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Posts Tagged ‘reading the Bible’

P1040079I shocked someone last week by telling them I am usually reading three or four books at any given time.

‘Doesn’t that spoil the whole experience?’ this person asked. ‘And don’t you get mixed up?’

All I can say is it works for me. You see, it all depends on what I feel like reading. If my brain is alert, I will choose a ‘meatier’ non-fiction book such as the one I have just finished—The Discerning Heart by Wilkie and Noreen Au. I loved the many wise insights it contained about the ways God guides us.

If I am a little less alert, I might want to read something that will still give me food for thought but is slightly less ‘meaty’. At the moment, that book for me is Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P Freeman—one I have picked up and put down many times, probably because, although easy to read, it still packs quite a punch!

Then, when I am too tired for non-fiction, it’s time for a novel. Currently, I’m reading Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown, which deals with the spiritual journeys of four women at a retreat centre. But sometimes a novel like this that contains much food for thought is not what I need. So I turn to something lighter, which at the moment is an Ellis Peters mediaeval ‘whodunnit’ featuring Brother Cadfael!

Yet, at the risk of sound trite and obvious, nothing beats my worn, old Bible for me. Whatever my mood and however tired I am, there is always some treasure waiting there in its pages. Today I read Matthew 9, where Jesus goes to see a ruler’s sick daughter in her home. For me, there was something so uplifting and encouraging about the calm, authoritative way Jesus acted here:

When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd. He said “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. (9:23-25)

Despite the mocking of the grieving, noisy crowd, Jesus went ahead and brought that girl back to life. If Jesus can do that, I found myself thinking, surely he can deal with the relatively small concerns in my life with the same power and love and authority, as I look to him. And surely I too can minister with more of that same power and authority as I rely on God’s Spirit at work in and through me. One little passage of Scripture—yet it contained, for me, both great comfort and strong empowerment.

Yes, I confess I am an incorrigible bookworm. I have enjoyed and learnt much from reading a wide variety of books over the years. And many of their authors, no doubt inspired by the Spirit, have ministered to me deeply. I know too there are many more books out there for me to explore—I keep a ‘wish list’ of those I would like to own one day. On top of that, I even write my own! But that tattered, old Bible of mine still wins hands down. And somehow I think it always will.

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Jo 23After writing seven books, one would think I’d know the drill when it comes to my eighth. But no. Instead, I seem to have the knack of forgetting the painful parts of bringing a book into being and remembering only the joy of it all—a little like when having our three children!

So here I was, about a third of the way through editing and re-writing my latest book when I came to a particularly poorly written section. What was I thinking when I wrote those words? What did they add to the storyline? Why would anyone be interested in reading such rubbish anyway? So out these wondrous sentences all went, with one click of that handy delete button on my keyboard.

But that wasn’t the end of it. I began to question more than just a few sentences here and there. I began to question the whole idea of writing a second memoir. Was it worth all the effort I was exerting to polish it up? Would my publisher be interested in it anyway? Would there be a market out there for it?

I was tired. And I had other things to do, such as preparing for some upcoming writing workshops. I had also spoken somewhere the previous day where only a few people turned up. I’m sure God touched those present, but it had required effort on my part and a long drive to be there. I sat at my desk feeling somewhat hard done by, to put it mildly. Was it all worth it?

At that point, I noticed my Bible open beside me. I had not read it that day—I had been too busy editing. I glanced down at that open page and it was then that I saw the heading of the particular section I was to read next in Hebrews:

A Call to Persevere!

I literally felt a slight jolt through my body and almost laughed out loud. How like God to set my thinking straight in such an ‘in your face’ way!

I read on. Yes, I soon realised that Hebrews 10:19-25 deals with the need to hold onto our Christian faith and the hope this gives us and to encourage one another to do the same, right to the very end.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Heb 10:23-24

So essentially, this passage is not about hanging in there in writing books. But behind those words, by the Spirit’s prompting, I believe I saw and heard the heart of God for me, right where I am now—and for us all. And as my own spirit was encouraged, I began to see things from God’s perspective instead of my own warped and limited one. I began to look at my writing with fresh eyes and to see that yes, perhaps I was saying some worthwhile things after all and perhaps I could polish and fine tune this manuscript as required. I simply needed to persevere. And I know how to do that. I’ve done it before and I can do it again, in God’s strength.

How about you? Do you need a little more God-perspective too?

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Right now, I am in the middle of a lengthy task that has become quite familiar to me in the past few years. It is the task of destroying something I have been at great pains to create over many months—those wonderful, superfluous words in my latest manuscript.

Years ago, I would almost have died at the very thought. ‘No!’ I would scream. ‘These priceless pearls are all necessary to set the scene and make my meaning clear.’ Alas, I soon discovered this extra verbiage did not do anything of the sort. So I have disciplined myself since then to step back and try to see what I have written through someone else’s eyes—perhaps eyes more like my husband’s, who much prefers novels where the storyline is untrammelled by any excess baggage.

So in editing my seventh book and first non-fiction effort, I find I am relatively at ease in throwing out hundreds and even thousands of words over which I laboured long and hard. After telling a friend this recently, she commented how we may be quite content not to own this or that. But once we do own it, then it is much, much harder to consider throwing it out. It is ours. It is part of us now. How then could I possibly delete so many words I had created and now had a life out there on the page/screen?

Well, in many cases, I can see they have served their purpose. I needed them to help me shape what it was I really wanted to say. They were written in an initial burst of enthusiasm and insight, but now are either expendable or at least in line for a solid makeover. I can get rid of them without much regret then, knowing my work will be the better for it. I have learnt to be ruthless for the sake of what is to come.

But what about the rest of my life? What if some things are standing in the way of forging a better relationship with God? Yes, I can be ruthless is getting rid of material possessions, although I may cringe a little when it comes to books. And I can give away money to bless others and be used in God’s kingdom. But what about my precious time? And what about all those creative thoughts in my head I am loath to put aside in order to spend even a few reflective moments with my heavenly Father?

I suspect I need to employ a few more ruthless editing skills in my life in general in order to focus on the things that really are important—things like listening to God, reflecting on God’s Word, praying, doing what God wants me to do. Perhaps I need to have a mind like Paul’s when he writes in Philippians 4:7-8:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him …

How are you doing at hanging onto what is really important and getting rid of the rest? How are you at being ruthless in order to gain Christ?

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