by Patty Morwood
Several years ago I stumbled upon a reading plan created by a very wise man – Dr. Horner – from The Master’s Seminary in California, where he is associate professor of Renaissance and Reformed Studies. Though he specializes in these eras, I believe his true love is the Word of God.
Dr. Horner has created a solid Bible reading plan that can be completed in one – two years and I promise you will see new and enriched perspectives upon your completion. Trust me - just try it!
It’s a little different from what you have used before. I know; I did it for five years, intrigued every day with the insight I was gaining by using this very different approach.
The best way to describe it is to say that with my own eyes and in my own spirit, I experienced the Bible commenting on itself as I simply read; I wasn’t looking elsewhere for the same topic or doctrine. It was just happening because that is what the Bible does - I guess I didn’t realize it before and it was a delightful discovery!
The Bible echoing itself.
You’ll also notice how the books are grouped. You will be reading wisdom, history, theological, poetic, biographical books all at the same time; and Old Testament at the same time you read the New Testament. Each and every day.
From Dr. Horner:
“I began in 1983 as a new Christian and have now read most of the Bible hundreds and hundreds of times … After just a few days the reading gets much easier; in a month it will be a habit, and in six months you’ll wonder how you ever survived before on such a slim diet of the WORD.”
“I’ve had the same Bible since 1983 and I know it intimately. If you keep switching Bibles, you lose this intimacy with the text. Find a translation you like and stick with it – this is crucial! Your Bible is the only thing on Earth that, as you wear it out, will actually work better and better.”
This reading program will move you through the Bible, a chapter at a time and a book at a time from each of ten categories (below). This is usually a 40 minute-a-day endeavor. As you continue to focus only on what you are reading, you will eventually be able to read ten chapters in one sitting, in a reasonable amount of time.
So get comfortable, relax, give it your attention. Moderate speed that is consistent is the key to not taking too long. Do not read closely or study the footnotes or go for your lexicon/commentaries; the purpose is to observe the overview of redemptive history, and you do that by just reading with an alert mind. If you take longer than 40 minutes after a few weeks, you are probably taking rabbit trails.
Read one chapter from each list in one or two sittings a day (or every other day). At the end of a book, go to the next book on that list. At the end of the list, start it over again. Do it in the order listed below.
For example, the first day you will read Matthew 1, Genesis 1, Romans 1, 1 Thessalonians 1, Job 1, Psalm 1, Proverb 1, Joshua 1, Isaiah 1, Acts 1.
So let’s say you finish Matthew, then you will go on to Mark, but in the mean-time you are still in Genesis in List 2. By the time you finish Romans in List 3, you'll have already read almost all of the letters in List 4. And so on.
Read quickly without speed reading in order to get the overall sense. Read as fast as you comfortably can with moderate retention. I have found reading aloud helps me go through the list in less time.
No dawdling, back reading, chasing cross-references; this program is just what it says: reading. And there are different ways to read: super-quick skim, moderate-paced focused reading, study-reading, and deep meditation-reading; you should be somewhere between the first and second.
If you miss a day or two just pick up where you left off! Use a bookmark to track what you read each sitting; I fold an 8X11 sheet of paper in fourths lengthwise and write down the date and chapters read each day so I can pick up right where I need to.
And now that we’ve covered all the details, I think you’re ready to get reading! Here's the order of the lists:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews
1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2&3 John, Jude, Revelation
Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The goal is simple: Know Scripture, love and obey God more!!
Good luck, friend!
Dr. Grant Horner is Associate Professor, The Master’s College
His focused area of expertise is the Literature, Theology, and Philosophy of the Renaissance and Reformation, with a primary concentration in Milton, Shakespeare, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, and late-sixteenth and seventeenth century poetry and prose.
by Cornel Warren
Christy Wright was panicking. After years of preparation, she was about to take the stage at the first Business Boutique event, hosted in Nashville, as part of a new Dave Ramsey initiative to equip and encourage women entrepreneurs. There were 1200 registered attendees, and her mind was racing with doubt.
“I would have to be on stage for two days teaching all content I had written myself,” she remembers. “Those voices of fear in my head were saying, ‘who are you to do this? You’re not qualified! No one is going to show up.’” As is true of the enemy’s attacks, the accusations didn’t even make sense: “No one’s going to come, yet they are somehow all going to leave disappointed… I’m not even sure how that’s possible,” Christy now laughs. “I felt God saying: ‘Christy, you are freaking out because you think this is your event. But it’s not your event, it’s My event.’ The One who calls you is faithful. He will do it.”
Christy Wright started with the Dave Ramsey organization seven years ago. Almost immediately her talent and passion for public speaking was soon noticed, and she was selected to be a part of what would later become the Ramsey Personality Group, which consists of Rachel Cruze, Chris Hogan, Chris Brown and Anthony O’Neal. “Each of the speakers had a specific, targeted message they focused on. But I was sort of a catch-all. If we had a client call in requesting a speaker on work-life balance, I would write a talk on that, even though I had never spoken on the topic before.
“I spent several years preparing talks on a variety of different topics. I wrote a new talk for a new audience on a new topic every single time that I spoke,” she recalls. During those years, Christy was speaking over forty times per year! “It was this unbelievable training ground as a speaker, thought leader and trainer to learn how to communicate with different audiences, different age groups and different demographics,” she remembers.
As she wrote, her talks continued to involve different elements of work-life balance, and she found the talks to connect deeply with the concerns women faced: “I received a lot of affirmation in the form of women coming up to me and sharing how much my content had impacted them and how they would be able to take steps to improve their own lives and that of their families.”
As the team at the Ramsey Organization worked to put together the Personality Group, Dave Ramsey identified a need in the market: entrepreneurial women were not being served and equipped properly. “It was a total overlap with the work I had done on life balance because many women are involved in home-based business, lifestyle business or other types of flexible working structures to accommodate their other roles,” Christy shared with excitement.
“I felt like God was showing me: I have gifted you as a speaker. So it was really through God prompting me to do something and then receiving confirmation as I walked it out that I was able to find the path He had for me.” Although her work had prepared her well, the next step was to validate Dave Ramsey’s hypothesis. Christy and her team conducted two years of research and established that there was, indeed, a gap in leadership and business development for women.
“The research reaffirmed to me that things that were so obvious to me, as a business coach, about running a business were blowing women’s minds because they had never been taught those things,” she explains. Not only is her education and experience in business, but Christy was raised by entrepreneurs. “It was really my mom who started a cake shop when I was six months old to raise me and support me as a single mother, that inspired my love for business.
“Now I’m on a crusade to help women start businesses. There’s already a movement happening with the Etsy generation and Pinterest, and the 30 million ‘solopreneurs’. I just want to help women make money doing what they love, and that’s why I created Business Boutique. We started just over a year ago, and have since hosted four events and launched a podcast. We also have a book coming out in April.
“We have definitely hit a pain point in the market because there is a need for help in this area. Many women who are starting businesses are not knowledgeable in business, and they think that disqualifies them from having a business. But that simply isn’t true. I help women with the business side of things so they can spend more time doing what they love and less time on the things they don’t.”
The Business Boutique conference, now in its second year, has reached women where they are, offering guidance in five key areas, while allowing women to dive deeper into key topics of their own choosing through a series of breakout sessions. “I understand what it’s like to be a mom and run a business, wearing so many different hats so I try to be very encouraging, coming alongside them to inspire them but also give them the practical skills they need to run their businesses well.
“I am still relatable to them because I’m not this Sheryl Sandberg, cover of Forbes, high-power CEO. I’m a mom and I work and yet I have this depth of business knowledge,” Christy humbly explains. Her renown as a business thought leader is growing at a rapid, much deserved rate. In addition to speaking on life balance and time management, Christy and the other main stage speakers cover creating a proper business plan, marketing and selling, pricing and profit (and other financial topics) and high-level legal issues that surround entrepreneurship. Christy also coaches women on taking the entrepreneurial leap.
“I understand the vulnerability of putting yourself out there and starting a business. I’m a woman and a mom, and I have run several businesses of my own in the past. So I get it. I can relate to women’s unique struggles that they bring to the business world.” Although Christy has the coaching and mentoring of Dave Ramsey and other tremendously gifted leaders, she has found the strength for her journey in Christ: “There are several verses that I use over and over again. I always go back to 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ‘Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.’”
The other one is “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” A lot of times women take a view of their talent that it is just ornamental, something they can pursue if they get around to it saying ‘if I have time to paint, or sew that’s fine. But if not it’s just a luxury anyway.’ But God created you with those gifts and when you neglect them you are missing out on a part of who God created you to be. But not only are you missing out, but others around you are missing out on the blessing of that gift.
When you let your light shine, people see God. When you are walking in your strengths, people see God through that. Your work is a ministry. You don’t have to work in a church to work in a ministry. Your calling from God is your ministry and it points people to God. “It has been cool to see how God has woven together the pieces of my story that I never knew were connected for a moment such as this,” she shares. “I have seen firsthand the life change that happens, so I am really excited about how proven the events are now. I am so confident that the women who show up are going to have their lives changed. Not just their businesses, but their lives.”
by Patty Morwood
A few weeks ago I sat in the foyer at church, listening to children recite Scriptures. Some spit them out in seconds, others were uncertain and shy. All had lived with their assigned verses for weeks and their mamas stood by, so supporting and encouraging as their young voices spoke the greatest Truth that has ever captivated the human mind.
Jim Berg wrote in Changed into His Image that the Bible’s “imagery of planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and harvesting was not chosen … because of the nature of the people [or their agrarian culture] but because of the nature of the truth …”
Even if we aren’t farmers in the real sense – though we may preside over a collection of container veggies – we grow and disciple others spiritually in ways similar to the nurturing of our summer tomatoes.
But first we must become a follower of His Word ourselves.
We must pour over His explanations of Himself, memorize His sentences, cultivate a desire to obey Him. The Bible’s perspicuity guarantees that we will slowly and remarkably understand the revealed mind of God as we walk His path through life, tucking the Word in our hearts and minds.
That’s why we have this rich Book in our hands, why thousands have died to have this Book in their language, why we teach our little ones to hide its truths in their hearts.
Even a child can understand its sentences … with a bit of mommy-help.
One of my sons memorized an incredible collection of Scriptures from a Bible Memory Association booklet when he was three years old. He stood there with darling little fat cheeks and deep brown eyes reciting sentences he could actually understand.
“A- all we like sheep have gone astray.” I just had to explain a tiny bit and define one word, but it wasn’t hard to find a practical application. Teasing and baiting his twin brothers mercilessly deserved consequences.
“B- but He was wounded for our transgressions.” Jesus died for this sin, son; why are you doing it?
“C- children, obey your parents in the Lord.”
“D- draw near to God and He will draw near to you,”
“E- even a child is known by his doings.”
There was a scripture for every letter of the alphabet in that little booklet. And each was chosen because three year olds could understand them; and mommies could teach and pray them.
When my brown eyed toddler grew up and had his own two year old, he asked if I still had his little memorization book … the ABCs of Truth for Children.
Yes, I’d been waiting.
For I knew that one day there would be another toddler, one that would live in his house.
And yes, she has deep brown eyes and fat little cheeks too.
by Patty Morwood
The New Year is an opportune time to revamp spiritual habits, notably the presence or absence of meditation. I usually begin my devotions with a Psalm and then several chapters in whatever portion of Scripture I’m reading at the time. But meditation hasn’t been part of my program.
Things changed this last year. So, I want to ask you: have you read Timothy Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God? I’m in a small group which has been together for several years; we usually read Puritan sermons, but this last year we decided to be modern, so we chose this book.
It’s the richest blessing we have experienced in quite some time. So I’ve chosen one part of Keller’s book to challenge you in this new time of a new year.
Meditation is actually listening to God’s “voice” in Scripture and thinking slow and hard on what’s there. You will ask basic questions of a passage, of God and finally of yourself … in this order.
I was surprised to learn that meditation is hard work, demanding the use of my mind more intensely than I previously thought. Really hard work. I wish deep thinking would burn calories!
To begin right, you need a good rich translation of the Bible – the ESV or the NKJV or the ASV – and a prayer journal to write in … for believe me, you will need to write as you meditate.
First, there are two basic over-all questions to ask of any passage in the Word:
1) What does the original author intend to communicate, and 2) what role does it play in the whole Bible, in other words how does it “move along the main narrative arc of the Bible which climaxes in salvation” through Jesus Christ?
Obviously the answers you find with these two questions lay the ground upon which to build the rest of your understanding. Just these two questions keep you from going off-text into error and being too enamored with your own subjective feelings.
Second, Keller moves his reader to a few teaching points from Martin Luther. With these you analyze the passage for things to praise, to repent of, and to petition (ask).
Therefore to praise, ask: what does this passage show me about the character of God so I can praise the lover of my soul?
To repent, ask: what does this passage show me about myself so I can repent?
To petition, ask: what does this show me to petition Him for?
Can you tell that by now you are in the meditation-world? You’re reasoning from Scripture, one question at a time. You are having to think it out; I hope you are doing this ‘corem deo’, before the face of God. Because oh boy, is this beautiful!
Third, after exhausting your efforts with the two basics and then with Luther’s questions, you can really exhaust yourself with questions that help you evaluate yourself.
Unfortunately, most of us tend to do self-evaluation first, before we really know the passage’s thrust and how it connects with the rest of the Bible. Red light! Error likely happens when you begin your quiet time in this manner, focusing on yourself. Only analyze yourself spiritually after you have done the hard work listed in the paragraphs above.
To evaluate yourself in prayer and meditation, use such questions as these:
What wrong thoughts and habits-of-mind develop when I forget this passage?
If I don’t embrace this passage, what sinful feelings will spring alive in my mind and heart?
What should I quit doing in my daily life? What should/must I begin to do in my daily life?
Am I living inside this truth at all? Do I take the need to change seriously?
And very importantly, consider the timing of evaluating yourself … ask: why is God showing me this right now?
It’s important to use this experience in every waking moment after you have put down your Bible and gone forward with your day. Savor what you learn in meditation; preach the truth to yourself continually. Use what you learn in meditation to encourage other believers.
And in time, you will begin to see yourself being molded to the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is godly, powerful, real, and beautiful.
by Nancy Admiraal
Jeff and I got married on one of the hottest days in Chicago history. We were in the midst of a five-day heat wave that killed 750 people in the city limits. The service was beautiful and my Dad’s message made everyone cry, but during the photos, my maid of honor kept running the bouquets to the refrigerator to keep them from wilting and the kitchen crew ran out of punch at the reception even before Jeff and I arrived. We finally escaped that night in a violent thunderstorm.
After the honeymoon, Jeff and I moved to a 710 square foot apartment on the edge of Washington, D.C., which was barely the right size for two people, but got really tight when we hosted overnight guests 43 nights that year. After about two days of marriage, Jeff told me I made the apartment look like a hotel, which was a compliment, and I’ll never forget it. Calculating the cost of every meal seemed romantic and noble, and we saved coupons for Pizza Uno so we could go out once every two months. How we looked forward to those dates! Those are the happy memories.
The bad memories go like this: I didn’t like the way he played games, especially Scrabble, because he didn’t let me look for words in the dictionary on my turn. I didn’t like the way I had to go to work early and he came home from the library late. I didn’t, and still don’t, like the way he eats bananas. I didn’t like the way he nagged me on Sunday morning to get ready faster so we could get to church on time.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was the fact that he wouldn’t let us get a TV. He insisted that since he never had a TV growing up, that the radio was perfectly enchanting entertainment, especially TALK radio. I was so lonely in the evenings because Jeff was at the library that I listened to the Bruce Williams radio show every night for nine months until one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got home from work and I drove our car to Best Buy and I bought myself a little TV. I never asked permission and I don’t recommend this approach because I probably broke every single Biblical marriage commandment, but it worked in the sense that he let me keep the TV.
There have been so many other disagreements, many of them much more serious, but we laugh about most of them now, and I think the way that Jeff learned to love me in spite of myself and the way I learned to love him in spite of the way he eats bananas, is a perfect picture of God’s love and forgiveness for us. I say, “learned to love” on purpose, because even though I loved Jeff when I made my wedding vows, I didn’t love him like I do now. If I think about it, it’s really no different than the way I’ve learned to love and serve the Lord. When I was a few weeks old, I was baptized, and when I was 12, I made my profession of faith, but I didn’t love God then the way that I do now. It took years of practice on my part and loads of forgiveness on God’s part.
How do we practice love? Ideally, we are always looking for ways to do good to our husbands. Does he love a cup of tea before bed? Offer to prepare it before he gets to the kitchen to do it himself. Honestly, my husband is much better at serving me than I am at serving him. He’s a “doer” and I’m more of a “talker,” so I try to encourage him in other ways. Of course it’s always impressive to him when I do things that are a priority for him, like remembering to enter the numbers in our budget spreadsheet.
Loving marriages are filled with laughter too. We were blessed to grow up in homes where we spent time at the dinner table at night sharing funny stories about our day and we still try to do that with the kids. When we are tired and overwhelmed and nothing in our life seems particularly humorous, though, we cue up a favorite comedy on the DVR or read out loud to each other from a funny book. One time when I was in the hospital for a couple of days, Jeff opened a favorite Dave Barry book and we read out loud to each other until we laughed so hard that we cried. My point is that you need to manufacture laughter sometimes!
Focusing on each other’s needs, having fun, and spending time together are not ends in themselves. When our marriages are healthy, we emanate Christ’s joy and peace to other people. A friend of mine once told me that one of the goals of good parenting is to parent in such a way that your children are always a blessing to other people and not a curse. She meant that when she sent her children to school and friends’ houses, she didn’t want to think any teacher or parent dreaded interaction with her child. Perhaps the same idea can be applied to married people. I’m sure you can think of couples that you love to spend time with because they are always encouraging, forgiving, and helpful even when life is going so badly for them you can’t imagine a day in their shoes. These are marriages that are used by God to restore this fallen world and bring it closer to eternity.
Honestly, I’m glad that Jeff and I are done with our first year of marriage. I had a hard time learning to serve and compromise and he’s said more than once that I’m not exactly the girl he had in mind when we sat next to each other in English class, but God gives grace. I’m increasingly sure with every passing year that he’s brought us together to bring life to our children and, Lord willing, to serve the community where we live.
- About Nancy -
Nancy Admiraal is one of my most beloved friends. She always stimulates my mind and encourages my heart. I hear her responses during Sunday School, her conversations in the church hallways, her ideas and insights over my lunch table. I think of her most during the days leading up to one of our Literary Club discussions [more on Literary Clubs in February 2017]. I want to know what she thinks because she always has an angle.
Sometimes she has a genuine dislike of a book or author or storyline, other times she is an enthusiastic as I am. All the time her insight teaches me another thing or two, which is saying something since I’m a former literature teacher in a classical school.
In fact, during my teaching years Nancy was in my life primarily because of literary discussions, our lives didn’t intersect much in those days. But she still enriched my perspective on lots of things having to do with conflict, theme, resolution, setting, writing style, and characterization.
Nancy is happily married (as you will see in the essay below) to Jeff and has been for twenty-one (21) years. Together they have four darlings: a Wheaton freshman who was born in Japan because she and Jeff lived and worked there for a time, a high school Junior who is her spitting image (I was noticing the identical profiles in church just two days ago), and two little dark-eyed dark-haired beauties brought home from China.
In the daytime she is a behavioral health specialist for children in foster care, but all the time a beautiful Christian woman whom I thank God is concerned about kids in need and distress.
I asked Nancy what she wanted her readers to know about her and she responded with this, “I was once in good enough shape to run a marathon”!
by Taylor Abigail
In June, four major Hollywood studios, Lucasfilm, Disney, Warner Brother, and 20th Century Fox, sued VidAngel for supposed illegal activity. VidAngel is a movie content filtering company. Their mission is to provide a service for people to choose how they watch movies at home.
"As content creators, we love movies and TV shows that are compelling and well-crafted. Not only do such movies entertain, they also change behaviors and minds of people — we believe movies help change lives. That’s why we provide movies and TV shows to our customers in a personalized and inexpensive format." - from VidAngel website
(see video of VidAngel's business model below)
The supposed illegal activity centers around the relationship between two laws: 1. The Family Movies Act (2005), 2. the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and VidAngels suspected infringemnet.
(see video about the battle below)
While the legal battle continues, VidAgel has been required to discontinue their services until further notice. A family in Flordia began a petition to save VidAngel and the movie filtering pracitce (see http://savefiltering.nationbuilder.com).
VidAngel is not the only movie filtering service available. Clearplay is a smaller company than VidAngel but also helps families filter inappropriate movie content. Historically, all movie filtering companies and products have been under attack from Hollywood despite Congressional acts legalizing the practice.
While the lawyers talk federal regulations and legalities, the threat to movie filtering raises an important conversation for Christian women. As media becomes increasingly more risque, especially for families, how can believers continue to think on all that is good, noble, lovely, and true (Philippians 4:8)?
This battle is much larger than it may appear: the beautiful and holy has always been at war with the ugly and profane. Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
As women who strive to live with a pure heart and a pure soul, it is important to always let the beautiful penetrate our world and act as a shield against darkness. May we continue to pray that good reigns over evil so that we may live up to our holy calling.
by Taylor Abigail (originally published on tabbybe.wix.com/beginnings)
I'm scared to write these days. The thing I know I'm made for seems too big for me to hold. And it is. It's all so terrifying, not because I'm so small, but, because it's so good. I don't understand why I've been asked by two people to help write a book and why my own book is so easily flowing out. I don't understand grace and I don't understand how deeply God's eyes can see the desires of my heart, "Abba I just want to write." And He gives it to me in overwhelming abundance.
I was at an outreach event where we passed out snacks to students during finals week. One guy responded, "I'm sorry, I'm just not used to unsolicited kindness." Same.
Being completely overwhelmed by love or goodness is something that's available to everyone but something very few actually step into. It's the feeling that if you start to cry you might not stop. It's like confessing what's been inside for years. It's the feeling of finding yourself under a light that you didn't ask for. But you secretly love all of it. And it takes strength to admit it's what your soul craves.
It feels like being free and having no idea what to do with such a gift.
I write in my journal, "God, I have no idea what to pray about right now." He says, "Anything you want!" I couldn't pray for a day because I knew I would receive. And I thought that was too much love for my human heart to handle.
I start to write back and He says, "I trust your heart."
And I'm siting here trying to write about the feeling that comes when the Creator and King of the Universe says He trusts my heart...and my heart is running circles because of joy, hope, love and it doesn't care how heavy it's breathing. Freedom is sweet.
I trust Him more now too. This intimacy is my freedom. The prayer that got me here was, "Show me what it means to be Your daughter" and "God please just hold my heart and make it warm." I felt His pride for me swell and His excitement grow. I have a confession, I don't always want to be on a mission for Jesus and sparring in warfare for The Kingdom. Sometimes, I just want to sit in His lap. And it's beautiful because that is a kind of fighting...and a kind of surrender.
"It seemed her lungs could never be large enough to breathe in this much air, her eyes could never see this much space, nor could she hear the full extent of the rolling, roaring ocean. For the briefest moment, she had no edges." - The Light Between Oceans (slightly edited)
I'm trying to live like I'm trusted which makes me trust more; just like living loved makes me love more. I'm trying to call God my Abba more and soak in what it means to have His trust. I don't think it means I get extra adventures or more miracles done at my word, I think it means I have peace. I trust Him, He trusts me, we're good. I think it means someday I'll hear His heartbeat more loudly. I think it means I'm just trying to be the King's kid and run in the reign He's given me.
I think it means we are a team, a family, a couple. It means humility bursts from my heart because I know me and I'm glad I can trust God instead of me. And I'm glad He makes me new and wants to trust me too.
by Patty Morwood
Do you plan spiritually for your new year; do you give thought to what could be your spiritual focus?
I do, and I begin by searching Scripture for a passage that says to me “spend time here”. Though none of us knows what the New Year brings, we can prepare for the work the Lord Jesus will inevitably do in us by cultivating a submissive heart.
My Scripture choice illustrates where I want to grow in the coming months; they are lines I can meditate on and pray about … and then walk with the Lord learning to become.
Below is a cascading thought-sentence that augments Galatians 5:22 - 23, my spiritual focus for 2017. Every day I will meditate and pray and cooperate with the Holy Spirit… so these character qualities can be grown in me.
Beginning January 1 and every morning following, I will rise early-early, when the sky is still deep and black, and make a cup of tea. My Bible and prayer journal will be where I left them the day before… open and ready.
And I will submit myself to the Lord and prayerfully choose ...
No occasion justifies hatred
No injustice warrants bitterness
I choose love because today I will live for God and love what He loves
I refuse to nurture a critical spirit
I refuse to blame or hurt
I choose joy because today I will remember who I am in Christ
Living every day cognizant that I am a forgiven woman changes everything
Extending that same reconciliation and grace to others honors God’s name
I choose to forgive so I may show what peace actually and truly is
No failure is beyond God’s grace
His patience with me shows me how to serve others
I choose patience, for God has blessed me with His Holy Spirit
Cynicism and unkindness deny God’s desires for me, a woman of His own choosing
Hypocrisy destroys my witness
I will be kind for such is God’s treatment of me, His former bitter foe
I will be overlooked and even denigrated before I will boast
I will confess before I accuse
I choose the Godly strength of goodness
My husband will not question my love
My family never fear I will not listen
I choose faithfulness to this very household God has given me
If I raise my voice may it be only in praise
If I clench my fist may it be only in prayer
If I make a demand may it be only of myself
I choose God’s gentle way to grow Christlikeness in me
I am a spiritual being, thus one day my spirit will soar heavenward
But while on this earth, I refuse to let self-indulgence rule
I choose self-control physically, mentally and spiritually
LOVE, JOY, PEACE
To these Fruits of the Spirit I commit my day
If my life exhibits them, I will give thanks
If not, I will seek His grace
And then, when the day is done, I will thank the Lord for the strength to give the good days and the more difficult days into His hand
Won’t you come along with me?
by Jodean Jones, foreword by Patty Morwood
The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 AD
Jodean Jones is an amazing woman. She always spurs me to be strong, to bow the knee to God’s will, to
ask for prayer. Now she is at a crossroads in life; her two children are grown and attending universities
on the West coast; she and her former husband have sold their stunning showcase farm. And now
Jodean is moving to the big city!
Her giftedness is reflected in seemingly disparate concentrations: culinary excellence, a just-completed
MBA, and her faithful hard-working servanthood to her church family. I am one of the recipients of her
grace. I love her.
Jodean wrote this Christmas article in 2010; it was birthed in hard times. She was still married then but
things were pretty bad. In God’s people, sanctification is always birthed in hard times, and Jodean
learned her lessons well: trust God no matter what, adore Him at all times, lean completely into the Lord
Jesus Christ Himself … and follow wherever He leads.
Reflections on the Savior in a Stable
by Patty Morwood
There must be millions of foodies wandering this earth waiting for a special gift this season. Have you noticed the cookbooks shadowing you through gift stores, book stores, and kitchenware stores? The best cooks in countries spanning the globe publish something new this time of year; thrown in for good measure are even recipes featuring the weird and the rare.
Once I gave my daughter a darling little book, The Flummery of Food: Feasts for Epicures, by Andrea Simon, a noted gastronome. His opening lines are “Gastronomy is the hallmark and the most rewarding achievement of our Western civilization. Sheer self-gratification is all that gluttons and hedonists care for; not so the gastronomes.”
It’s full of intelligent observations about experiencing the table and good food (or not-such-good food), no matter where and under what circumstances; it’s entertaining for any of us who have even a remote interest in food and dining.
The already decent cook, those who aspire to be so, the few who like to laugh at dining escapades, and especially those interested in the culinary history of western civilization would enjoy Flummery. And don’t forget that person who just likes cleverly constructed anecdotes.
What makes this book interesting to me in the very first moments of thumbing through it is the obvious humor oozing from author to reader. One homesick American commented while traveling in foreign countries, “Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs.” Home food is home, even the revered haggis, apparently creepy to almost everyone, would be a Scot’s culinary comfort if he were stranded in the Gobi.
Though Simon uses poems and quotable quotes, I especially like the unique stories excerpted from longer essays. Sir Edmund Hillary wrote that when he and his native guide finally reached the summit of Mt. Everest, they buried in snow a bar of chocolate and a packet of biscuits to appease the gods. Alongside, Hillary also left a crucifix.
Knud Rasmussen, an explorer of artic lands in early 20th century and ‘Father of Eskimology,’ described one of his dinners in the arctic tundra. After it was consumed, a special treat was given to each guest: a head of caribou to eat lingeringly in their own tents … “on condition that none of the leavings should under any circumstances be touched by women or dogs.”
I also like Simon’s use of gifted writers’ works to express their views on a range of gastronomic interests. Mark Twain is quoted from The Innocents Abroad about eating in Marseilles: “We have learned to go through the lingering routine of the table d’hote … we take soup; then wait a few minutes for the fish; a few minutes more and the plates are changed, and the roast beef comes; another change and we take peas; change again and take lentils; change and take roast chicken and salad; then strawberry pie and ice cream; then green figs, pears, oranges, green almonds, etc.; finally coffee. Wine with every course, of course, being in France.”
Well, we’ve all heard of the unending courses served in Europe’s aristocratic courts and this one is probably typical. But hey, its Mark Twain’s repast; and I can imagine his white mustache opening and shutting, bite after bite, for hours … and the gravies dripped on the lapels of his famous white suit. And his fatigue when it was all over.
Seriously, this is something we should be aware of: great writers and their readers tend to like good food experiences and lingering table companionship.
Simon quotes not only Twain, but such people as James Boswell, Herman Melville, Jonathan Swift, and de Maupassant. What they have to say is often funny and enlightening, considering their experiences are so different from mine (and probably yours too).
Food is not only to be labored over, painstakingly served, and slowly enjoyed … but chuckled about too.
Andre Simon was a Frenchman who spent most of his adult life in Great Britain. He was one of the founders of the International Wine and Food Society, established in 1934 in London, also he wrote 104 books on a variety of subjects from wine and champagne to a Russian grammar. Interestingly, when he died in 1970, he left enough Chateau Latour for 400 friends and family to gather and drink to his memory, which they did at the Savoy in 1977.
Hmmm, I think I’d like to gift this little book again, but to whom this year?
Another Christmas, several seasons ago, I gave my daughter another book along this same line, but this one is a compilation of essays by current Christian writers, The Spirit of Food: Thirty-four Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God.
She saw it and wanted it, and I saw it and wanted to give it to her, and then she asked for it. It’s copacetic when mother and daughter actually think along the same lines every once in a while, don’t you agree?
There are some voices here you know – such as Ann Voskamp and Wendell Berry – and others of lesser popular fame you probably don’t know. They write on such things as table blessings, the joy of fasting, subsistence feasting (wow!), the pleasures of eating and the perfect loaf of bread.
Each of the thirty-four authors has written a short essay and provided a recipe to complement it.
So, Brian Volck writes on late October tomatoes and provides his “Spicy Tomato Soup” recipe. Jacqueline Rhodes’ “Soul of Soul Food” features cornbread. LaVonne Neff did a “six-week experiment in living on a food-stamp budget.” And yes, her recipe is a good one for those of us who love rich comfort food on the cheap: “Mac and Cheese for Grown-Ups.”
Let me give you a closer look at one of the articles that intrigued me. Denise Frame Harlan titles her chapter, “And She Took Flour: Cooking Lessons from Supper of the Lamb.”
Harlan grew up watching her grandma, THE pie maker of the region, cut in the butter and roll the crust just-so, to fill it with heaping slices of seasonal fruit. But she didn’t learn to cook from her grandma nor from her own mother nor from a cooking class. She learned by living with people who are hungry. She begins and ends her essay with Hank, a close friend loved by the entire family.
Hank is a man who revels in families gathered around the table just as much as the food itself. And Hank is coming for a long-overdue visit from several states away. Anticipation is high; the kids are excited and her husband is beside himself.
To prepare that first welcoming meal, she doesn’t do as you and I probably would, she doesn’t go to the market to buy fresh ingredients for a cookbook recipe. She pulls out Thanksgiving leftovers.
She slices fruit for a pie (she is now just as good a pie maker as her grandma was!), fills a second crust with veggies and turkey and freshened gravy, then kneads a big lump of dough, always on hand in the refrigerator, for a steaming hot loaf of hearth bread.
Each dish simmers and bakes, releasing aromas impossible to withstand. At last, she piles the sliced fruit, no doubt apples and raisins (given the season), into the pie shell and slides it into the oven. This luscious piping-hot bubbling dish will be her table centerpiece!
As they all stand holding hands for prayer, they take a few moments to look around the table into each other’s eyes. Savoring the love and joy of being together and sharing a bounty given and enjoyed in love.
Harlan closes with two recipes for that beloved American classic they served to Hank: “City Slicker’s First Pot Pie,” for the novice, and a second for the more advanced pie-maker, “Real Pot Pie.”
She sends us on to the next essay with a desire to lavish our loved ones with regular good food and good love, things God has bountifully provided for us to share on this earth, as we practice for the Lord’s celebratory wedding feast, the feast of the Lamb, when we all meet after time has fled away and sin is gone forevermore.
I truly enjoy Spirit of Food as well as Flummery; they are both very different from each other and fun to read for different reasons. Flummery for the literary-historical-cultural perspective and Spirit simply for the heart of it all.
Their message is somewhat similar: Whether one scales a mountain, visits an aristocratic court, or gathers at home … and whether you are on a crimped budget, or serving an army or maybe only two …
Each of us should plan with thought, cook with our hearts, serve with our hearts and always enjoy with all our hearts!
Have a merry steaming-hot communal table-feasting Christmas!
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