing the book ramps up: arranging places to have copies for sale; requesting that church and public libraries acquire and display the book; preparing social media posts and presentation materials; etc.

God’s incidents

I don’t consider the release of three novels between 2019 and 2021 coincidence. Never did I consciously place “be a novelist” on my list of long-term goals. I consider the phenomena of unforeseen inspiration to create a lengthy fictional story, and the inexplicable dispensations of energy+opportunity to fulfill that inspiration, God’s incidents. My novels employ made-up stuff to tell characters and readers about Jesus, about Bible truths, and about the Holy Spirit’s power to change lives. No other purpose than that drives any serious work I want to write and publish.

On that topic, Love Ever Green is totally an effort to mimic the Grace Livingston Hill romance novel; read about that prolific author by clicking on her name. Furthermore, all of my novels include discussion questions to take matters of Bible, God, and Jesus from the pages of pretend into direct statements that can spark meaningful reflection, discussion, prayer, and life change.

The year 2022 holds much promise as Love Ever Green gets off the ground. While I push ahead on that, you take a few more moments on this New Year’s Day to enjoy a photo gallery showing some aspects of my privilege-journey researching and writing this new book:

Fraulein Maria brought grief, then compassion

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was my mother’s favorite hymn. I’ve been singing it in church all my life, and it has become one of my most cherished, too. It might surprise you what book of the Bible inspired the title and text Thomas O. Chisolm penned in 1928. It isn’t the Psalms, many of which were voiced by the deeply-spiritual shepherd David contemplating his amazing God while sensing the marvels of the created world. On the contrary, that hymn grew out of verses found in a book by the “saddest” Bible writer we can think of: Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet.”

Still, you might quickly call to mind one of the most popular verses in Jeremiah, about “plans to prosper you”; “to give you hope and a future” (29:11). I firmly believe we land on that “happy” verse in Jeremiah because we prefer not to think about the rest of what he wrote.

Lamentations is the much briefer book that comes after the fifty-two chapters in Jeremiah. (Same writer for both.) Fortunately for us – but, first, for poor Jeremiah, and for the people of his day! – not every word in these two books is overwhelmingly depressing!

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions* never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

*In the King James text, it’s God’s “mercies” that are described as new every morning. Hence, the beautiful line of hymn poetry, “morning by morning new mercies I see.”

If you haven’t read Jeremiah lately, you might not remember that this faithful servant received and passed along God’s messages at a time when virtually no one wanted to hear the truth. Things were as horrible for God’s people as things could possibly be, and the people were not interested in hearing anything corrective from the God they believed had totally rejected and abandoned them – when in fact it was the other way around; they had totally rejected God.

The accounts in Jeremiah and in the early chapters of the companion book Lamentations, of judgment and ruin so complete – and so deserved – are at moments so graphic I sometimes could manage only a brief summary in last year’s journal:
“These images of the forsaken, punished Judah in exile are both distasteful and disturbing.” or
“Chapter 52 is summary and statistical information about the exile’s start, progress, and results. None of it happy.”

Even so, a certain assigned reading in Lamentations prompted me to note, “God does not wish for nor delight in any human suffering, even when that suffering is a deserved and just punishment.” The very next day, the NIV One-Year Bible put these words before me, in support of my note:

“Though he brings grief,
he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring
affliction or grief to the children of men.

Lamentations 3:32-33

2 Peter 3:9 voices it this way: “The Lord is patient… not willing that any should perish, but [desiring] that all should come to repentance.”

A scene from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music suddenly came to mind on June 23 as I typed my handwritten meditations from the previous October. Her first day on the job, Fraulein Maria “brings grief” to the von Trapp children while all are seated at the dinner table. Her speech stirs within the out-of-control pranksters appropriate guilt feelings and remorse for having slipped a frog into her pocket earlier in the day, in order to frighten and annoy her. With the children’s clueless and sullen father looking on, the governess “praises” the “precious gift” left in her pocket and “thanks” the children for their “thoughtfuness”:

“Knowing how I must have felt, a stranger in a new household, it was so kind of you to make my first moments here so warm and happy and pleasant.”

Maria’s extreme sarcasm has the intended effect, making most visibly the younger girls cry with shame and regret for having played that mean-spirited and immature prank on a nice stranger who had come there to be of service to them. This wise method of “bringing grief” opens the door for Maria to begin building a rapport with the children, showing them “compassion” as they have sunk into an unhealthy pattern, desperate for comfort and companionship, for acceptance and for attention from their father – all seven children and their father sorely grieving the loss of Mrs. von Trapp.

“Oh, they’re all right, Captain. They’re just happy!”

It’s a hard lesson, to be sure, but a true one – for Old Testament Israel, for the von Trapp brats, for a floundering America in 2021. We must be willing to have our wrong ways corrected. Pride has no place in the life of devotion to the Lord God Almighty. If the heart will not give way its stone encasement, if self-exaltation remains king, where will correction land? Whom will it reach and whom will it help?

P.S. On this topic, “tractable” is a great Jane Austen word I picked up recently. While it may strike you as a negative characteristic, it really isn’t. Not in the context of this blog post. And not in light of Ezekiel 36:26, which is reflected in the above paragraph.

His waves; His ways

Our “first look” at Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Besides the natural beauty of the waves, the sky, and the sand, we saw a lot of interesting aircraft while vacationing on the Emerald Coast. The sheer fact of air travel just astounds me. I think I will always find it a fascinating mystery. The height – no pun intended – of what the human intellect has achieved includes jets and helicopters; engines; wires; and the successful exploitation of the aerodynamic fact of lift. The height of human intellect has produced medical advancements, and it has led to the manufacture of the very computer on which I am typing these thoughts today.

And, yet…
Scripture reminds us many times that our best human achievements pale next to the God who created us and gave us our resources and the intellect to develop amazingly intricate and marvelous ways to use them.

As I looked for the Bible verses I wanted to include here, I first ran across this gentle and apt quote!
“It is a joy to behold wisdom and knowledge in a man. How much greater then to find in God wisdom and knowledge unsurpassed and infinite.” https://bible.org/seriespage/4-wisdom-god

God’s ways – Isaiah 55:8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s wisdom and knowledge – Romans 11:33
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!

God’s eminence – Revelation 4:11
You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.

At the risk of following these three eloquent Bible quotes with a very elementary summary: Yes, we have minds that can be very intelligent and capable. But, we did not get that way without the creative power of a divine, immortal mind.

As I took the beach pictures included in this article, I held a technological marvel in my hand – the iPhone XR with its built-in camera. But, it was the Lord God who first created the dunes and the waters I wanted to photograph. He sent that delicate pink light of sunrise. And it was His promise of a new day that motivated me to get out there with my phone at 5:30 in the morning: “As long as the earth endures…day [sunrise] and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

The rest of the story
On May 20th, right after importing pictures from our May 15-19 beach trip, I opened Microsoft Word and resumed where I’d left off typing my handwritten journal entries from 2020’s reading of the entire Bible. The entry was from September 27, and it included this from Isaiah 51, verse 15: For I am the Lord your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves roar.
#smh (shaking my head)! And laughing!! By God’s divine timing, I found myself typing a note about the sea’s waves on that very day, when I had actually come across the verse in Isaiah and noted it eight months earlier.

For additional reading, here is another article I found while composing this post, on the magnitude of God:
https://www.christcommunitychurch.org/the-magnitude-of-god/

Classic Scrooge: overnight, a really bad guy turns into a really good guy

Have you ever noticed how some stories get translated into virtually all available languages and circulate decade after decade, century after century? For example:
//The Bible
//The “Jesus” film from 1979, translated into some 1,400 languages
//Classic philosophy, theology, fiction, and other genres by “master” thinkers and writers

Just now I’m suggesting that in second place behind the story of Jesus we put A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. [You’re welcome, Chuck. May someone someday rank my novels A Stranger’s Promise and No Doubt It’s Love similarly high!]

Come to think of it, I have a Scrooge-like character in each of these novels!

From cruel to kind: an enduring theme

What could be more universal, timeless, and attractive than “a really bad guy reforms overnight into a really good guy”?

Dickens’ work is so popular it has been made into films either true to the novella’s 19th-century setting or updated with modern characters and life situations. One 1995 film I like features a female Scrooge character “Ebbie,” portrayed by Susan Lucci.

In the Dickens classic, Ebenezer Scrooge’s inexplicable travel/vision experience brings him to a reversal of heart, attitude, action, and personality that astounds his family and his community. To borrow from a different classic film of the season, “What a Christmas!”

“I am concerned for you”

In the days leading up to Advent 2020, my daily readings in the NIV One-Year Bible were in Ezekiel. I don’t know how familiar you are with the content of that Old Testament book, but, after quite a few previous days’ immersion in chapter after chapter of dire – and uncomfortably explicit – “doom and gloom” prophecies, I was very glad chapter 36 brought some relief from all of that. Finally, something that sounded hopeful!

God told His people – His errant people, and “errant” here is a gross understatement – “I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor.” (Ezekiel 36:9) This proves the compassion that describes God in quite a few places in the Bible. That God could say “I will look on you with favor” after all of the other, scathing things He said to Israel, previously in this very book, Ezekiel, is phenomenal.

And, isn’t it interesting that Jacob Marley’s “I am concerned for you” initiative started the beloved tale Dickens concocted? Often, a fictional or real person is so far down the wrong path that it takes a “whopping” intervention by a courageous family member or friend, or by God Himself, to effect change. That’s what happened with Scrooge, and it is what happened in the town of Bethlehem when a Savior was born to rescue sinners so far down the wrong path they could not prevent their own destruction.

Concerned for His people and for His own reputation as their Holy God – indeed, as the one and only God (see Ezekiel 36:21), the Lord told them a number of specifics they would experience:
//I will multiply your people
//Your towns will be inhabited and rebuilt
//The number of your animals (your food source; your livelihood) will increase
//No longer will be you subject to the taunts of the nations

Very soon after the above promises, in this passage, Ezekiel’s message from God carefully qualified things lest any hearing this good word take it lightly, undervaluing God’s change of face from judgment to blessing. You see, when weeks and months turn into years and decades, it’s very easy to lose track of the overall pattern of a people’s history. Suppose you weren’t alive when your great-great-grandfather had a vision or knew somebody who had one. Suppose your busy life doesn’t really leave you a lot of thought space for what your ancestors knew and felt so deeply. In that case, you might take God’s present favor as something that will always be there for you, perhaps something you earned by your good standing with Him. Not so!

Conveying the very voice of God Almighty, Ezekiel reviewed the sin of Israel, a long list of despicable acts that caused God to be incensed. By their heinous idolatry the people hadn’t merely disobeyed their God (defiance); they had dragged His great and lavish love through the mud. So wrong, unwise, and hurtful to Israel’s God those things were. At this point, though, there was a new angle to the situation. Now, God was concerned for His holy name. (Ezekiel 36:21) If His name meant continually less to the nations around the Israelites and observing their progress, their blessing, their compromised and changing values, and their downfall, there would be absolutely no hope for His plan that they would be a beacon to draw other nations to His light. (See Isaiah 49:6 and 52:10)

“I will show myself holy through you, before their eyes.” That is a great sentence! On this earth our people-peers will never be the holy example that we need and that we seek whether consciously or not. We need to see God shown holy. We need to see and hear His name glorified; not profaned, muddied, misrepresented.

Above, we had the rundown of what God would do externally for Israel: more people, more animals, towns restored, respected again by other nations. Now, we have a second bullet list telling what was going to happen internally:
//You will be clean.
//I will give you a new heart and will put a new spirit in you.
Out with the stone heart, just as with old Eb Scrooge; in with a heart “of flesh” – a heart that is living, feeling, and vulnerable, able to embrace remorse, humility, and grief! A stone heart feels nothing sorrowful…but it also feels no joy.

The ghost of Christmas past

God had to go to great lengths to tell Israel in no uncertain terms, “I will disgrace you and will make you ashamed for your wrong conduct.” (See Ezekiel 36:32) He reminded them again and again of the specific actions of defiance and idolatry of which they were guilty. This step – this phase of true contrition – is necessary for reform, revival, regeneration. Scrooge got that after an unforgettable, frightening, painful night journey. May we get it, too. Deep impressions were required before true, lasting change could happen in Ebenezer Scrooge. It takes hard blows from a heavy instrument to break stone. (36:26)

Don’t all of us crave a world where a new heart and a new spirit drive everything? Should we expect that reform to happen without intervention that may be painful to us before we recognize its benefit? And should we expect that reform to begin anywhere but in ourselves?

The “ghosts” of Christmases past (or of any past time in our lives) are not supposed to haunt and to trouble us forever. God desires that every person be freed of those chains – those feelings of guilt, regret, self-doubt, and fear: “The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) This Advent and into 2021 and beyond, let us remember Him and follow Him, putting our past mistakes behind us.

Christmas past, present, and future

Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem had all of the angels rejoicing, Messiah having come to earth at last. That’s Christmas past.

Today, the angels – and the saints in heaven, with them – rejoice again, every time a human heart experiences the miraculous changeover only a divine intervention can cause. That changeover is why God sent Jesus. This is a win-win: God’s holy name is properly honored when our hearts are right toward Him, and our souls are saved. (See Psalm 119:132) That’s Christmas present.

Welcome, Jesus! Hail, Messiah! Be adored forever. That’s Christmas future.

Be adored forever, holy and blessed King Jesus!

When God says “Enough.”

It is November 2, 2020, the day before a presidential election voting day that seems to have produced more talk, more demonstration, more speculation, and more trepidation than any presidential election in our lifetime.

Today’s assigned reading in the NIV one-year Bible is Ezekiel 3:16 – 6:14. What I have read, and how I have responded to that reading in my companion journal in the habit I have kept since Lent of this year, every morning, could be described – on the face of it – as a mini sermon on God’s wrath. Adieu, therefore, to those who are closing out of this article right now. 😉

God told Ezekiel to be a watchman – to see ahead and to warn, else he would be held responsible for what happened, that those warned could have avoided if they had heeded. “Don’t fail to carry out my instructions here, else others’ downfall will be counted against you.” (Ezekiel 3:17-19)

If a righteous person turns and does evil, any good that he or she did prior to that will not be remembered. Ezekiel 3:20 😦 That surely is one of the saddest statements in all of the Bible. We all can think of prominent, public examples. “What do you remember about so-and-so?” “His downfall.” “Her public disgrace.”

However, look at the “70×7 times” rule of forgiveness Jesus taught; look at King David’s enduring status as “a man after God’s own heart”; look at the parable of the prodigal son as a period of waywardness, anguishingly repudiated by the son, was put in the past by the forgiving father. So, we must weigh that statement in Ezekiel 3:20 against the entirety of the Bible’s message.

What God told Ezekiel, about a prior record of good being forgotten, was specific to the warnings being issued at that time: “If you leave me [God] and choose a sinful path and do not forsake that sinful path in time, your prior good record will not be taken into account when I judge you.” (This happened in Old Testament times, remember. Pre-Messiah. Pre-cross. Pre-resurrection. Pre “by grace you are saved, through faith [in Jesus], not having anything to do with your record of good or bad deeds.” See Ephesians 2:8-9)

Ezekiel was instructed to endure dire physical duress for a time, symbolically, as a message to the wicked, unrepentant people to whom God was having him speak. Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel often were required to do shockingly unusual things just to get people’s attention. That reminds me a bit of present day. Around us we see very unusual hair colors and modes of dress; body art; outlandish motor vehicles (often with offensively loud sounds). Efforts to stand out, in some cases. Efforts to express some feelings or passions that maybe the person so dressing or sounding off hasn’t even fully defined or understood. But, back to the Old Testament:

In such a setting (which, in Israel’s day, may have been characterized by strange, pagan dress and customs of the false gods and cultures surrounding them), it indeed would be difficult to show up in public and to somehow stand apart as being THE person with THE message from THE God! But that’s what those rare individuals selected to be God’s prophets were given to do. Dare we not admire their obedience? Read on, then answer that question!

Chapter 4 begins with the prophet’s obtaining a clay tablet and drawing a representation of Jerusalem on it. The tablet was subsequently besieged and battered by Ezekiel based on God’s specific instructions, as “a sign to the house of Israel.” (4:3)

The signs Ezekiel was to do after the clay tablet are appalling; physically “impossible” unless the Spirit enabled him not to go mad and not to atrophy, get bedsores, etc. (We talk about how sobering it is to fall under God’s wrath…but this Old Testament book, along with others, including Jeremiah, as well as the life of Paul the apostle given in the New Testament, remind us that it is also a very sobering thing to be singled out by God as His spokesperson!)

Ezekiel actually bargained with God on one point, and God said, “Very well; I hear you on that. So, here’s a workaround you should be okay with.” 😮 As for me, I should rather have tried to bargain my way out of 4:4-5 rather than 4:9-13!!! (Even though what bothered Ezekiel was pretty awful, too! Hint: “poop” emoticon)

It gets worse.
Chapter 4 ends with a dire foretelling of food and water scarcity. 😦

Chapter 5 reports additional strange actions as signs: weighing shaven head and facial hair on scales, then doing various symbolic things with equal thirds of it. 🤔✂️ ⚖️ #weird

Verse 5:7 is a strong indictment, indeed, against Israel! “You have behaved worse than the godless nations around you!”

The consequences of the disobedience were HORRIBLE (5:9-12). The nation handpicked by God for astonishing favor and prosperity would be a ruin and a reproach. Famine. Wild beasts. Sword. Desperation cannibalism… 😦😩

Then, the outpouring of God‘s wrath would be complete. “My anger will cease.” Ezekiel 5:13

Shifting from Old Testament to New for a moment
Chapter 6 lets up considerably on the grotesque detail of the coming calamity, but that detail in prior chapters gave me thoughts of Jesus’ anguish on the cross as He bore God’s wrath for all human sins past, present, and future. (The book of Hebrews, which I am reading concurrently with Ezekiel, gives us a clear understanding of Jesus’ role as the final and successful “high priest” – which lets us “zoom out” from the account of God’s wrath for sin that we are reading in Ezekiel. I point that out for any who may ask, “Why did Jesus bear God’s wrath later, when God had poured out such awful wrath already?”) When we focus on the crucifixion typically, we mostly talk about the horrible pain of the physical torture of that inhumanly cruel method of execution. However, in the statement of Jesus recorded in Scripture, about being forsaken by God (Matthew 27:46), there is clue that even greater suffering was happening to our Savior inwardly during those awful hours on the cross.

If you read the chapters of Ezekiel that I have read today (3,4,5) and if you have followed Israel’s pattern of unfaithfulness to God all through Exodus to Judges to Chronicles and Kings and beyond, you cannot miss HOW SIN OFFENDS loving, holy God! The outpouring of God’s wrath as judgment on sin is not to be taken lightly. And for Jesus to have endured a measure of that wrath sufficient to
▪️avenge God (see Ezekiel 5:13)
▪️conquer evil and the POWERFUL evil one
is absolutely incomprehensible to us. But He did it.

Praise the name of Jesus!


“Hallelujah! What a Savior!”


“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:12

But why such wrath against Israel? Why?? Do not miss the repeated PURPOSE STATEMENT in all of this. It’s found in Ezekiel 5:13 and 6:14.

“Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

This was the starting point of God’s revelation to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 and to Moses in Exodus 3:1-6: Who I Am.The nation of Israel once knew deeply and appreciatively and vividly who God is. But, by the time of Ezekiel, they had forgotten God over and over again.

When God has had enough and He declares, “Enough”… watch out.

Shall we take anything away from this but an ancient history lesson?
As to whether any of this post applies to any nation other than historic Israel, well…I leave it to the reader to ponder.

The companion readings for today in the same NIV one-year Bible are Hebrews 4:1-16, Psalm 104:24-35, and Proverbs 26:27. If you want a glimpse into the greater process that has been feeding my soul day by day (and prompting some four full journals and counting, since spring of this year) , read those passages on the heels of Ezekiel 3,4,5.

P.S., I am not asking anyone reading this article to adopt my opinions. By far, that is not the intent here as I share something from a Bible reading and offer a look at what thoughts that reading has given to me. In publishing this article, implicitly I merely request the same grace anybody wishes for themselves when they post passionately about hot topics and then feel they must respond to unfriendly comments they hadn’t counted on! I do suggest to others that reading the Bible very often, with reverence and with a humble, seeking heart, is an extremely wise and valuable practice. God’s word provides the answers we need. “The word of God is living and active.” Hebrews 4:12

“Fast for me” and other lessons from the book of Esther

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Most of us know the story of Esther, right? She was the favorite of King Xerxes in the province of Susa, and her cousin Mordecai influenced her to use her position as Queen – to risk her life – by begging for the Jews’ safety from a despicable plot perpetrated by Haman. Esther shrewdly set the stage for her request over the course of more than one day, and the scheme of evil Haman was thwarted! Haman was executed in the same manner he had planned for Moredecai. Good won over evil, and everybody was happy. End of story.

Well, no. Not quite.

In fact, I was even confusing the number of chapters in the book of Esther, at that point in my daily Bible reading, with there being just four chapters in the book of Ruth. To my surprise, I discovered I had several more chapters than four to read in Esther. “What more is there to this story?” I was wondering. As I try to communicate the high points of my meditations on the book of Esther, I hope you will discover, as I did, that there is very important material for us to notice even after Esther saved the Jewish nation from the genocide Haman had managed (dishonestly) to get the king to decree.

1. Such a time as this

First, Mordecai told Esther that if she did not do the courageous thing he was instructing her to do, relief and deliverance would come to the Jewish people from another place (through a vessel other than her), but she and her family would perish as the result of Haman’s plot (Esther 4:1). A warning worded thus seems to me either a prediction or an effort to move Esther to obedience. Possibly, both. Mordecai’s plea concludes with the oft-quoted verse 4:14, “Who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

2. “Okay, it’s time for this week’s fasting requests.”

Second, Esther agreed to her cousin’s request and said immediately, “Gather the people and fast for me.” (Esther 4:16) Go look at verses 15 through 17. There is actually no mention at all of praying in that passage – just of fasting!

This act of intercessory fasting would be a true, sincere, and sacrificial joining in an appeal to God for His intervention – much more serious than a five-second sentence uttered: “Lord, please give Esther success, for all our sakes.” (“Check that one off; what’s the next request?”) If we are learning from the book of Esther, we ought to be paying attention to the words “Fast for me.” The intercessors fast, and the person in need of healing or protection or success or deliverance fasts, too. I fear that we toss around too flippantly the expression “prayer requests” and assurances to others that we are praying, or have prayed. What if the word “prayer” in all of that were replaced with the word “fasting”? Sunday school e-mail subject lines would read, Fasting requests from Sunday, August 23. “I skipped a meal for you last night while on my face before the Lord” would replace “I prayed for you last night” in our text messages. (However, I suspect that such a revolution in our prayer habits would actually result in proclaiming fewer details, not more, to other people.)

Many in our country and around the world are in a heightened state of concern because of pandemic and of social and political unrest – the epitome of the varieties of collective and personal onslaught that bring people to their knees before God, crying for relief and for change – the degree of oppression frequently described in the Psalms. Never will we solve societal problems or have a satisfactory government until people’s hearts change. Leaders are elected from among the populace, after all. This is where my greatest internal outcry happens in regard to current politics: desiring to know that God’s people are earnestly and consistently fasting and praying, devoting themselves to that more than to any other interest – as they also “put feet to their prayers.” Is praying with such a degree of consistent fervor going on much in the Church gathered or dispersed? I don’t know for sure, of course, but I suspect not. At least, not enough. What I do know is that I am very convicted about this absence of frequent prayer fervor in my own life.

The very admission that I have little to no experience to tell me how fasting will strengthen my praying convicts me. Going on record in this blog post about being thus convicted is a help-cry for accountability. One night while this post was in the process of development, I dreamed that I was fasting through the supper hour. I am always really happy about it when I have a “spiritual” dream because it is thoughts that prompt dreams. Furthermore, I acted out my dream the next evening. In the Bible record, dreams frequently prompted action! I definitely wanted to behave accordingly.

3. Pride “goeth” before a fall – and how!

Third, Haman’s boasting (5:11) about having been selected for a private banquet with Xerxes and Esther was very proud…and unforeseeing! He was totally being set up, and he missed that fact entirely. His pride eventually was “rewarded” with shame; his treachery to annihilate the Jews, with his death (6:12; 7:10). What a villain. What a fall.

4. Not all bedtime stories are fairy tales.

Fourth, in the first part of chapter 6, the king was unable to sleep one night, so he called for the “chronicles” of his own reign to be brought in and read to him. How interesting! I’d sure love to call for people to read me back to sleep, although in this case it’s more that King Xerxes was using the awake time to good purpose rather than just trying to fall back asleep. Kind of like my occasional insomnia sewing, knitting, or writing in the wee hours. Anyhow, this is when the king realized (remembered) Mordecai’s service to him in exposing an earlier assassination plot. (Esther 2:21-23)

King Xerxes ordered for someone – Haman, LOL – to honor Mordecai for that good deed which had gone unrewarded. Why “LOL”? Because Haman could not stand Mordecai! Perhaps never in the biblical record do we find a better example of “let the punishment fit the crime.” Haman the villain found himself having to provide elegant clothing for Mordecai and to place him on a horse decked out in royal regalia for a private parade through the city streets showing everyone how much honor the king had bestowed for valuable service rendered. This for the very man Haman most wished dead. What humiliation!

5. “You do realize this is the Jewish nation you’re dealing with, right?”

Fifth, note that the Jews had a reputation for having one powerful God on their side! Haman’s advisers and his wife Jeresh warned him, “Since Mordecai is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him – you will surely come to ruin!” (7:13) Perhaps, if Haman had then confessed and renounced his plot against the Jews and had begged for mercy, might he have been spared?

6. Justice mollifies fury.

Sixth, after Haman was not spared, the king’s fury subsided. Justifiable fury about a wrong committed stands a better chance of subsiding after justice is done. Let us not overlook that that is why Jesus suffered such an unthinkably cruel death on a Roman cross – to satisfy our holy God’s justifiable fury over the wicked deeds of the race of humanity. As a result of Christ’s unfathomable (to us) sacrifice – his “unspeakable gift,” as Paul eloquently described it in 2 Corinthians 9:15 – we under grace have the privilege of knowing that God’s fury against us individually need not come upon us, after all! Even though we deserve that fury.

7. That’s not all, folks!

The book of Esther continues. We learn that it wasn’t enough relief or vindication just to dispose of Haman and to reverse his already-gone-out edict that the Jews be killed. Haman’s sons were executed. (In those days, it sometimes did not pay to be related to a thief, murderer, or treacheror!) Additionally, orders were given allowing Jews to assemble and to fight to protect themselves. So, they aggressively killed significant numbers of people known to be their enemies, in Susa and in outlying areas.

Furthermore, they were given the royal go-ahead to plunder the belongings of those they killed, but in two places it is noted that they “did not lay their hands on the plunder.”

How to do Purim and non-Jewish holidays. The resulting annual feast/celebration on days 14 and 15 of the month of Adar (now known as Purim) is described in Esther 9:22 as “days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” This seems a very wise and God-honoring way to observe holidays! Turkey dinners given through Jimmie Hale Mission or other food ministries. Toys for Tots. It would be good for families of faith to circle the wagons on this verse, Esther 9:22, examining our traditions to be sure we are living biblically.

Esther casts new light on “old wineskins.” In chapter 8, verse 17, we are told that “many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” Many who saw the select, privileged, God-is-with-them nature of the Jewish nation hopped onto that bus! And why not? This does also paint a pretty clear picture to me why Jesus had such a monumental task, arriving on the scene, when He did, as a spiritual Messiah, not a military/political deliverer. The “old wineskins” He spoke about in Matthew 9:14-17 were old and established, indeed! With such a national history as the book of Esther, and all of the Old Testament, describes, how could the people and the Pharisees not be predisposed to expect that their deliver would be a king to reclaim power on earth? But, thanks be to God, Jesus reached many who were able to believe. Their eyes, minds, and hearts were opened to the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Definition of “good leader.” The very last sentence of Esther chapter 10 should not be overlooked. It says the upgrade of Mordecai’s rank (promiment in the palace; honored; renowned; powerful) happened “because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.” And that brings us back to the political discussions of our day: Work for the good of the people, and speak up. We need people and leaders working for good and speaking up – with honorable motivations, honest dealings, humility, and integrity. We need leaders whose words of true wisdom reach us as showers, that we would drink them in as the spring rain!* Then, we could begin to see our nation get somewhere better.

*See Job 29:21-24

 

 

 

The biggest oxymoron in the entire Bible

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As I continue daily in the NIV One-Year Bible, the early days of June have launched the first book of Kings with an account of the transition from David’s reign to Solomon’s. New Testament readings are in the first chapters of the book of Acts.

Acts is one of my favorite Bible books. Why so?

  • Miracles
  • Peter and John preaching about Jesus in the faces of Annas and Caiaphas, the very officials who wanted Jesus crucified
  • Those officials asking “By what power or what name did you do this [healing]?” (I wrote in the margin of the Bible, “Easy answer: the name of Jesus!”)
  • The dramatic, initial dispensation of the Holy Spirit
  • The growth of the Church
  • The transformation of anti-Christian Saul of Tarsus into Paul, the preeminent early Church evangelist

So much to love in Acts! In fact, Buryl Red’s 1979 musical drama “Acts”, though it may rarely see production within church music programs ever again, is one of my absolute favorites. I recently viewed a church’s production on YouTube; I’m really disappointed not to find it now. However, here is a link to one song from that cantata. Another, just so “seventies” and so catchy, and so encouraging, goes: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking in the sky? Why, oh why, oh why…? This same Jesus, who was taken from you, will return some day, in just the same way!” 🎵

What’s going on in 1 Kings?

“Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” Back up one verse to 1 Kings 3:2– all of the people were “sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord.” Everybody was doing this. Some may not even have known it was wrong in God’s sight. King Solomon participated in this activity, and the Bible makes it clear that he should not have done so.

Obeyed…except
In my Bible’s margin:
“Obeyed…except!!! Always a sin; always falling short, we do… until the day of the Lord!”

In my accompanying journal:
“Obeyed…except” is a HUGE oxymoron! “If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all,” we say about following Jesus. Partial obedience is not obedience, and we frequently make that observation about children and parents.

However, let’s not pretend that Solomon was alone in this. God reminds us in His Word repeatedly that we are incapable of being completely righteous 100% of our days. If we were thus capable, Jesus need not have died to provide substitutionary atonement.

Rabbit chase
Mary comes to mind as one major Bible personality about whom nothing amiss was ever reported. 
It is plain from the Bible that Mary would be exalted as a paragon of obedience. However, even though no particular sin of hers has been reported in our scriptural record (jump in here and correct me if I’m wrong), we know from other statements inspired by God that even Mary, like the rest of us, was incapable of perfection. (Psalm 53:1; Romans 3:23)

And there is John the apostle. Almost nothing negative about John stated in scripture comes to my mind – unless he is the same John (son of Zebedee) who came to Jesus along with his brother James, asking naively and boldly to sit at the Son’s right hand in the kingdom. Biblical Johns and Jameses can get confusing – John the baptizer/John the apostle; James: epistler/apostle/brother of Jesus. If John the beloved disciple is the “son of thunder” aforementioned, then he seems to have been radically changed because of his association with Jesus. …ahem, stating the obvious result of association with Jesus! :0-)

Enoch walked with God. Even so, not Enoch nor anybody else has been perfectly sinless, except Jesus. See Hebrews 4:15.

A few examples of “obedience, except”
Peter: He followed, learned, believed, healed, preached; he also denied, became violent, and feared.
Abraham: He went, obeyed, was named in — nay, led off in — the great roll call of faith in Hebrews chapter 11; Abraham also lied.
David: He loved God, sang, followed, served, persevered while pursued, led Israel for 40 years; he also took a census he wasn’t supposed to take, sinned while idle and feeling entitled, and killed as an attempted cover-up.
And back to Solomon: After succeeding to the throne of Israel, he started out well, walking in his father David’s legacy. EXCEPT for that “high places” business.

There is ALWAYS an “except,” isn’t there? Always a sin, always a falling short. And that is how human lives will be lived – until “the great and glorious day of the Lord”!!! (Acts 2:20, Peter quoting the prophet Joel)

Redeemed sinners can take heart that their failings do not erase what the sinless Son of God has done. What He has established (the place in heaven Jesus has gone to prepare – John 14:2), the enemy cannot undo. “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

Out of holy love and duty, then, let us pray for the understanding to recognize our “excepts” and to repent of them as we obey our Lord more completely. “Search me, O God, and know my heart…know my thoughts. See if there be some wicked way in me; cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.” – James E. Orr

The Psalms chime in

Very often in the One-Year Bible’s being “divvied up” 365 ways, the content assigned for the same day’s reading in Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs aligns uncannily! On June 7 when I read in 1 Kings that Solomon obeyed “except,” Psalm 125:4 implored God to “do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.” This is exactly on the same topic! Yes, there are those deeply devoted to God in heart and in action. I named several of them above, including King David and the apostle Peter. But, as we have shown, even those rare individuals are incapable of sinlessness. No one is completely good or perfectly upright in heart. And that’s not a loophole for us to use as an excuse for meager effort. On the contrary! Or, as Paul would have written, “God forbid!”

Scripture teaches from start to finish that we can be moving toward perfection and ought to be diligently praying and training ourselves to do so, admitting it when we fail, seeking forgiveness, accepting grace, and getting up another day – in God’s strength – to battle the enemy and gain higher ground.

The veil not yet rent

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“Rent” may sound like real estate terminology, but that’s not the direction I’m going. For this post, we’re interested in the word as the past tense of “rend,” meaning “tear into two or more pieces.

In Matthew 27:51 we are told that the curtain restricting access to the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple “was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” when Jesus died on the cross. What powerful symbolism God provided to bolster people’s chances of understanding what Jesus, our great high priest, did by giving His life, by being the Lamb of God. This rending of the spiritual barrier required a perfect sacrifice, and Jesus was the only one qualified. Therefore, He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Having come to Christ for forgiveness and salvation, a believer has stepped across the threshold formerly barred by what must have been – at least, in my imagination, whether historically factual or not – a curtain of heavy, heavy velvet or canvas, maybe dark maroon or black. I imagine it being as thick as possible, impossible to have been folded up at its edges for machine hemming (much worse than 9 layers of blue jeans denim in a double hem at the side seams, practically guaranteed to break your machine’s needle!!). The point is that the veil or curtain was, in its spiritual meaning, impassable and impenetrable. Possibly we should almost imagine, too, that it was soundproof: God might not hear the penitent’s confessions nor the supplicant’s help-cries through that barrier.

Now: picture a softly-billowing, bright white curtain like the one pictured above. It is not secured at every corner nor all along top, bottom, and sides with harshly-forbidding metal hardware. Rather, it is mounted merely at intervals, so that light may seep through at the gaps. This veil of insubstantial fabric is softer than the finest bedsheets of Egyptian cotton. Furthermore, it is not soundproof. In fact, the One who keeps this curtain in place wants folks to hear what’s happening on the other side of it! He hopes those dwelling outside this veil will walk right up to it and camp there, listening, touching, and watching for shapes that occasionally brush against it from the other side.

The opening of that curtain for admission is an event that we have been promised and that we anticipate, in hope, as we read Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:54-55. That event is going to happen at an appointed time. The instant is as close as just one breath, and heaven-bound sojourners not yet able to cross the filmy barrier between mortality and immortality nevertheless experience much of what’s happening behind the veil. They discern in their spirits the voice of Who reigns in that place; they understand language; they raise their voices to join in the music. They are almost living there; just not quite yet.

I have now explained, the best way I can, how it often feels to me to be camping just outside the realm of heaven and of eternity while the confines of this brief, mortal assignment prevent me from stepping into the full presence of God. I suppose I must credit various New Testament passages (as well as Old Testament) for this sense I have of the merest degree of separation that holds us present in the body and absent from the Lord. See 2 Corinthians 5:8

So…what is behind that barrier?

Every good gift made perfect; every “the best I can manage” made the best possible by anyone; every mystery revealed; every question answered (or made irrelevant); every physical and mental shackle “poofed” away; every sorrow consoled; every tear dried; all inheritance granted that was formerly held in trust.

For the redeemed soul, the person grateful to be part of that unique vine-and-branches relationship with God incarnate, the activity just this side of the veil not yet “rent” is all about a desire to come home; to dwell permanently in a place that is known to be the most homelike though it has never been seen; to stop seeing “through a glass darkly” and to start life as life was meant to be. The veil grows thinner, weaker, and more see-through as intensifies our desire and our literal progress through time toward our appointed moment of seeing Christ face to face. And, when that time arrives for our entry into His presence, the veil simply evaporates away in the twinkling of an eye. Or, perhaps we simply walk right through it, as Jesus entered a locked room to be with the disciples on resurrection Sunday night! See John 20:19

As Heaven calls, the things of earth “grow strangely dim“! God, guide us, from this day until that great day, to be joyfully aware of how the veil not yet rent is dissolving a little bit more every day.

Sojourning and Journaling, part 3: The prayables

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As promised, I have saved for last the best part, the most useful part, of this trilogy. And here it is.

Daily Bible reading has been a “hit or miss” commitment in my Christian sojourn, I admit. That situation did take a positive turn about a month ago when the April 6 article in a Lenten Devotional Guide published by Dawson Family of Faith moved me to action.

Since that day, as I have read each morning (simultaneously listening to voice actor Max McLean read, on the Bible Gateway app), I have noted a lot of “prayable” phrases and statements.

You’re probably familiar with the term “praying the Scriptures.” Many books have been written with that title or with slight variations of it. Using exact phrases we find in the Bible, as we pray, is a powerful process. It doesn’t make the Word more true, but it makes a wider use of our wondrous Book! Praying Scripture truths is a tremendous witness, too. Now, remember: whether we quote Bible verses or not during the prayers we speak silently or aloud, we do not pray in order to appear eloquent or knowledgeable. Keeping that pitfall in mind, I nevertheless want very much to be opening this door and getting inside the room where the Scripture-quoting praying folks are.

Why? Because of the vast treasure of truth, assurance, and witness in God’s Word that we have the freedom and the opportunity to voice, to call to our own remembrance, and to share with any – especially within our own households – who may hear and be blessed and encouraged and educated.

Below, I have listed just a sampling of these “prayables” – items I find notable within a mere month’s mornings of assigned readings in Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Luke, John, Psalms, and Proverbs. Imagine what remains to be gleaned from Romans alone! I want to be found praying words like these. And there are eleven more months’ worth where these came from. Join me. Give some of these a shot.

..Not one sparrow is forgotten by you, Lord; you know the very number of the hairs on our heads! Luke 12:6–7

..We will not be afraid or terrified, for you, Lord, go with us; you will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to remember this and not to be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:6

..Lord, may we listen to you and learn! Deuteronomy 31:12

..God, let your teaching fall like rain, let your words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2

..Lord, you are our Rock. Your works are perfect, and all your ways are just. You are faithful and upright. Deuteronomy 32:3–4

..Holy Spirit, teach us what to say. Luke 12:12

..Lord, you have told us that we cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying. Help us not to worry and not to be afraid, but rather to trust you. Luke 12:25, 32

..Dawn on us, Lord; shine on us. Be our help. Bless all of our skills. Bless our land with dew and with water. Give us strength to equal our days. Deuteronomy 33:2-13, 25

..Thank you, God, for the opportunity to work and then to rest. Based on Joshua chapters 10-11

..Lord, you have given us all that we have, including the ability to produce and to earn. All that we have belongs to you. Based on Joshua 12:6–7

..Lord, we see in your Word that if we have regard for you, then we have the basis of understanding how we are to regard our fellow humans. Based on Psalm 86:14 and also on Exodus 20

..Bring joy to your servants, O Lord. Psalm 86:4

..A treasure trove of prayables from Psalms 90 and 91:

  • Make us glad
  • May your favor rest on us
  • Make us to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and in the shadow of the Almighty
  • You are our refuge and our fortress
  • We trust in you
  • Cover us with your feathers; under your wings we will find refuge
  • We will tread upon the lion and the cobra
  • We will call on you and you will answer us
  • Be with us in trouble
  • Deliver us and honor us and satisfy us with long life

..Lord, we look forward to the day when we will eat and drink with you in your kingdom, at your table. Luke 22:30

..From Psalms 92 and 93:

  • Give us understanding
  • Help us to remember that evil will perish
  • Help us to flourish and to grow, that we may honor you
  • Lord, you reign, robed in majesty and armed with strength
  • Lord, your statutes stand firm

..Lord, may our souls march on and be strong! Judges 5:21

..God, we pray that we will not fall into temptation. Luke 22:40

..Make us prudent; may we always give thought to our ways. Proverbs 14:8

..Lord, your Word tells us that evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous. Proverbs 14:19

..Lord, bring us out [of this worry… calamity… grief] with rejoicing. Psalm 105:43

Our starting point

I expect that once you and I really latch onto the value of “praying the Word” in this manner, both our Bible reading and our praying will be renovated and refreshed as we glean powerful truths and speak them – to ourselves, and before our families, colleagues, Life Group brothers and sisters, etc., as we have opportunity – to the end that we internalize more of these expressions of God’s truth and encourage one another with them.

Deciding to be faithful in reading is the starting point. (And don’t forget about available audio Bible resources!) As I read, it helps me to write down what I know will benefit me when I review it later on. What practices help you to retain the Bible passages you are reading?