Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Come On, Feel the Joy!

So, as promised after the ridiculously long and most-likely boring introduction post below, here is one of the awesome things I've read lately. What I've been doing to spice up this reading plan is taking the passages of Scripture that really jump out at me and rewriting them to be more personal and to make sure I get the full meaning out of some of the more symbolic stuff.

Today's passage: Psalm 1:1-3
"Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do."

Personal rewrite:
Hannah, you will be joyful if you don't take advice from people with impure motives and wicked ideas, if you don't hang out with those who choose to live in sin, or join in with the people who have nothing good to say about anything. You will be filled with joy if you take delight in God's commands - in the Bible - continually thinking about it and memorizing Scripture, letting it infiltrate your life from morning to noon to nightfall. Do this, and you will be as strong as a tree that is planted by a river - with a deep network of roots that thrive on all the good water and nutrients. Do this, and you will bear the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) regardless of season or circumstance. The leaves of your faith will always be strong and green, and you will experience true success - a life that is pleasing to God.

The New Kid in the Book (or, A Not-So-Brief Introduction to Today's Actual Post)

I've been doing this new "read through the Bible in a year" plan that a friend passed on to me. Normally, I'm not a super-strict, Bible reading plan kind of person. I don't make sure I read the whole Bible every year; I don't make myself read all four Gospels during Lent or read Proverbs every month. I'm typically more of a "read where the Lord leads" kind of gal. For instance, a certain fantastic woman at a particularly awesome church in PA recently talked in her Sunday school class about Ephesians 4, and she gave everyone handouts with lots of cross references on them. So, I spent some time checking those things out. The next time I went to PA, that same woman was teaching again (lucky me!), this time on the importance of Biblical submission and Ephesians 5. Guess what I focused on that week?

Another approach I sometimes take is the, "What haven't I read a) ever or b) in a really long time?" approach. This is where I look through the table of contents in my Bible to find something new and different (or old and dusty in the Rolodex of my brain), and read that. For instance, I just finished reading through Chronicles for the first time ever. Yep. Six years saved on April 5th, and I only spent the last four months reading Chronicles (it took forever because it is SOOOO boring that I just couldn't do it every day).

Anyway, all of that being said, I don't typically have a forced reading schedule. I just read what sounds interesting or what I know will apply to my life at the moment. (Having a backsliding phase? Romans will kick you back into shape every time! Feeling envious and judgmental? Try James on for size! He'll guilt you out of that faster than a cheetah chasing a three-legged baby gazelle!) This time, however, I thought I'd try something new. With the conclusion of Chronicles, I have officially read every book of the Bible at least once. (I started checking them off in the table of contents of one of my Bibles back in the day because my Old Testament professor sophomore year gave us an awesome guilt trip: "What would you feel like if you went to heaven and met Habbakuk [he pronounced it 'hob-ba-KOOK' which always made me laugh] and had no idea who he was and had to admit to him that you had never taken the time to read his book? 'You weren't as important as James or Matthew,' you'll say, and you'll hurt his feelings and offend God because He considers each book of the Bible to be equally important and relevant, so you have to read them all, even Chronicles.") So now that I know I've done them all in six years, I am ready for a challenge. The reason I chose the plan I did is because it splits everything up so you aren't stuck in Jeremiah (if there were Bible superlatives, this would win "Most Repetetive," hands down) for days or weeks on end. Instead, on Sundays you read through the epistles, Mondays you go through the books of the law, Tuesdays are history books, Wednesdays are for Psalms, Thursdays you read poetry books, Fridays are prophets, and Saturdays are Gospels. This way, every day you're reading a different type of book, which, for someone with a short attention span concerning law, history, and some of the prophets, is a great plan and helps me to focus more on the little pieces instead of tuning them out because I read yesterday that "Woe be unto [some town with a funky name] because they have disobeyed their God and [some nation with another funky name] is going to invade them from [pick a direction], and all they have to do to repent is slaughter [insert number here] of fattened claves, rams, bulls (don't forget something about the horns being ground or burned or whatever), doves, and pour out so many drink and grain offerings, too" (entire book of Jeremiah, paraphrased - repeat about 64 times or however many chapters there are). All that being said, I've only been doing this for about four days now, but I am really enjoying it and have already gotten a few great nuggets, one of which I will share in a separate post because it is awesome, and I don't want it to get lost/drowned out by the methodology segment above about how I read the Bible. Anyway, enjoy!