Laudable Linkage

I’m finally caught up on my blog reading! For now. Here are some of the best posts discovered in the last week.

More Than Jumper Cable Christianity, HT to Challies. “We use jumper cables when our car’s battery is depleted, dead, and in need of a jump from another battery to get going. We connect jumper cables to another car, get some juice, and then go about our day and way. I fear far too many of us approach “abiding” in Christ this way. We do some Bible reading, read a devotional book, get some spiritual voltage and roll out.”

Feeding our Longing, HT to Challies. “Have you ever felt like there was more to life than this? Known some sense of longing for the future?”

How to Think About God Promoting His Own Glory, HT to Challies. “Many people misinterpret God’s character when looking at his demands and actions in history because they imagine what they would think of a fallen human being who did the things God has done, and they recoil. Failing to picture God as he is, they picture instead what they’re familiar with—a sinful, human tyrant imposing his preferred laws on people by force, destroying nations, or demanding worship.”

Units of Thought in Narrative Scripture. “One of the most important observations to make in a passage is the structure. And the way to observe structure is to first identify the parts of the passage (the units of thought) so that you can figure out how those parts relate to one another. In this post I’ll show you some of the ways to recognize the units of thought in a narrative.”

Flaunting Your Faithfulness: The Dangers of Conspicuous Christianity. “Conspicuous Christianity is the practice of seeking to appear more godly, not out of devotion to Christ or the love of others, but purely for the sake of winning the approval of other people. Conspicuous Christianity can come in many different forms, but it usually has some of the following characteristics . . .”

Keep Doing the Small Things, HT to Challies. “What if your greatest spiritual growth does not come through some cataclysmic event. What if the most important spiritual breakthroughs in your life are slow and methodical? Are you going to be OK with that?”

All My Not-Enoughness, HT to Challies. “I’m confronted with my not-enoughness a lot lately. As I get dressed, as I parent, as I’m faced with yet another important thing I’ve forgotten. When I try to write and the words won’t come. When I feel so tired that every inch of me longs to slink to the floor and crawl back into bed.”

The Hidden Super-Stars of Missions, HT to Challies. “I coach new missionaries as they prepare to go overseas. I’ve found I can often predict how quickly they’ll be able to raise support based on one crucial factor: whether they have an advocate who will come alongside them.”

Words That Lead, HT to Challies. Loved this post on the myths and responsibilities of writing.

On Reading Widely: Are You Stuck on One Shelf? “Root your thinking in the Word of God first, but be informed about the world around you. Resist being spoon fed by others. Do your own reading and research to form your own opinions.”

Laudable Linkage

Happy first Saturday of January! As might be expected, a lot of posts I found this week dealt with getting ready for a new year.

His Feet, HT to Challies. “I was fourteen and small for my age, a reserved shy shadow of the man I might one day grow into. Others struck me for an unknown reason, some imagined offence I had committed. Verbal assault soon became physical, yet it wasn’t the impact of fist on face that hurt most. I felt alone. I felt small. I felt undone. But then his feet were there.”

Say It, HT to Challies. A short account of Charles Spurgeon’s conversion, which is always delightful to read, but with a few good points added.

Grant Me One Muslim Friend, HT to Challies. “The most strategic thing we could do to reach the Muslim world is for every Muslim to simply have a believing friend.”

Three Faith-Focused Strategies to Welcome the New Year. “Some of us deliberate over annual goals or resolutions while others invite God to give us a word for the New Year. As we invest time in these pursuits, let’s walk through the following four steps as we consider how He led us through last year and as we seek His guidance in the New Year.

How Can We Have Peace and Confidence in the New Year? “With all the turmoil and instability over the last few years, most of us want more peace, more joy, and more confidence in the future. Are we at the mercy of the government or the economy or the culture around us if we’re to have those things? Or is it possible that the right goals and habits can play a big part? If so, what kind of goals and habits?”

5 Tips to Reinforce Your Bible Study and Prayer Routine, HT to Knowable Word. Although aimed at church leaders, these are good for anyone trying to develop a “sustainable habit for personal Bible study and prayer.”

7 Reasons Winter Reminds Us to Hold on to Hope, HT to Challies. “Many people suffer from seasonal depression or feel down in the winter. The trees seem lifeless, we spend a lot more time inside, and it gets darker earlier and for longer stretches of the day. It can also mean we spend more time pondering upon the difficult seasons in our own lives.”

Assign It a Day and Time. A great time management principle!

8 Tips to Have a More Productive Year, HT to Lisa. “I am all about To Do lists and planners! However, that doesn’t always make me as productive I could be. There has to be some follow-through to be productive. I am going to share 8 tips on how to have a more productive year in whatever area you are working.”

Gladys Hunt on Little Golden Books, HT to the Story Warren. I loved the little Golden books as a child and read many of them to my own children. It was interesting to read the story behind them.

Books Read in 2022

It’s been another great reading year, with a variety of new and old, fiction and nonfiction, mostly good, a handful not so much. By my count, I’ve read 79 books this year—a smidgen fewer than the last couple of years.

I’ll post my favorites tomorrow. The titles link back to my reviews. (MTBR) at the end of some titles refers to the Mount TBR Reading Challenge, where we read books we already owned before the year began. I noted them here instead of making a separate list.

Nonfiction:

  1. 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety, a devotional book by various authors (MTBR)
  2. Aging With Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture by Sharon Betters and Susan Hunt
  3. Always, Only Good: A Journey of Faith Through Mental Illness by Shelly Garlock Hamilton
  4. Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers
  5. Be Alive (John 1-12): Get to Know the Living Savior by Warren Wiersbe (MTBR)
  6. Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13): Let the World Know Jesus Cares by Warren Wiersbe (MTBR)
  7. Be Courageous (Luke 14-24): Let the World Know Jesus Cares by Warren Wiersbe (MTBR
  8. Be Determined (Nehemiah): Standing Firm in the Face of Opposition by Warren W. Wiersbe (MTBR)
  9. Be Distinct (2 Kings and 2 Chronicles): Standing Firmly Against the World’s Tides by Warren Wiesrbe (MTBR)
  10. Be Encouraged (2 Corinthians): God Can Turn Your Trials Into Triumphs by Warren W. Wiersbe (MTBR)
  11. Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality by Warren Wiersbe (MTBR)
  12. Be Responsible (1 Kings): Being Good Stewards of God’s Gifts by Warren Wiersbe (MTBR)
  13. Be Restored (2 Samuel & 1 Chronicles): Trusting God to See Us Through by Warren W. Wiersbe (MTBR)
  14. Be Successful (1 Samuel): Attaining Wealth That Money Can’t Buy by Warren W. Wiersbe (MTBR)
  15. Be Wise (1 Corinthians): Discern the Difference Between Man’s Knowledge and God’s Wisdom by Warren W. Wiersbe (MTBR)
  16. Daily Light on the Daily Path compiled by Samuel Bagster
  17. “Don’t Call Me Spry”: Creative Possibilities for Later Life by Win Couchman
  18. The Enchanted Places: A Childhood Memoir by Christopher Milne
  19. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (MTBR)
  20. The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis (MTBR)
  21. Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World by Hannah Anderson
  22. IBS for Dummies by Carolyn Dean and L. Christine Wheeler (MTBR)
  23. I Must Decrease: Biblical Inspiration and Encouragement for Dieters by Janice Thompson (MTBR)
  24. Jesus Led Me All the Way by Margaret Stringer (MTBR)
  25. Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback (MTBR)
  26. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Lady Carnarvon.(MTBR, audiobook)
  27. The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You by Lisa-Jo Baker (MTBR)
  28. O Love That Will not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence, complied by Nancy Guthrie
  29. The Path Through the Trees by Christopher Milne )Audiobook)
  30. Ten Time Management Choices that Can Change Your Life by Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims (MTBR)
  31. Treasures of Encouragement: Women Helping Women by Sharon W. Betters
  32. Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope by Katherine Elizabeth Clark (MTBR)
  33. Women and Stress: A Practical Approach to Managing Tension by Jean Lush and Pam Vredevelt (MTBR)
  34. The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz (MTBR)

Classics:

  1. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin (Audiobook)
  2. The Confessions of St. Augustine (Audiobook)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  4. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (MTBR, Audiobook)
  5. Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott (Audiobook)
  6. The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne (Audiobook)
  7. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (Audiobook)
  8. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (Audiobook)
  9. Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne
  10. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (Audiobook)
  11. The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (Audiobook)
  12. To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite (Audiobook)
  13. Victorian Short Stories of Successful Marriages by Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, and others.
  14. When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne
  15. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

Christian Fiction:

  1. Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer (Audiobook)
  2. A Daily Rate by Grace Livingston Hill (Audiobook)
  3. Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson
  4. The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck (Audiobook)
  5. Half Finished by Lauraine Snelling (MTBR)
  6. The Hatmaker’s Heart by Carla Stewart (MTBR)
  7. The Italian Ballerina by Kristy Cambron (Audiobook)
  8. Just 18 Summers by Michelle Cox and Rene Gutteridge (MTBR)
  9. A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White (Audiobook)
  10. Midnight, Christmas Eve by Andy Clapp (MTBR)
  11. The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White (MTBR)
  12. The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron (MTBR, Audiobook)
  13. The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White (Audiobook)
  14. The Road Home by Malissa Chapin
  15. The Search by Grace Livingston Hill (Audiobook)
  16. Shadowed by Grace: A Story of Monuments Men by Cara Putman (MTBR)
  17. Shadows in the Mind’s Eye by Janyre Tromp
  18. Snowed In for Christmas by Cami Checketts (Audiobook)
  19. Something Good by Vanessa Miller
  20. The Stranger by Melanie Dobson (MTBR)
  21. Three Fifty-Seven: Timing Is Everything by Hank Stewart and Kendra Norman-Bellamy (Audiobook)
  22. To Treasure an Heiress by Roseanna White (Audiobook)
  23. Worthy of Legend by Roseanna M. White

Other Fiction:

  1. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth (MTBR, Audiobook)
  2. The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (MTBR, Audiobook)
  3. The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper (MTBR)
  4. The London House by Katherine Reay (audiobook)
  5. Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton (MTBR)
  6. Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (Audiobook)
  7. The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow (MTBR, Audiobook)

And that just about wraps it up for 2022! I’m close to finishing a couple more, but I’ll save them to review at the beginning of next year so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Reading is one of my highlights, so I was very thankful to be able to make time for it.

How was your reading year? The number of books is not as important as whether the books are enjoyable and edifying. In that sense, I’ve had a great year indeed.

You Don’t Have to Choose a Word for the Year

We’re almost at the time of year when bloggers start considering their word for the next year.

For many, choosing a word for the year replaces a list of resolutions. That one word gives them focus for the year. Christians who do this usually pray about it leading up to the new year and feel this word has been given to them or impressed on them by God. They often plan activities, reading, or Bible study around their word.

I’ve read wonderful testimonies about how God has worked in someone’s heart through meditating on their word for the year.

It’s a fine practice.

I’ve never felt particularly led to do it myself. I’ve studied or focused on one topic for a while, but not necessarily from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

Perhaps you’ve never felt led to choose a word for the year and you wonder if you’re missing out. Or perhaps you’ve chosen one in the past but, like a forgotten New Year’s resolution, it soon faded out of memory.

I just want to emphasize a few truths:

God never tells anyone in the Bible to choose a word, a theme, or a verse for the year. He never tells anyone not to do any of those things, either. It’s just one method of studying and applying God’s Word.

God may lay on your heart to study a certain topic, truth, characteristic, etc. from the Bible, and that may or may not coincide with January 1 and may or may not last a year.

Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Commentary I’ve read for that verse said that the lighting they had in Bible times only shone a step or two ahead. God often guides that way–day by day, just enough for the next step. Of course, He knows what is ahead and may well prepare people for it through a word for the year. But I have found that to happen through my daily Bible reading or sermons or Sunday School lessons I hear. It’s amazing how often God’s truth intersects my experience through a book I picked up seemingly randomly.

What’s more vital than a word for the year is daily seeking God in His Word.

Whether or not one chooses a word for a year, it’s good to read the Word of God every day. God can teach us through an extended focus on one word or concept. But He promises to give us guidance, hope, encouragement, and so much more as we meet with Him daily.

Granted, most people who choose a word for the year don’t do so at the exclusion of other Bible reading. Their main focus might be that one word, but they probably also follow a Bible reading plan and attend a Bible study group or church where they hear other parts of the Bible taught.

There’s value in reading large chunks of the Bible to keep the big picture in mind, and there’s value in camping out in a smaller section for a while. We need the panoramic lens to take in the beauty and wonder of the big picture of God’s Word and to place everything in context. We also need the macro lens for close-ups, for camping out with a verse at a time and mining its truths. I wrote about reasons and ways to do both here. For many, their one word is that close scrutiny.

While many people find great value in choosing a word for the year, those who don’t use that method shouldn’t feel they’re missing out or somehow not as spiritual. People have gotten by for millennia without a word for the year. On the other hand, just because this practice is relatively new doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. If choosing a word for the year has been a great blessing for you, or you think it might be, or you think it’s something God wants you to do, go for it, and may God bless you in it.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Let’s be faithful to partake of that bread in some way every day.

(Revised from the archives)

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here is the latest round-up of good reads found this week:

Hearts Painted by the Word Again and Again, HT to Challies. “The job of painting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is never-ending. I heard once that they paint it end-to-end, but by the time they get to the end—however many years that may take—it is time to start over.” I love the analogy drawn from this!

When Working for God Becomes the Goal. “It is not God’s design or will that any of His children find their personal worth in what they achieve. God never tells us that if we fail to ‘make a difference’ or ‘leave our mark’ in some profound way that we are insignificant. But this ambition to ‘leave a legacy’ through measurable success is mainstream in some cultures. It has a glittering appeal to those who have a genuine heart to serve Christ and be good stewards of their gifts.”

The Silent Sin that Kills Christian Love, HT to Challies. “Perhaps the test of faithfulness in a day of moral degradation will be our love for people across chasms of difference. Faithfulness isn’t in showy displays that we hate all the right people. Faithfulness isn’t in adopting a contemptuous posture toward the current president or the former one. The way of the cross rejects the path of sneers and jeers, whether in the form of elite condescension or populist passion.”

Mothering with Humility, HT to the Story Warren. “I didn’t have much choice but to be completely transparent with my seven-year-old son. A few minutes earlier, his concerned little face had peered down the stairs, trying to figure out why I was responding angrily to something his dad had said. Now, I found myself trying to calm him down and convince him to apologize to his older brother, with whom he was furious.”

Parents, Just Go to Church. “Getting to church is hard. But that’s part of the value of attending church every Sunday. It sets the tone for the Christian’s daily struggle to live in personal relationship with Christ.”

Why Study Doctrine? “Some dismiss doctrine as uninteresting, irrelevant, or just plain boring. ‘Don’t give me doctrine. Just give me Jesus! Doctrine may be cool for pastors or Bible nerds, but I live in the real world. I need practical stuff that works!’ Why study doctrine? Let me suggest a few reasons…”

Why We Go Light on Polemics, HT to Challies. “I am not saying there is never a time to do polemics. After all, Paul says that we “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10:5). . . . The main issue I’ve faced with polemical approaches is that they risk triggering a defensive response, where someone is overtaken by the sense that they are duty-bound to protect their community’s honor from the attacks of an outsider.”

Becoming a Better Bibliophile. “I keep convincing myself that I would be a better person if I simply buy another book.”

Laudable Linkage

Some of you have told me that you really enjoy the links I share on Saturdays. I share more through the week on my Twitter account as I come across them. That’s about the only thing I use Twitter for, as well as sharing my own posts (and my Wordle scores. 🙂 ). Then I share here the ones that particularly resonated with me or that I think readers would like. The lists here and there don’t match exactly, but they overlap a great deal.

Immovable Hope in the Wake of Hurricane Ian, HT to Challies. “Psalm 46 describes an earth-shattering ocean storm. These verses will never again be an abstraction for those of us from Sanibel. Yet we must not forget how the psalm begins. God is our refuge.”

Be Angry and Do Not Sin, HT to Challies. “The problem is that we are happy to exploit what seems to be a legal loophole. Anger, in its very nature, is self-justifying. My anger is righteous; your anger is not. So if we are to find some righteous wiggle room here, we must proceed very carefully.”

A three-part series on uprooting bitterness: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Three Battles to Fight for Personal Bible Study. “What if your life schedule has ticked up a notch and your desire for the Word has cooled and you’re rusty on your Bible study methods? If we hope to protect our daily time with God, we must keep up the fight on all three fronts. We must get ‘triple protection’ for our time with God if we hope the habit will last.”

Prioritizing Evangelism, HT to Challies. “But knowing the gospel and loving the lost isn’t enough. Just loving the lost is like crying at the bedside of a dying patient with the cure in our hands. We must administer it. What good is the medicine? What good are our tears? So speak forth the very Word of God. It’s the only medicine that can save the sin-sick souls from eternal physical damnation.”

When You Can’t Meet Every Need, HT to Challies. “I want to meet their needs and it brings me great joy to meet their needs. But I cannot meet every need for every person in the ways they want or even in the ways I would like to. It’s impossible. And so, as I was explaining this conundrum to my husband, I told him how I’ve reconciled the tension in my heart.”

You Can’t Do Everything and Not Everything Is for Everyone, HT to Challies. This is a similar idea to the article above except that one is about individuals and this one is about the church, but could also be applied to groups and organizations. “All these are valid questions to ask and think through. The problem is not in their being asked, nor in their being thought through, but in the stymying effect whatabouttery can have on actually doing anything at all.”

Mom, Jesus Is Praying for You, HT to Challies. “‘You’ve got this’ is a popular encouragement for moms. But what’s behind it? If it’s the belief that I naturally have what it takes to keep my children alive, help them flourish, and even see them come to Christ without completely losing my mind in the process—then I definitely don’t ‘have this.’ Not on my own.”

People Pleasing Is a Shapeshifter, HT to Challies. “Lo and behold, my consuming worries had very little to do with the other person at all. The anxiety was actually about me – my desire to be liked, respected, admired…and my craving to please people. Well, what do you know? I’m still a People Pleaser, after all. Apparently, People Pleasing is a shapeshifter, disappearing in one form and reappearing as something else.”

The More We Know Him, the More We Trust Him

It’s natural—or should be—for Christians to go to the Bible for our spiritual needs. God has promised to meet our needs. His Word gives us hope, assurance, comfort, guidance, and so much more.

But if we’re not careful, we can approach Bible reading with an “all about me” attitude. What’s in it for me, how does it relate to me, how does it make me feel.

Instead, the Bible is all about God. God wants to meet our needs, but more than that, He wants us to know Him. He told Jeremiah of the exiles He was punishing, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7). Throughout the Bible we see His longing for a people to know Him.

Eternal life begins with coming to know God. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). But when Paul said “that I may know him” in Philippians 3:10, he already knew Him as Lord and Savior. Yet he longed to know God more. Peter tells us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

My husband and I met and started dating in college in SC. But in May, he went home to Idaho, and I went home to TX for the long summer until we saw each other again the next fall. I’m sure I spent much of those summers apart gazing at the photos I had of him. But to get to know him better, I heard his words during the few phone calls we could afford and read them in his letters.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” We can’t behold an accurate physical image of God in a painting or photograph. But we behold Him in His Word.

And in His Word, we find that He is good, loving, kind, merciful, righteous, powerful, wise, always present. We see His declarations about Himself. We read what the prophets of old said about Him. We see His actions in dealing with people throughout the Bible.

When we see our capable God, we’re assured He can handle anything, and anxiety melts away. When we see Him as the God of all comfort, our sorrow or pain is eased. When we see His ability to provide abundantly, over and above our need, we trust Him. When we see His calm and control, our fretfulness dissipates as we rest in Him.

The more we get to know Him, the more secure we are in His love, the more confidence we have in His wisdom, character, and provision.

And as we get to know Him, we trust Him more. We trust His promises in individual Bible verses, but more than that, we trust His character and His ability to take care of every need we have. We move beyond just getting our needs met and we find the ways He wants us to show His love and truth to others.

We don’t get to know Him just to get our needs met. But in getting to know Him, our needs are met.

So as we come to His Word, let us look for Him on every page. Let’s know and trust and love Him more and more each day.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
by Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
and Thy grace my need is meeting
as I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and pow’r on me
without measure, full and boundless,
drawing out my heart to Thee.

From “Here Is Love” by William Rees

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

When Spiritual Routines Get Boring

I watched, amused, as my husband prepared to go to work. He checked to make sure he had his wallet, keys, backpack, and water, then he kissed me goodbye.

But then he remembered something else he needed, or something else he needed to do, before he left. He’d run through his checklist again—keys, wallet, backpack, water, wife—and remember something else he needed to get. He went through this process three times, ending each time with kissing me goodbye.

I suppose I could have gotten upset that he forgot he had already kissed me goodbye several times, that kissing me was part of the routine. Or I could have reveled in getting four kisses instead of one.

But I was amused because I have similar routines.

Some routines arise to help us remember what’s vital. When I get out of the car, I stop to check for my phone, purse, glasses and keys, saying each one aloud. This routine grew out of having locked one or more of these items in the car in the past (all of them one time when one of my then-young children closed the car door before I was ready).

I also have a checklist before I leave the house to make sure I have those same items and have turned off the oven and burners (because I have accidentally left one on for hours, though thankfully not while I was gone) and have locked all the doors (because I have come home to a forgotten unlocked door).

Routines also help us get into the right mindset. Michael Phelps had an elaborate routine before races to prepare both his mind and body. A basketball player preparing for a free throw will usually dribble the ball a few times before aiming for the hoop.

Routines also save us time and brain power by not having to think through everyday decisions. We follow more or less the same schedule with eating breakfast, brushing teeth, showering, dressing. Routines can help us avoid distractions and give more time to creative thought.

But operating on automatic pilot gets us into trouble. I don’t know how many times I’ve missed a turn while driving because I was following my usual path instead of remembering I was going somewhere different that day. Or I’ve gotten to the end of my shower and forgotten if I washed my hair.

When I read articles about establishing a regular quiet time of Bible reading and prayer, I find many authors encourage setting up a routine. If we plan a quiet time at the same time and place with the same tools every day, soon it becomes regular and we don’t have to stop and think about whether, when, or where we’re going to have devotions.

Well and good.

But I’m sure you’ve had the same experience I have of running through your quiet time as a routine and then forgetting what you read five minutes later. Or looking at the same prayer list with a bit of dismay at praying for the same things over again.

I like to start my prayer time with what we call “the Lord’s prayer” and expand from there. But when I look at those same words every morning, sometimes I am in danger of running through them thoughtlessly.

How can we help our spiritual practices not to become so routine that we move through them on autopilot?

Remember who we are interacting with. Warren Wiersbe said in With the Word “The end result of all Bible study is worship.” He meant Bible study isn’t an end in itself: it should lead us to worship of the God in its pages. But it helps to start Bible reading with worship as well, to rejoice in the fact that the God of the universe wants to talk with and hear from me. The Bible says His thoughts are precious to us, highly valuable (Psalm 119:72). Stopping to think about who He is and what a treasure His Word is helps get me in the right mind set. Sometimes I do that with thought and prayer, other times by reading or quietly singing a hymn or reading a psalm or two.

Pray. Sometimes I just stop in the middle of what I am doing and ask God to clear the cobwebs and wake me up spiritually. Sometimes I’ll read through parts of Psalm 119, which is mostly prayer, like verse 24″ “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors,” or 25: “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” Verses 36-37 are good, too: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”

Change up the routine. It helps sometimes to change the order in which we do things or the translation or study method we’re using. Maybe go out on the patio or somewhere else in the house instead of our usual spot. I mentioned starting with the Lord’s prayer. But some years ago I made a list of other biblical prayers like Colossians 1:9-12 and Philippians 1:9-11, and I’ll use one of those instead.

Find study aids. If boredom comes from not understanding what we’re reading, a study Bible or simple commentary will help.

Examine our hearts. I think boredom in spiritual routines is often the result of familiarity or fatigue. But if we always feel bored when we read the Bible or pray, something deeper might be wrong. Maybe we’ve gotten our focus off the Lord or we’re harboring some sin. We need to ask Him to examine our hearts and show us anything that displeases Him. The Israelites were in worse trouble than they realized when they complained of weariness in the spiritual routines of their day.

Do it anyway. We shouldn’t let the feeling of boredom and routine stop us. Often, once we get going, we find something special in the day’s reading. One former pastor said one of his best times of prayer occurred when he started out confessing to the Lord that he didn’t feel like praying. Sometimes at the end of my quiet time, I’ve prayed, “God, you know I didn’t feel these things as fully as I have at other times. But you know I mean them.” Feelings help, but we do right whether feelings are there or not.

If over-familiarity with the Bible is a problem, these reasons to keep reading it might help.

God understands our human frailty. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He’s not looking for a stellar “performance” in our time with Him. He invites us to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Do you have any other tips for alleviating boredom when reading the Bible or praying?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Daily Light on the Daily Path

When I mentioned Daily Light on the Daily Path in my post about pursuing the fruit of the Spirit, my friend Susan commented that she wasn’t familiar with the book. Since that might be the case for others as well, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share about it.

I first heard about Daily Light in missionary biographies, particular Amy Carmichael’s and Isobel Kuhn’s. I don’t remember if I assumed it was an older, out of print book: I don’t recall seeking it out. But one day when a home school conference was held nearby, I visited their sales area. I found a 1906 copy of Daily Light on sale for $2. So I grabbed it! They must have printed a lot that year, because I have worn out two versions from that year and am on my third (the latter two found online).

I found that Daily Light is a devotional book made up entirely of Scripture readings for every day. They were compiled by Jonathan Bagster of Bagster and Sons Publishing Firm for his own family’s devotions. His son later published the readings as a devotional book.

Most of the Scripture selections for the day follow a theme, like the one from September 1 about meekness.

Others follow a progression of thought, like this one.

One of my favorites from April 10 pairs verses together like this:

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.—Thy renown
went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness,
which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.
I am a sinful man, O Lord.—Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair.
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.—Thou art all fair, my love; there is no
spot in thee.
When I would do good, evil is present with me.—Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven
thee.
I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing—Ye are complete in
him.—Perfect in Christ Jesus.
Ye are washed, . . . ye are sanctified, . . . ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,
and by the Spirit of our God.—That ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called
you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Psa. 51:5. -Ezek. 16:14.Luke 5:8. -Song 4:1.Job 42:6. -Song 4:7.Rom. 7:21. -Matt. 9:2.Rom. 7:18. -Col. 2:10. -Col. 1:28.I Cor. 6:11. -I Pet. 2:9.

We used the book for family devotions for a while, but my husband didn’t like reading verses grouped together out of context. Though I do prefer reading through the Bible a book at a time in order to get everything in context, these selections seem to have been combined prayerfully and carefully.

Many days these readings were just what I needed for the day. One of the most memorable times was when I was in the hospital with transverse myelitis and scheduled for an MRI. Every nurse and aide who came into my room asked me if I was claustrophobic. I wasn’t sure—I’d never been in a situations when I felt claustrophobic before. They described the close quarters of the MRI machine and the need to be perfectly still. They could give medication for calmness for the procedure, but it would have to be done ahead of time. I opted not to take the medicine. The morning of my MRI, September 4, the day’s selection from Daily Light contained several verses about being still, something that had been emphasized to me so much for the scan:

Ruth 3:18  Sit still, my daughter

             Isaiah 7:4 Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted.

             Psalm 46: 10   Be still, and know that I am God

   John 11:40 Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

   Isaiah 30:15 In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength

             Psalm 4:4 Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still

             Psalm 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him

   Psalm 112:7-8 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established

When they first put me in the MRI machine, I did feel panicky. But God kept bringing these verses to mind over and over, and they calmed and comforted me.

So every September 4 when I come across these verses, I am reminded of the Lord’s help that day.

Another time that stands out was when we were house-hunting as we prepared to move from SC to GA in the late 90s. The reading for March 6 included these verses:

The Lord your God . . . went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. -Deut. 32:11,12.
—As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him. Psa. 37:23,24.
—The steps of a
good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. Psa. 34:19.

When I read the first verse to my husband, he said, “Does that mean we’re going to live in a tent? Thankfully, no. 🙂

The 1906 version has a section at the back titled “Thoughts for Personal and Domestic Exigencies” (love that title!) It has a page of Scripture readings for thanksgiving, birthdays, marriage, sickness, anxiety, affliction, and bereavement. My 1999 version doesn’t have this section, unfortunately.

I’ve read Daily Light for about 30 years now. I like to read it to begin my devotional time, to get my mind and heart in gear. But some days, like when we’re traveling, or when I have an early medical appointment, or on Sundays, DL may be all I read for devotions that day.

I didn’t know there were evening readings until I ordered a more modern version. I don’t know if they were added later or if originally the morning and evening readings were published separately.

The original versions use the KJV, but you can find DL in several other Bible versions now. It is also online several places, including Crosswalk (if you don’t mind their ads) and Christian Classics Ethereal Library. This site will send the day’s readings from the NIV via email.

So that’s my long history with Daily Light on the Daily Path. Had you heard of it? Have you read it?

Laudable Linkage

I’ve been saying for weeks that I was behind on my blog reading. I’m almost caught up now, as evidenced by this long list of good reads.

Imagine Reading The Lord of the Rings the Way You Read the Bible, HT to Challies. “The aim of the story is really to sweep you away in the narrative, to carry you along in a story in which you are not the starring character but in which the idea is to fall in love with other characters. That’s how epic stories are meant to be read—not as tiny little morality tales, but as horizon-busting, eye-bugging, world-broadening, even life-shaping experiences.

Sometimes I Struggle With the Bible, HT to Challies. “I relate to what Mark Twain allegedly said, that ‘it ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me; it’s the parts that I do understand.’ It is comforting to know that one of my personal heroes, C.S. Lewis, shared similar feelings about the more perplexing parts of the Bible.”

I Should. . . “When we’re here, sighing over “shoulds” that overwhelm, our brain space ends up reading more like a to-do list than an ongoing conversation with God. We spend less time listening to God, and more time just asking him to help us get enough done today. The words of Jesus in Luke 10:42 strike a chord when the shoulds start to drive our days.”

Harmony of the Gospels. “When you carefully read the four Gospels, you will inevitably . . . encounter what might appear to be discrepancies or contradictions between the Gospels. How should you approach apparent contradictions? The following four starting points will help readers of the Gospels approach apparent contradictions in a helpful way.”

Is Your Gospel an Urban Legend? HT to Challies. “If you talk a big game about ‘the gospel,’ but don’t live like it’s true, the people you do life with will begin to suspect you don’t actually believe it. Worse yet, they may begin to disbelieve it themselves.”

Intersectionality and My Adoptive Family, HT to Challies. “If our family took these ideas seriously — as serious proponents intend — they would suffocate our love, steal our joy, and destroy my family. Intersectionality brings the division of mother against child and son against father in very different ways than Christ does.”

The Purpose of Discipline. “God gives us His grace during seasons of discipline so that we come to know Him more deeply. His desire is for us to know Him increasingly and intimately.”

4 Truths for Your Insecure Moments. “The next time you feel insecure, remind yourself that the parts of you that make you unique are the precise parts God wants to use to fulfill his purpose through you.”

I Didn’t Want to Go to Church, HT to Challies. “Recently it took everything within me to drag myself to church (for Wednesday night Bible study). My body was tired, my mind exhausted, and my heart fatigued. Further, it meant bringing both children who, for one reason or another, always decide to act wild on those nights. Long story short, I went to church that evening.”

First Friday Prayers; Galatians 1:24. Lauren takes every first Friday of the month to share how we can convert Scripture into prayer. This time an overlooked phrase from Galatians packs a big punch.

Living With a Legacy. The Elisabeth Elliot Foundation newsletter referenced a nice article in World Magazine about Valerie, Elisabeth’s daughter, growing up with the legacy of Jim and Elisabeth (I can see the article on my phone but not on my computer. World only allows a few views before hiding their articles behind a paywall).

These verses grabbed my attention when I was in another part of 1 Timothy 6. Don’t they sound just like the spirit of our age? May we share right words with a right heart.