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Friday, April 29, 2011

Watching for Royalty

I'm a little behind most of the world, but I will watch the royal wedding of the century in about an hour. We tend to live in TiVo time here in our house. We watch the Superbowl a little later, American Idol the next morning, and Good Morning America during the afternoon. With the convenience of TiVo at my finger tips I had no reason to watch the wedding at 1:00 a.m. Please.

So after I've showered from my morning walk, prepared myself a pot of tea in my Old Country Roses Royal Albert tea pot, and settled onto my royal red sofa, I'll join the rest of the world (in TiVo time, of course) and do a little royalty watching.

I'll "ooh" and "aahh" at the wedding gown worn by Kate, look to see if the prince has stars in his eyes as he catches his first glimpse of his bride, and watch carefully for stoic Queen Elizabeth's reaction to this romantic event. I'll anticipate each moment and yet I'll be a novice when it comes to all the pomp and circumstance. I haven't ever seen much of royalty up close. My familiarity with all things royal is limited to a savvy combination of what I've gleaned from Disney and Masterpiece Theater.

But I'll be watching.

Along with millions of others. I understand that people began to camp out on the streets of London a couple of days ago to secure the perch from which they would view the royal pageantry. I will depend on the media to have staked out prime spots along the parade routes in order to view the glitz and glitter. But if I were one of the millions standing out in the Brittish sunshine trying to see the new princess, the prince or the queen, I suppose I'd be jostling for position, craning my neck and hopping up and down in order to see as much royal fiber as I possibly could.

Such was the case with Zacchaeus, for a wee little man was he. I read about this well-known short guy just this morning. Jesus was on his way into town and Zacchaeus was just as insistent upon seeing Him as millions of people are about seeing the prince and princess. Zac had some power - he was a tax collector - and he had some money - I repeat, he was a tax collector - but he still had to jockey for position to see the King of kings. And so he climbed up in a sycamore tree...for the Lord he wanted to see!

As I read the familiar story about wee Zacchaeus climbing a tree in order to see Jesus, it made me think about the lengths he went to in order to see this itinerant preacher from Galilee. He desperately wanted to see Jesus, wouldn't you say? It wasn't enough to hear that He was in town, to talk to those who had seen Him or to read about Jesus' appearance in the paper the next day. And I don't think Zacchaeus would have settled for a TiVoed telecast of Jesus' stroll through Jericho either. He was willing to embarrass himself in public in order to get a glimpse of Jesus, in person.

And here we all sit (or you sat there last night while I slept) to get a glimpse of royalty. Whether we camped out on the sidewalk for three days, we set our alarm clocks for some ungodly hour, or we've TiVoed the event, we're going to great lengths to see the royal couple ride by. And there's nothing wrong with that. Here ye, here ye! I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that at all! My point is not to downgrade our desire to watch the royal wedding.

I simply want to ask myself and you this simple question.

To what lengths do we go to see Jesus each day? 

Because we can see Him, you know. He may not be walking through our streets and we may not need to climb a tree to get a glimpse of Him, but we can see Him.

We can see Him in His Word. Am I spending enough time there in order to see Him? Am I listening carefully to His words, hanging on to them like the daily bread they are? Am I really observing His behavior there and learning from it?

We can see Him in creation. Jesus was directly involved in creation, you know. John 1:3 says, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" speaking of Jesus. Am I taking the time to see His handiwork in the world around me? Am I allowing Him to speak to me of His faithfulness through the sunrise, of His might through the mountains that surround me, of His strength through the waves of the sea, of His gentleness through the sweet spring breeze?

We can see Him in our lives. If we have a personal relationship with Jesus and we are actively asking Him to participate in our lives, then it's only reasonable to expect that He is doing so. Unfortunately, we often ask Him to work and then we look the other way, neglecting to watch for what He'll do. And when good things do happen, we attribute it to luck, coincidence, happenstance. We forget to acknowledge that Jesus has shown up and done a good thing on our behalf.

I think Zacchaeus had the right idea. He was intent on seeing Jesus. And guess what? His persistence paid off. Jesus sensed Zacchaeus' intentions and stopped in His tracks. He told Zacchaeus to come down from that tree and prepare to dine with Him that night. Jesus was coming to Zacchaeus' house! Not only did Zacchaeus want to see Jesus, but Jesus wanted to see him!

And He wants to see me today too.

So today I'll watch the royal couple go through the pomp and circumstance of their wedding day. But I'll also be looking for Jesus a little more intently. I'll meet Him in the pages of His Word. I'll talk with Him this morning before I get involved in the situations of the day. I'll seek His counsel and ask for His encouragement. Then I'll watch for Him to work throughout my day. And when I see Him, I'll acknowledge Him.

I'll be watching for royalty alright. I'm watching for the King of kings, the Prince of Peace, the lion of Judah. And if I watch for Him, I know I'll see Him. Won't you watch with me?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Salvage a Mess

My daughter Abby took up knitting not too long ago...again. I suppose the weather was chilly and some good movie must have been coming on TV because she suddenly decided she needed some yarn and knitting needles. And so with a skein of dark green yarn and fresh knitting needles she clicked away through the movie, blissfully contented.

Until she looked up from her movie and realized her knitting had gone astray. Suddenly her scarf, which started out with 27 stitches, now had more like 30-something stitches. As she had knitted aimlessly along she had mistakenly added stitches and the scarf was taking on a warped shape.

If we're not careful, our lives can take on a similarly warped appearance. With one careless stitch after another we can either skip a crucial step or add a mistaken one. And only when we take the time to look up do we notice how far off the desired pattern we have wandered.

Such was the case with the people of Israel during the time of the judges. That's why throughout the book of Judges you'll read things like "And there was no king in Israel in those days, so the people did what was right in their own eyes" or, worse yet, "Every man did what was right in his own eyes." The people simply cycled in and out of mayhem for several hundred years, looking up occasionally to notice that they were desperately off track and only then crying out for help.

Unfortunately for the people of Israel they had a smattering of judges, rulers as it were, who tried to help matters but, as time went on, these judges became less and less effective. They didn't seem to know what they were doing either. That's pretty much the problem Abby ran into when she would take her misshapen scarf to me and cry "Help!" I don't knit. Beyond sympathizing with her mess I couldn't offer much help.

But when Abby's Nana visited a few weeks later, she not only helped Abby figure out where she went wrong, but she pulled Abby's mistakes out one by one and got her back on track. And Abigail, having learned her lessons well, has stayed on track with that scarf ever since. Yes, she's still knitting it. My bet is she'll finish it sometime next winter. But the good news is that it now has a nice shape with no skipped or added stitches. And she's on her way to knitting a lovely scarf.

My friend who is a Christian counselor tells me that by the time most of her clients come to see her with their troubles--whether they are problems with their marriage, parenting issues, or addictions--they have usually "knitted" themselves a nice little mess. In other words, they don't come to her with one or two problems, but a whole "wad" full of messy issues. I read in a magazine article that most couples don't seek marriage counseling until seven years after their problems began...and that's seven years too late. Imagine all the wrong turns they've made, all the dropped stitches.

I've had a mess or two in my life. My bet is that you have too. And like me you've probably cried out to God to wave His almighty hand over your mess and fix it...quick! Did He? Probably not. He can, but He usually doesn't, does He?

In my experience, as in the experience of the Israelites in the book of Judges, there is usually a little work involved in getting things back in place. I may have to go to battle. I may have to take a step of faith. I may have to right a wrong, or two or seven. It takes time, work, perseverance, and self-examination. Yuck.

When Abby's Nana suggested she rip out rows and rows of her knitting in order to get her scarf back on track, the idea sounded daunting and plumb miserable to Abby at first. But with her personal Master Knitter at her side, Abby was encouraged to pull out the mistakes she had made and take a fresh go at it. Nana gave her courage to do the only thing that would ultimately work. And so she did it.

If you find your life in any sort of a mess today--whether it be financial, marital, parenting, friendship, career, or moral in nature--the last thing you probably want to hear is that you need to rip out the mistakes you've made over the last few weeks, months or years. You may not even comprehend how you can do that. And, truth be told, in some cases you can't always right the wrongs completely. But you can probably correct more mistakes than you're willing to admit.

Not too long ago I had to get in my car and drive to a couple of houses to apologize for the way I had treated a couple of friends. I was tempted to just brush over my "dropped stitches" and hope no one noticed. My plan was to just act like nothing had happened and hope they would do the same. But something inside me knew that just wouldn't work. I have a holy God who expects holiness out of me too. And, graciously, He promised to be with me every step of the way, helping me to rip out those bad stitches and sew in some new ones.

In the end it was worth it. Quite honestly, I'm not sure my overtures meant that much to the people to whom I apologized. But my obedience, my simple effort of ripping out the old and stitching in the new, means something to me. I can look at that little season of my life and know it holds integrity. Like a knitted scarf with consistent stitches, my life is back on the straight and narrow. Besides, just like Abby wants a Master Knitter like her Nana to admire her scarf and say it is well knitted, I want my life to pass the muster of my God, not just the swift perusal of my peers.

So don't be afraid to rip out stitches, dear friends. Yes, it's painful. But, with the Master's help, you can get back on track if you're willing to do the work.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I've Learned from "The Kennedys"

This weekend I made the mistake of getting hooked on the TV miniseries, The Kennedys. I say it was a mistake because miniseries tend to be time consuming and irreverently biased or one-sided portrayals of a string of events. I'm sure this one is no exception.

While I find the story I'm watching to be intriguingly interesting, I've no doubt that the family finds much fault with its portrayal of their history. Even if many of the assertions made by the string of movies (JFK's need to please his father, Jackie's addiction to some kind of "upper" drug, Joe Sr.'s conniving manipulations that got his son elected to the senate, the president's moral weaknesses, etc.) are true, the series tends to present these faults or hang-ups or character traits in a caricature sort of way.

For instance, every time you see Jackie while her husband is in the presidency, she's on some kind of energy boosting drug. And every time you see Rose Kennedy she's saying the rosary or doing something else extremely catholic. And every time you see Ethel Kennedy she seems to be the only sane one in the bunch. And every time you see John his eye is roaming unfaithfully. Every person in the family is more of a caricature than a well-rounded character.

And maybe they really were like that, but I doubt it.

I've never been much of a fan of the Kennedys, only because I don't agree much with their politics. But I've watched their lives along with the rest of America as we've treated them as somewhat of our rendition of a royal family. They're intriguing. Most families are when you get right down to it.

I say all of this to say that I don't credit the movie with much reliability and I'm not especially sympathetic to the plight of the Kennedys. If the series has even an ounce of truthfulness to it, the Kennedys had some major character flaws -- but don't we all? -- and they were somewhat of a dysfunctional family.

But I have learned something of value from this mini series:

Leadership is a tough place to be.

John Kennedy seems to have wrestled consistently with the heaviness of his job. And if the events portrayed in the movie add up at all, they add up to some pretty strenuous stress. The Bay of Pigs, the building of the Berlin Wall, racial tensions, the crackdown on organized crime, the space program, the list goes on. This man had a lot to deal with some major stressors. And whether he handled it all very well or not, I leave up to the political analysts and historians. I've never understand political history very well, so I'll not start analyzing it now.

But this I can see. JFK carried the weight of leadership like an albatross. His choices must have worried him. The dilemmas must have seemed daunting. The conflicting counsel he received must have been aggravating. The juggling of varying positions must have tripped him up at times. And the need to please must have constantly bucked against the need to do right.

Leadership is a tough place to be.

Whether you feel called to lead, are called upon, seek it out, or stumble into it ignorantly, the position of leadership comes with unexpected challenges, daunting dilemmas, and frustrating demands.

During the past few weeks I've been reading about the likes of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. Each of these men wrestled with the mantle of leadership as well. They all had their moments of frustration and they all had grandiose moments of victory. I'm sure each of these men were honored, compelled, and confident as leaders while also feeling inadequate, exhausted, and troubled.

Moses constantly fought the murmuring of the people. But he also had the opportunity to bring his people out of captivity. Imagine how many times he must have lost his patience. (In fact that's what kept him out of the promised land in the end.)

Aaron got caught up in the need to "people please" but he also got to enter into the presence of the Lord on behalf of those fickle people. Imagine his feelings of inadequacy.

Caleb was chosen to spy out the promised land and see the greatness of that land first hand, but he also had to listen with astonishment as his fellow spies delivered a report quite the opposite of his. Imagine his frustration and how alone he must have felt.

Joshua was given the charge to lead the people into battle and into a place of rest, but he also had to remind them constantly to be courageous and to finish the job. Imagine his weariness.

In fact, the way the Bible records each of their deaths, it doesn't sound like any of these men cared to live a minute longer, even though at least a couple of them died with healthy and vital bodies. By the time the Lord said they had completed their leadership assignments, they seemed to be ready to head Home. That's how tough it was for each of them to lead. It was exhausting.

So here's where I'm going with this. With what I've learned form The Kennedys and what I've learned from these biblical leaders, I have a few points and questions for us to ponder.
  • Who are your leaders? Your father? Your president? Your boss or employer? Your husband? Your pastor? Your commander? Consider the burdens they carry and ask God to give you a divine sensitivity to the weight they bear. Pray for them. Pray for your relationship with them. Pray for God to grant them wisdom, discernment, strength and courage. And pray for Him to help you respect them and treat them well.
  • Are you a leader? Are you tired? I get that. I get weary in my leadership responsibilities too. But while I'm not sure how well the Kennedys leaned on God, the men from the Bible I referenced earlier seemed to have had greater success and more stamina when they leaned heavily on Him. He, and He alone, gave them wisdom, strength, victory, and joy in the tasks. Lean on Him, not on anyone or anything else.
  • What do you look for in a leader? I think we're tempted to look for things like charisma, charm, knowledge, and friendliness. But those are some of the very characteristics of Saul, the king God eventually removed His spirit from because he wasn't a godly king. We'd do better to look for things like godliness, integrity, spiritual maturity, and humility. And here's a little hint you need while looking for those things. Those very character traits are often the hardest to notice. They are seen best against the backdrop of trouble and controversy and are sometimes mistaken for their polar opposites. It takes a keen eye to see true integrity. It requires that we take off the blinders of resentment, bitterness, and personal agendas. Instead we must search God's Word, glance up and hold the leader up close to the Bible and examine him or her through Spirit led eyes. Things are not always what they seem.
  • Finally, I just feel the need to repeat myself. Leadership is not an easy place to be. A little grace would help. A little grace is always a good and godly thing. We could all give a little grace to those in leadership. I'm not talking about neglecting to hold leaders accountable. But I am talking about the danger of holding them to an impossible standard. I've cringed with sympathy as I watched John Kennedy, as portrayed by Greg Kinnear, wrestle with decisions, strive to lead well, and battle his insecurities. And I've cringed with the same sympathy as I've watched leaders that I know and support deliberate in prayer, struggle with stress, and weigh out conflicting counsel. It's a tough place to be. A little grace would certainly provide a much needed cushion to soften the rock and the hard place.
Comments? I'd love to hear your thoughts on leadership.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dig It Up!

This weekend I'll be doing some digging. Now while I have great appreciation for those of you who are gardeners and enjoy digging in the earth's soil, I'm not much for digging in dirt, planting things, or even keeping living things alive. I don't mind sweating, but I hate getting my hands dirty.

Unless I'm getting them dirty with something I'm about to eat -- pizza dough, cookie dough, etc.

I realize I can wear gardening gloves, but I have bought a few pairs of said gloves in the past and that doesn't work for me either. I tend to pick out the cute little gloves with pink flowers or red ladybugs and a little bow at the cuff. Then I don't want to get them dirty either. So I end up handing my husband the pots, fetching tools he needs and assisting with putting the finished pot where it belongs. I might even use a cute little watering jar to water his work. But I try really hard to keep my cute little gloves and my hands clean and fresh.

I know, I have problems.

But since my husband is still recuperating from back surgery and can't lift heavy pots or bend over for long periods of time, I will need to dig up the old, dead plants that are in the planters on our back patio this weekend. Daughter Abby is hosting her Thespian club's spring induction reception in our backyard next Monday, so I will need to get things in better shape back there between now and then. Translation: I'll need to get rid of the dead stuff.

I'll have to get out a trowel and dig up the old plants by the roots. Then, as I've watched my husband do in the past, I'll save about half of the old soil (or a little less) and pour new soil in to be mixed with the old before planting anything new. I think I can handle the planting part, but I'm not looking forward to digging out the old roots. Ugh!

Digging up roots can take a lot of work, especially if the root you're trying to uproot is a root of bitterness. What's that? Do I have those planted in my backyard? Thankfully, no. But I've occasionally had to dig out a bitter root from my heart.

Today I read in the Bible:

The heart knows its own bitterness,
and a stranger does not share its joy.
(Proverbs 14:10)

As best I can interpret, this maxim simply means that you alone know what has taken root in your heart. Others can often see the fruit of what lies beneath the "soil line," but only you know if you have indeed allowed a nasty root of bitterness to take up residence in your heart.

And another more familiar scripture reminds us that when we do allow bitterness to sink its roots into our hearts, we have a problem on our hands.
See to it that ... no bitter root grows up 
to cause trouble and defile many. 
(Hebrews 12:15 partial)
The roses in my backyard have deep roots, but they produce lovely roses that my family and guests can enjoy. On the other hand, when bitterness takes root in our lives, it produces trouble and even "defiles" many of the people whose lives I touch. What does that mean? It simply means that my bitterness plant potentially taints, dirties, stinks up, and stains many other people - my family, my office, my church congregation, my friends, etc. I can tell myself that my bitterness only affects me, but that's just a lie from hell meant to lull me into foolish complacency. And to stink up my Christian testimony. And to bring down as many other people with my bitterness as Satan can possibly contrive.

So I'm asking myself today if I have allowed any bitterness to take root in my life. If I have, I need to uproot it immediately before it sinks its tendrils further into my heart. Because once those tendrils have wrapped themselves around my heart, it's even harder to remove them.

About a year ago we had to cut down our two trees. That's right, we had two trees in our little yard and now we have none. I didn't want to cut them down because they were pretty, they had grown large, and they were...our only two trees, for pete's sake. I begged and begged my husband not to take them down. But alas their roots had spread out toward our driveway and the sidewalk in front of our house. If we waited much longer, we would have buckling cement in both places. Those trees appeared harmlessly beautiful, but they were actually causing potentially huge problems below the surface.

So my husband had to hire someone to come in and cut down the trees and carefully dig up their sprawling roots. We couldn't do it ourselves, but it had to be done.

If you do find a root of bitterness growing rampant in your heart, you probably can't dig it up by yourself either. You'll need to call in a heart expert, one who can systematically and carefully disengage every tangled root of bitterness from your tender heart. He'll need to remove those angry, piercing roots and then apply a soothing balm to your heart so that another similar root doesn't take up residence. 

You know I'm talking about the Holy Spirit of God. He can help you diagnose your dangerous root system, reach beneath the soil line with expertise, and dig that baby out. And He alone can provide the healing ointment to your heart so that nothing else bitter moves in.

Friend, bitterness is deadly. It's not a harmless weed that we need not worry about until the neighborhood association alerts us. And it's not always simple to uproot. But it will kill. It will kill your joy, your testimony, your usefulness to the kingdom, and your zeal. And it can potentially take down other people in its path as well, leaving even more destruction than buckling cement in its path.

People around you may have gotten a whiff of something foul, but only you know if you've allowed a root of bitterness to grow in your heart. If you have, dig it up!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Battle Tactics

I've heard it said that army generals have studied the book of Joshua to glean from the battle tactics that helped the nation of Israel chase out its enemies in record time. Well I live in an army town and I watch Army Wives on Lifetime every Sunday evening, but I've never heard of a Joshua Course or a Joshua Manual. So I don't know if the U.S. Army follows the patterns of Joshua or not.

But as I've read from the pages of Joshua over the last few days, I've discovered some principles of battle that are certainly worth taking note of on a personal basis. Now I'm not talking about employing these tactics in a fight with your husband, a skirmish with your teenager over curfew or a spat with your sister. No, these maneuvers should be applied at higher level--in our spiritual battles. For you and I do not battle against flesh and blood (though sometimes it may seem that way), but we battle against the spiritual forces of this world.

In fact, the first tactic I found in Joshua is to know who your enemy is. How can you know? You let God name them, as He did for Joshua. And He names our enemies in the pages of His Word:

Put on the full armor of God,
that you may be able to stand firm
against the schemes of the devil.
For our struggle is not against
flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the powers,
against the world forces of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of wickedness
in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:11-12)

That means that while people may sometimes lend themselves to Satan's ploys--and it's a sad day when they do--the enemy always remains the same: it's Satan and his evil forces. 

People are never the enemy. Repeat that with me. People are never the enemy. 

On the other hand, God will deal justly with people who repeatedly enlist in Satan's army. But we'll let Him deal with that.

On to what I'll call our Joshua Maneuvers! Here's what I've learned so far from studying reading through Joshua (and I'm not actually very far into the book yet!). Remember these are maneuvers we can apply to our spiritual battles, which are, needless to say, best fought with spiritual armor found in Ephesians 6. 
  • Know who your enemy is. Allow God to identify the enemy for you and call it what it is. He knows what Satan is up to in your life and often we don't. If God tells you to get rid of a TV show, romance novel, relationship, radio channel, or IPod entry, do it. He's pointed out the enemy to you and He expects you to treat the enemy like an enemy and not like a bosom friend.
  • Be courageous. Having courage doesn't mean you aren't in a predicament that causes you to fear. It means that, while your initial reaction is knee-trembling, boot-shaking, palm-sweating fear, you choose to be courageous and step out in faith anyhow. Courage means putting one foot in front of another in a difficult situation. It means getting out of bed in the morning and facing life. It means getting dressed and going out of your house. It means having that difficult conversation even though everything within you doesn't want to.
  • Completely get rid of your enemies. God told Joshua to completely annihilate or chase out Israel's enemies. They were not to allow a few of them to stay, take in a few as pets, or let a few of them be. They were to get them completely out of the way. Why? Because enemies have a sneaky way of growing in number and festering in power, especially when we allow them to take up residence in our lives. Is there something that you know is of the enemy in your life that you have tolerated or "let be"? A relationship, a habit, a form of media or entertainment, a choice word or two, a root of bitterness, a grudge? Chase it out!
  • Seek God's guidance in every battle, not just the seemingly difficult ones. That's where we tend to get in big trouble.
  • Be careful who you link up with. Read Joshua 9 where the Gibeonites pretend to be visitors from far away, but are actually evil neighbors of the Israelites. Without consulting God, Israel finds itself in a permanent and binding covenant with these sneaky snakes. Use wisdom and discernment when linking yourself up with others in spiritual battle.
  • Remember, the battle is the Lord's. And quite honestly, He's already won it. What does that mean for me? It means I simply need to cooperate with Him by following His orders to a T (they can be found in the pages of His Word) and sticking close to Him (through prayer). I do not need to fear or be intimidated or lose heart or switch sides or run away from the battle. I can trust Him to defeat the foe. I just need to stand strong and do as He says.
There's a lot more I've learned from Joshua and I'm continuing in its pages over the next week or so. If you are facing a daunting enemy, you might want to read through Joshua too. And take courage, dear friend. The battle is the Lord's.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Where I've Been

    If you've been wondering where I've been, I have no good answers. I've been right here, except I haven't been writing a single thing. I had a lot of writing due this past Monday, so when I got it all done I suppose I sort of took my shingle down and refused to write another word for a while.

    So if you've checked in with me today, after a week's absence, you're more loyal than I am. Bless you.

    But while I haven't been writing, I have been reading.

    My Bible that is.

    And the more I read, the more I enjoy it. In fact, I've noticed that when I really make the effort to read through my Bible on a daily basis I get in a sort of rhythm (I am so thrilled that I spelled that word correctly and that spell check didn't notify me of a mistake with its nasty red squiggly line..."rhythm" has always been a stumper for me. Just wanted you to know...). And each day the conversation between me and the Author of that love letter becomes more natural, more satisfying, and more delightful.

    My quiet time has turned into a sort of dialogue in which I read God's message and then I comment back, ask a question, or ask permission to apply that particular story, statement or instruction to my life.

    Sometimes, as I read I hear God say something to my spirit like, "This is for you Kay. Eat it, chew on it and be satisfied."

    Other times I sense Him saying, "This is sort of what you're going through isn't it Kay? Take it and learn from it. Notice how Moses (Joshua, Peter, David, etc.) handled this. And notice my activity in the situation too. I'm pretty consistent, you know."

    And then other times I can almost feel Him gently slap my hand and say, "Don't you dare take this story and try to twist it ever so slightly to fit your situation. You know better. I'm not giving you license to use my holy Word to pacify your flesh, feed your ego, or justify your sin." Ouch. And you better believe I take my hands off that little morsel immediately!

    And while I find great comfort in the humanity I share with folks like Moses (who lost his temper), David (who tried to cover up his sin), Peter (who put his foot in his mouth over and over), Martha (who whined about what others were doing), Joseph (whose bragging got him in a pit of problems), and James and John (who had this insatiable need to be first), I find even greater comfort in the grace God showed each of these people. And I feel that grace wash over me as I read their humble stories.

    I know that reading through the Bible over the course of the year is not easy. I don't remember if I confessed this here or not, but I know I confessed it to my Bible study classes: I didn't make it all the way through the Bible cover to cover in 2010. In December I was still reading October's assignment. And while I thought at first that I'd just continue reading October, November and December, while I also read the passages for January, February, and March, I later decided that was legalistic and too daunting and....well...retarded. So I stopped.

    But I haven't felt any condemnation from the Lord for not finishing last year. Instead I've very distinctly felt Him join me on the pages of my 2011 Bible every day. And let's not assume I've read it every day this year either. I've missed days and caught up a little at a time. But I know I have a standing appointment with God in the pages of His Word every day and if I miss it, then I've missed out. He doesn't get angry or refuse to show up the next day as a way to punish me. He welcomes me back generously and we pick up where we left off.

    I say all this to say that it's not too late for you to get a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year Bible. You can really set this daily appointment up any time. And you'll find that you too will enter into an easy-going, extremely interesting, and delightful conversation with the Author.

    Let me know how you're reading the Bible systematically. There are many other ways - devotional guides, reading the epistles through, reading a particular book of the Bible (like 1 Peter) every day for a period of time, etc. The main thing is that we meet Him in His pages, where His words are accurate and alive. Share with me and others how you meet Him each day. We'd love to know.