Bible Study

Living Crosswise: The Life of King David

As I begin to teach a series on the life of David for the women’s Bible study at my church, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm! All of the big themes the Lord has brought to my attention over the past few years are threaded throughout:

  • navigating the zigzag path of life’s relentless transition
  • honesty with God: a lifestyle of worship
  • transparency and vulnerability in relationships: mentoring
  • learning to be still
  • learning to be brave
  • bringing glory to God through the creative arts.

Although Joseph may run a close second, no one in Scripture had more ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows than David. And because he was a poet and songwriter, we get an intimate view into the heart of the man whose life exemplifies the truth that while change is constant, God is constant too.

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Making Your Mark

This is what life looks like when I am writing a new Bible study. The process is, by turns, exhilarating, frustrating, grueling, and exciting. What I love most is having a reason to pull together ideas from all my favorite books, to go back and read notes I wrote in margins 30 years ago.

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What I Really Want

Even more than the ability to eat dark chocolate almonds and croissants all day without gaining weight, here is something I really want:

  • Favor with God
  • Favor with people
  • A good reputation.

I suspect this is what you really want too, even if your momentary craving is for just a few minutes of air-conditioned peace and quiet, with a carton of coffee Häagen-Dazs and a spoon.

This week I found a verse in the Bible that tells me exactly how to get what I want.

Proverbs 3:3-4(NLT) says:

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

Write them deep within your heart. 

Then you will find favor with both God and people, 

and you will earn a good reputation

Be Loyal. Be Kind. Then everyone, including God, will be pleased with you. That sounds a simple enough recipe for happiness.

But is it really that easy to pull off?

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September: A Second Chance for a Fresh Start

I never get a new planner in January. My life has always revolved around schools, so I start getting excited around the last week in August about selecting my new planner for the year. And I never seem to leave the office supply store without some new pens, new folders, new pads, and new notebooks. Any of you share my stationery addiction?

The start of a new school year, traditionally the day after Labor Day, has always carried the promise of a fresh start. New pencils, new notebooks, new school-clothes. A new schedule, a new teacher, a new backpack.

People whose lives aren’t defined by the academic calendar only have one time a year—New Year’s Day— when they get to turn the page for a fresh start.

Students, teachers — and I want to add life-long learners — get a second chance in September for a nice clean sheet on which to write their hopes and dreams and good intentions.

The Day after Labor Day

This is just one reason I am so excited to launch Living CrossWise : Hope and Help for Navigating Transition on the day after Labor Day! Is there a better time than a new semester to start reading and studying a resource that will help you grow in faith?

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The Letter P

The ribbon in my Bible directed me to the place where I had left off yesterday: 1 Samuel 16:14. Lately, I have been in a bit of a dry place spiritually, with no new Bible teachers on the horizon to bring me exciting news from the front lines. This is evidently a season when I have to renew and embrace with confidence the notion that God can and will speak to me directly, purposefully, and personally. Over the years I have amassed a shelf full of Beth Moore workbooks, and most of the blanks are actually filled in. I have Experienced God, Bible Study Fellowshipped, and spent years marking my second-best Bible with colored pencils and symbols inspired by

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Isaiah 55:12

Isaiah 55:12 Tree
“You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.”
Isaiah 55:12

Walking with the Teacher # 2: He Starts with the Blessings

He Starts with the Blessings

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5: 3-10

To be “Blessed”

To be blessed means more than to be happy, healthy or overflowing with material goods. It indicates a joy that goes beyond mere emotion. Max Lucado, in The Applause of Heaven, calls it “…a delicious gladness that comes from God. A holy joy. A sacred delight.” It is what we all really want at the core of our souls. Any form of earthly pleasure is only a signpost or a substitute for what God really wants to give us. To be blessed by God… it is peace, it is bliss. And it is reward.

Jesus starts out his earthly ministry as a teacher by talking to his listeners about rewards. The notes in the NIV study Bible refer to the Sermon on the Mount as “…in effect, King Jesus’ inaugural address, explaining what he expects of members of his kingdom.” But there is no fanfare, no royal proclamation, no PowerPoint presentation. He simply climbs up a hillside and begins to teach the first group of students God has given him, those who would one day share these lessons and turn the world upside down. He does not start out with a list of regulations and the penalties that will result if they are breached. He does not promise entertainment or fun times ahead for those who follow him. But he does unmistakably appeal to his listeners’ desire and need to be rewarded for right action.

Jesus is the best teacher who ever lived. When we answer God’s call on our lives to be teachers, we are signing up to walk with the Teacher, to sit at his feet and take lessons from him about all aspects of this demanding and rewarding career and ministry. He will show us how to communicate truth in a way that touches the hearts as well as the heads of our pupils. Demonstrating the perfect balance of correction and encouragement,he can inspire us to inspire others. He will teach us how to teach.

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Walking with Faith – # 2 in a series

In the weeks that followed our meeting, Faith and I would greet one another and smile at various church events. A key step in the establishment of our friendship was the day I felt led to call her to pray when I’d heard she was having an especially difficult time in some aspects of her ministry at church. I have learned the importance of never saying “no” or “not now” when the Holy Spirit prompts me to drop what I am doing and pray with someone. The results are always so much greater than the awkwardness the situation might initially entail. It was a few weeks later after a worship service that she approached with a shy smile and said the words that every middle-aged Christian woman secretly longs to hear, or would if she knew what it would eventually mean to her : “I don’t know what it is that you’ve got, but whatever it is I want some! Would you be willing to mentor me?”

Wow. Saying yes to such a request assumes you have the confidence to believe that you have something to say that she will want to hear. I’d have to trust God with that one. I did not enter into this relationship lightly, but prayed about it and felt God directing me to say yes to the time commitment it would require. In addition to being Jeff’s wife, I was at the time a high school teacher and mother of my own two in high school and college, with a one-night a week commitment to direct and lead the high school praise band. Time is not a commodity I would have thought I would have had any kind of surplus of, but God knew what he was about to do and he guided me in the right direction. He gave me the idea to begin by killing two birds with one stone: I would incorporate my need for physical exercise with my desire to say yes to Faith by asking her to walk with me. And so I started walking weekly with Faith.

When Faith and I began to walk the streets near my home, I noticed that male neighbors I hadn’t seen outside with a garden hose in years would suddenly appear on their front yards, grinning from ear to ear, doing everything but a muscle-man flex as they attempted to appear to be casually watering their lawns as this vision of beauty passed by. What did this girl have? What was it like to walk through life like Cinderella at the ball?

Walking with Faith as her invisible sidekick brought some of my unattractive hang-ups up to the surface. The verse from Proverbs, “Beauty is fleeting and charm is deceitful, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised,” was pasted on the mirror in my bathroom for Pete’s sake. Didn’t I believe the Bible? Was I really this shallow? It was at this starting point, this identification of some of my true shallowness that the Lord began to go deep- deep into the wounds of my childhood, the rejection I’d felt, the insecurities that came on in junior high and never really left. Like a fungal yeast infection, the spores remained, sometimes seemingly symptomless, but always waiting for an opportune moment. So God had arranged for me, a middle-aged woman who felt she was losing her figure, her beauty, and although I hate to admit it, my feelings of worth because of it, to spend time regularly parading through the streets with a beauty queen. I must have prayed for God to humble me and he found just the way to do it!

Faith was, and is, unique. She is one of God’s greatest gifts to me, right up there with his gifts to me of my husband and my children. In a way that only God has known, she has been a sign of his mercy, grace, forgiveness, and comfort to me. I sometimes gloss over lists like this of religious words, so perhaps you do too. Let’s slow down and chew on this a bit. When I say mercy, it is because I know that my past is not forgivable, save for his mercy. When I say grace, it is because I know that a gift of this kind of friendship is nothing I deserve, nothing I drummed up or found on my own. When I say forgiveness, it is because he has given me in Faith what I regret daily that I gave away without knowing what I was doing, and when I say comfort, it is because the God who died so that he could forgive us does not leave us comfortless. He sends us people he wants to use to love us for him. Faith has taught me much about a Father who sees me as loved, accepted, forgiven and altogether beautiful. But we did not get there overnight. ( to be continued)

Walking with the Teacher

Perhaps the most joyous words Mary Magadalene ever spoke were those recorded in John 20:16: “Teacher”! Loving Jesus as she did, she had suffered much as she kept watch at the foot of the cross . She was among the final few who remained with him until he gave up his spirit. She witnessed his agonizing death pangs. She heard him cry out: “It is finished.” She watched as they laid him in his grave and sealed the tomb.

In the early morning darkness of the first day of the week, Mary returned to the grave of her beloved friend, mentor, and healer only to find it empty. In her distress, she assumed someone had stolen the body, and she ran to Simon Peter and John, his closest male friends, for help. John, who is telling us this story, reports that he went into the tomb , where “he saw and believed” that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus had been watching at a distance as Peter and John made their astonishing discovery, probably grinning to himself as he watched his friends notice the neatly folded head cloth, and exulting at their discovery of the fact that he had really done what he’d said he would: he’d risen from the dead. John saw the evidence and believed- just like that. Having seen what he needed to see, he tells us he went home. Pragmatic. Some of the sisters among us might think, ” Now isn’t that just like a man?!”

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