Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day Two...

 Today's reading: Job chapters 6-20
Alright, I'm in the middle of today's reading and feeling the need to comment on thoughts that are coming to me as I go. I'm afraid that if I wait until I'm finished, I won't remember everything. Frankly, I have trouble remembering what comes to mind long enough for me to put down my Bible and type it up here. LOL Anyway...

Job's getting just a little bit whinny. Then again, with all the things his "friends" are saying to him, who can blame him? I can't help but notice, though, that Job is ascribing attributes to God that are less about Who God is than about how hopeless Job is feeling. For instance:
When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covers the faces of its judges—if it is not he, who then is it? Job 9:23-24

Sound familiar? How many times have you heard people in grief "blame" God for the failings of this fallen world? After 9/11, how many people accused God of not caring, of "allowing" it to happen when He could have stopped it? When we're facing tragedies that are so great they overwhelm us, we often want someone to blame and the larger the scope of the tragedy, the higher up the ladder we go when looking for a culprit. In mind-boggling tragedies like 9/11, or hurricane Katrina, or the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, we can't seem to help looking to God and questioning why He would let so many suffer and die. But we need to remember that God isn't sitting up there plotting ways to cause us pain. Tragedies happen because this world is fallen. Sin exists and pain and suffering and grief are direct results of that fact. All tragedies are not the result of personal sin, but merely a byproduct of the fallen state of this world. God cannot be blamed for that.


Here's another verse that jumped out at me.For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Job 9:32-33

The KJV uses the word, "daysman" for arbiter. Another translation I read uses mediator. Immediately the first thought that popped into my head was 1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Job's complaining that there is no mediator to stand between him and God and reconcile whatever problem God has with him. Wow. Praise God that we have a Mediator, that Jesus Christ makes intercession for us with God!

You just have to love Zophar the Naamathite. He is the very picture of a good Christian today! What's his response to Job's troubles and grief and hopelessness?
For you say, 'My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.' But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. Job 11:4-6
Boy, if that doesn't sound like a "good" Christian, I don't know what does. You know, obviously Job deserved what he was getting. In fact, ol' Zophar is quick to let Job know that he undoubtedly deserved a lot worse than what he was getting!

How many times have you found yourself sitting in judgment over someone else's misfortune? Not that God doesn't punish. He most certainly does. He corrects His children when they need it. But I find myself consistently amazed by how many Christians claim to know the mind and purpose of God. They look at tragedy and declare, like Zophar, that it must be "deserved" or it wouldn't be happening. Sticking with my earlier theme of major disasters, I know plenty of people who said 9/11, Katrina, and even the earthquake and tsunami in Japan were God's judgment on those affected. I saw some make the same claim about the tornado that ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri.

Amazing how many Christians seem to have a direct line into the heart and mind of God. They know these tragic events were His judgment, not merely evidence of the fallen state of this universe. Same thing with disease. I've lost count of how many times I've heard a fellow Christian say, usually with more than a hint of haughtiness, that the reason someone is sick is because they just weren't living their life right before God.

My point here isn't that global, national, local or personal tragedies are never God's judgment. Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped of the face of the planet in spectacular fashion as a direct warning to the fact that God can, will, and does exact judgement upon people and places that deliberately turn their backs on Him. Yet, even in that instance, God said that He would have spared the cities if there had been just 10 righteous men left within them. It speaks volumes that even that small number could not be found. But I have to ask, do you seriously believe that of all the people who died, or who lost loved ones or their homes in tragedies like 9/11 or Katrina or Japan or Joplin, not even 10 of them could be called righteous in God's eyes. Or maybe we're just assuming that 10 was an arbitrary number and God really wouldn't have stood by it? Or maybe it's changed somewhere along the way? Or just maybe, like what Job is going through, it is meant as a test for the righteous, an opportunity for them to bring glory and honor to God by remaining true to Him in the midst of their tragedy.

In short, I can't help but feel that while the Bible tells us that we will judge all things, it also warns us not to be judgmental of others. It warns us to have compassion on those who are suffering. And if there's one thing I think gets in the way of a vast number of Christians both growing in the Lord and being effective in serving Him, as well as in witnessing to others about Him, it's pride and arrogance. Every single time a Christian points a finger at those suffering in some tragedy and says, "yep, that's God's judgment right there," it hardens one more heart against God. It leads one more person to say, "If that's what it means to be a Christian, then I don't want any part of that 'Holier than thou' attitude." We really need to be careful how we not only treat others, but how we speak to and about them. The Bible says very plainly that we are recognized as Christians by our love; love for each other, and love for all men. First: Love God. Second: Love others as you love yourself. It's very simple. Yet we seem to have a lot of trouble being as kind-hearted, forgiving, encouraging, and loving to others as we are with ourselves. That's a real shame.

On a somewhat lighter note, I absolutely adore Job's sarcasm in Job 12:2-3: No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?
Basically, "well aren't you just a pack of know-it-alls? I guess when you die, all wisdom will die with you! Well, I know a few things, too - and you're no better than I am! Who doesn't know the things you've been saying?" Priceless. I love that the Bible isn't just staid words, but that it's alive with feeling and emotion, just like we are.

The rest of today's reading is more tit for tat between Job and his 3 "friends," Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. I couldn't help but notice that keep calling each other windbags. Funny how typical that is. One uses an insult and their opponent promptly turns it around and uses it on them in return. Don't we all do the same thing when we let our tongues get away from us?

This trio of men keep talking about how the wicked will fall, how they will be judged by God, implying not so subtly that Job is being judged and must therefore be wicked. And poor Job just keeps on asserting his innocence and asking them why they're so determined to tear him down even further when he's already at rock bottom. He wants to know why they aren't there to lift him up, to encourage him, to offer their support as he wades through this nightmare of grief.

One thing I started wondering was what Job would have done if they hadn't shown up, though. He starts off feeling pretty doggone sorry for himself. That's still there and it's completely understandable given his circumstances. But he's talking about how much he just wants to die, how God's out to get him for no reason at all and he'd have been better of if he'd died in his mother's womb. As a person who's battled clinical depression my entire adult life, I can certainly sympathize with his feelings. I've been there myself. And while Job's pals aren't doing anything at all to support him, they are making him focus a little less on feeling sorry for himself.

Job winds up chapter 19 with this: (verse 25) For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 
And verses 28-29: If you say, 'How we will pursue him!' and, 'The root of the matter is found in him,' be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment.
An indictment against them for blaming Job for all the troubles that had befallen him and a warning that they are the ones who ought to be worried about being judged for their self-righteous attitudes.

I guess my biggest take away from these chapters is a reminder to stay humble when faced with the tragedy or troubles of others. While it is our job to represent God, to spread His Word and to lead others to His salvation, it would benefit us all to remember that, though not a Biblical verse, this old adage is still very true and pertinent: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. If we want to draw others to God, to be the kinds of Christians that make non-believers stand up and say, "I want what they've got," we have to be loving people. Not condoners of sin, or so afraid of being disliked or misunderstood that we refuse to confront sin no matter how heinous it might be, but people who are wise enough to seek God's guidance in every word we speak. We can confront sin without being confrontational. We just have to be willing to swallow our personal pride and our need to "one-up" whomever we are confronting, and let God guide us in how we speak and act. Because it isn't our actions or words that will lead anyone to Christ, it is His love shining through us that will draw them in.

Lord, please help me to bind my wayward tongue, to rein it in when it would speak rashly or with anything less than Your great love. Remind me to be humble, to seek Your will and Your guidance before jumping into any conversation, especially when it involves another person's grief or pain. Remind me that no matter how long I have known You or served You, I do not know Your holy mind or the breadth or scope of Your great plan for anyone's life, including my own. Forgive me for being arrogant and thinking that I can "shame" others into being who and what I believe they ought to be. Please let me be a beacon for the immeasurable depth of Your love, demonstrated by the death of Christ on the cross for all mankind. Amen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day One...


Well, today was day one in our efforts to read through the Bible in 90 days. Our reading was Genesis chapters 1-11 and Job chapters 1-5. Following our SOAP formula, I'm supposed to pick out a verse that stood out or spoke to me. There were a couple of them.

First, Genesis 1:1 always gets me. "In the beginning, God..." There is just so much power and meaning in those four little words. They are the foundation of the entire Bible, the basis of all our faith. In the beginning, God: was, existed, created the entire universe, saw the time when His own Son would become the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, saw me, knew me, and loved me. He was the Alpha and the Omega even before the beginning! It makes logical sense for the Bible to begin with the account of the creation of the world, but more than that, I think there's even greater meaning to why the Bible begins with those first four words. Because without "In the beginning, God..." nothing else matters at all.

I just love those words. I love the incredible promise contained within them. Praise the Lord that God was there even before the beginning!

The other verse that caught my attention was Job 1:22: "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." For the sake of clarification, here is the "this" verse 22 refers to:
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you." Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:13-21 (ESV)
So, Job lost all his livestock and all his children on the same day, one report of bad news coming right on the heels of the last one and what did he do? He grieved, certainly. He tore his clothes and shaved his head in agony. But then he fell on the ground and worshiped God! He didn't get mad at God. He didn't blame God. He didn't stomp his feet and shout to the heavens, demanding to know why so much grief had been poured over him. He simply worshiped God. He immediately recognized and vocalized the truth that God is the source of all our blessings and it is in His hands how long we are allowed to keep them. Though the words are not said here, I can only believe that Job knew and believed with all his heart that "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 (ESV)

I wish I could say I've had that kind of trust and faith all my life. I haven't. I spent a lot of years after the death of my mother being miffed that God had taken her from me. I wanted to know why. And even after I finally found peace with that, I have had moments when I again found myself questioning God's wisdom and reasoning. Losing people we love is never easy. Even when we know they've made professions of salvation, when we believe they are gone to be in the presence of the Lord, letting go is always painful for us. The years have taught me to trust God, to rely on His strength to carry me through the hard times. Still, though I have learned to trust Him, I don't know that I could be as devoted as Job was if I lost as much as he did.

All of us who have been Christians for a while know Job's story. We know it got even worse after this, but that he remained faithful through it all, and that in the end, his faithfulness was greatly rewarded. There are all kinds of lessons to be learned from Job, which is precisely why God chose to include his story in the Bible. But I wonder how many of us really try to put ourselves in his place? How many of us take the time to try to imagine how overwhelming his grief must have been. I'm not a mother. I can't conceive of what it would be like to lose a child. But I have friends who have lost children. I know that no matter how many years pass, they still grieve for that child. No matter how many other children they have, there is always a place that cannot be filled. So imagine not losing one child, but losing 10 at one time. All your children just... gone. I imagine the loss of his livestock - which was substantial - didn't hold a candle to the loss of his children.

Now, try to imagine how you would react. Do you think you would praise God? Do you think you could? Could you utter the words, "blessed be the name of the Lord?" Or do you think you'd get stuck thinking about how unfair it was? Do you think you'd wind up looking at God and demanding that He explain just why He would allow you to suffer such intense pain?

Lord, I pray that you would give me strength and courage. That you would shore up my trust in You and erase any doubts that might still linger. Fill me with Your grace and wisdom so that I can face whatever comes with peace in my heart and praises for You on my lips. Amen.
A quick update about my health. I had another heart scan done on Tuesday, July 19. I went this morning to see my oncologist and get the results. My heart function had risen from 51% to 56%. It was at 61% when they did my baseline before I started chemo last year. So I'm on the way back up, which is very good news since it means I can continue to get my herceptin treatments. If all continues to go well, I'll finish them up some time in November. I'm more than half way there! I got my treatment today, so I've got 3 weeks until the next one.

God is so GOOD!!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dedication...

Okay. For those of you who don't know me personally, I'm a procrastinator. My mother used to tell me all the time that Procrastination should have been my middle name. I am always thinking of things I need to do or ought to do or even just want to do yet actually doing them is often a serious problem for me. I'm a crafty kind of person and really enjoy doing a lot of different things, which just adds to my collection of UFOs. (UnFinished Objects) I'm a pack rat because I'm forever looking at things and thinking, "Oh, I would love to make one of those," or, "I just know I can use that sometime for something." A great case in point is the countless patterns I have for various projects, from purses to miscellaneous jewelry to cross stitch. I collect patterns like I collect fabric. (Yes, it's an addiction. No, I have not sought professional help for it.)

Along with all my craft stuff, I also collect books. I am an avid reader. I got it from my mother, who was a heavy reader herself. Some of my earliest memories are of her reading to me. I had a "Bible Stories for Kids" book that was well worn. But there were a lot of fairy tales, too. And as I got older, a whole host of other books. Then I started reading for myself and the library became one of my favorite places in the world. We had this book case that sat in our hallway. It held our World Book Encyclopedias - my source for all sorts of in formation in the days before we all had access to the internet and it's infinite supply of "knowledge." Along with the encyclopedias, though, was an extensive collection of books I'd picked up through the years. From my earliest days of reading right through high school. My mother was a teacher's assistant and she used my books as her own personal library when she was looking for something new to read to her class of 2nd graders.

These days, I still collect books. I still have my "Bible Stories for Kids" as well as the fairy tales my mother read to me when I was a child. I've added a few others in my adult years, including the complete "Lord of the Rings" series as well as the Narnia books - both gifts from my husband because he knows how much I love to read. There was a time when I had literally hundreds of miscellaneous books that I'd picked up through the years, though I have since gotten rid of the vast majority of them in the interest of reducing clutter. Most of them went to Goodwill or the library. I still have plenty of books on hand, though. Including a rather large assortment of Bibles. I have my children's Bible. It has a cutesy cover and several illustrations of some of the major highlights. I have the Bible a boyfriend got me when I made it to my teens and that kids Bible just became a little absurd for me to carry. I have the Bible my mother carried most of her life and the one my father bought her to replace it. I have my father's Bible, complete with "autographs" of visiting preachers inside the inner cover.

In addition to all these "old" Bibles, I have a number of "new" ones. My husband and I have identical study Bibles that were given to us by our former church. (Amusingly, we actually have four of these Bibles because my husband has worn his first one out to the point that entire sections of it have fallen out. He still insists on using it to read from morning and night, though. His new one is his "go to church" Bible.) Then there are my parallel Bibles, one of which I used to take to church with me on a regular basis. I have a very small Bible that I carried in my purse for a while since I read somewhere that it was a good way to get in some extra reading time. It could be pulled out while waiting at a doctor's office or at the mechanic or wherever. These days my Bible is a program on my iPad. Just yesterday I was showing it off at church. That thing has been one of the best things in the world for me and I love it. I use it every single day for countless things from my Bible to checking email to my calender and my medical history. It has been a great blessing and also holds dozens of ebooks. Now I can take my "library" with me wherever I go.

Along with my Bibles are my collection of song books. I've got old ones and new ones, several old hymnals, and an entire satchel full of sheet music and song lyrics. (Music is about as much an obsession as reading,) I have enough cookbooks to open my own restaurant and cook a different recipe every meal of every day for the rest of my life without having to repeat anything. I've also amassed an impressive number of "For Dummies" books. And, last but not least, is my significant collection of Bible studies and other Christian literature.

I'm a big Beth Moore fan and have several of her books. I love the idea of Bible studies so I have several of them. Some in book form. Some individual studies I've downloaded from the internet. Some entire series that I have saved on my computer or bookmarked in my browser or otherwise made note of for some eventual day when I decide to make the time to do them. Needless to say, they number about the same as the recipes. I could never do them all. Yet I still collect them.

The sad reality is, I don't do them because I'm always finding something else to do. My attention span seems to be unfortunately short. It has always tended to wander a bit, but going through the chemo didn't help matters any. During the height of the treatment, I could barely keep my mind focused for more than a minute on anything at all. I bought a shirt that makes light of that particular side effect.
Zazzle Page for this shirt


It's a lot better than it was, but I still catch myself having trouble keeping my focus sometimes. Anyway, all these Bible studies and books and Bibles are just sitting around, waiting for me to get myself in gear and put them to good use. I just need to commit myself. Which brings me to the real point of this post.

I mentioned my husband's Bible which he reads each morning and evening. He's gone through the entire Bible like this a few times now. I've been a Christian since my teens and know my way around my Bible fairly well. I've got a lot of various verses locked away in my head, mostly from so many years of being in church and hearing them read. Memorization has never been my strong suit. I can and have done it, but only in small spurts. Likewise, regular dedication to reading my Bible is one of my serious failings.

It isn't that I don't want to or that I don't like to or that I don't think it's important. I do. I'm always amazed at the way God can take a verse or a passage we've read a dozen times and reveal some new aspect of it on that thirteenth - or even fiftieth - time through. And there's no doubt at all that consistent reading and study of God's Word is important, even necessary. But like so many other things in my life, I just keep putting it off until "tomorrow." In all my years as a child of God, one thing I have never committed myself to is a front to back reading of His Word. I feel like that's something I really need to do.

Now, let me quantify that by saying that I don't put much stock in reading "by rote." It's kinda like repeating the same words of a prayer over and over and over again as a matter of tradition. Like countless other Christians, I know The Lord's Prayer by heart. I don't "pray" it as a matter of routine, however. I don't think that's why it was given to us. In fact, Jesus warned directly against "vain repetition" right before He gave us His prayer.  
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:7 (KJV)
Too often I think cover to cover reading of the Bible winds up being a bit like routine repetition of The Lord's Prayer. It loses it's meaning through excessive repeating. This isn't to say that reading the Bible front to back is a fruitless exercise, but it has to be done for the right reason and with the right "heart." Otherwise it's a vain exercise, just like the prayer. I don't think God likes it when we turn our worship of Him into an exercise we can "do in our sleep." That just sucks all the depth and real meaning right out of it.

As I said, I've never done a cover to cover reading of the Bible. I read verses and chapters and passages more or less at random, or as part of a Bible study or a church service or when looking for something in particular. It's possible that through this approach I have managed to read every verse in the Bible at some point or another, but it isn't quite the same as a deliberate, dedicated devotion to ensuring that I have read them all. Moreover, that I haven't just read them, but that I've taken the time to consider what they have to tell me.

I mentioned in my last post that I am a part of an online community of Christians called Worthy Christian Forums. I love the site and have learned a lot since I joined it over a year ago. I have also "met" some wonderful Christians there. It's an awesome representation of the body of Christ, in that we are all so different, from different places both geographically and spiritually. Meaning we have members ranging from "babes in Christ" to "elders" who can offer tremendous wisdom from a lifetime of walking with the Lord. We have comedians who keep us all laughing and theologians who make us all think. And there are the encouragers, members who lift us when we're down or prod us to dedicate ourselves more faithfully to God. One of these members started a thread several weeks ago asking the administers and moderators at Worthy if some sort of group could be started that would be dedicated to reading through the Bible chronologically in 90 days. After some back and forth with one of our mods, she started up a new thread spreading the word about the project.

She started a group on Facebook called Chronological Bible in 90 Days. There are 28 of us who have joined that group so far. Presumably all of us are committing to at least doing the reading, though the goal is to do more than that. We read, yes, but we are planning to also post our progress in SOAP format.
S = a scripture or passage that really stood out to you that day
O = your observation about the scripture's context
A = how you can apply this passage to your life
P= a simple prayer to wrap things up.
My first thought when I read about her idea was, "cool." Then it was, "wow, 90 days?" Then came, "Yeah, I can't even make myself read a single verse every day." Which immediately led to me thinking that I ought to be ashamed of that and that God certainly deserved more than what I was giving Him. So I jumped into the fray and committed myself to participating.

Most of the time I'm excited about it and looking forward to the challenge. Then I have days like today when I wake up with a migraine and have to force myself to sit down and write the post I've been planning to do about this project for a while now. Days like this aren't particularly conducive to "growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord." I'm tired, hurting, and irritable. I'd rather be asleep, where I can get away from the pain in my head, even for a little while. But once our project starts, I won't be able to ignore it or put it off. Because what's the point of making the commitment if I'm not determined to stick with it even when I don't feel like it?

The truth is, I need this. I need to immerse myself in God's Word, to dig into it and see what He has to tell me. Yesterday in church our pastor confessed that lately he hasn't been feeling excited about reading the Bible. (He's the kind of man who has no problem at all admitting that he isn't perfect, which is one of the reasons we love him.) He flat out said it wasn't God's fault, that God's Word had not lost any of its power or meaning, but that he was the one to blame. Because God never moves, He never pushes us away or withdraws from us. We are the ones who move away from Him.

It's tempting to sit here and say that I need to get myself back in the "mood" to be devoted to God. That I need to "get my head and/or heart right" before I try to undertake something as big as reading through the Bible in 90 days. But that's a lie. What I need is to just get myself into God's Word. I need to start reading, to dive in head first and trust God to do the rest. I need to make a commitment and refuse to back away from it. I need dedication, to make a promise to God that I will be there, that I will meet Him every single day with my heart and mind open to whatever He has to teach me. So that's what I'm doing.

Starting this coming Thursday, July 21, our little group will begin our journey through the Bible. If you're up for the challenge, join us. Don't let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you can't do it. Don't let the problems and busyness of day to day life keep you from making a commitment to do something big. Whether it's this Bible reading project or some other thing God's called you to do that you keep putting off.

Life never stops. It doesn't slow down or give vacations or time off. I have a treatment on Thursday. I'll be tired and scattered. I won't feel like doing anything at all, much less something that's going to require me to actually focus and pay serious attention. But I refuse to surrender to that voice in the back of my head that keeps trying to tell me that I can't do it. That I shouldn't have committed myself to this. Christie, the woman who started the whole thing, has just found out that she's going to be facing a trip to visit her daughter for the birth of a grand child, as well as a completely unexpected move from Las Vegas to Texas, all right in the middle of our 90 days. You think she isn't tempted to call it all off? Think she hasn't had a few moments when she thought, "Gee, Lord, I was trying to do something for You, here. You could have held off on all the big events until afterwards!" Want to know what she ultimately said, though?
i was starting to feel overwhelmed, because of the florida trip for the birth of my grandson in the middle of this 90 day schedule. so what does God do? he drops a cross-country move into the mix, and then whispers that i'm going to NEED this much time in His word every day to keep my sanity! (Posted on the group wall on Facebook.)
Man, I love that! I love that despite the craziness of it all, she can see God's hand at work in her life. And that's why I'm doing it. Why I'm committed in spite of my heavy leanings toward procrastination. I want to make this promise to God, I want to set my mind on Him, on His Word, on a determination to stick to it no matter what comes my way. I want to remind myself that the only way I can do anything at all is by relying on Him to get me through it. I want to take a leap of faith and trust that He will help me focus and stay faithful.

Life is hectic. We have countless distractions, both unavoidable and those we allow to creep in. But nothing can overshadow God if we refuse to allow it to do so. Nothing: no trial, no trouble, no emotion, no physical pain or weakness, no character flaw. God is the conqueror of all our failings, if we will allow Him to be. As one of my favorite songs says, "God will take away your pain if you choose to let it go." It doesn't just apply to pain. It applies to any and all obstacles to our walk with Him. It's all about our willingness to "let go and let God." We can do all things through Christ. Not on our own. So I'm going to be relying on God to keep me going as I do this.

If you would, please keep us in your prayers as we embark on this effort. We'll all be facing our own obstacles as we go through this reading schedule. We'll need God's strength to stay faithful to our commitment. And like I said, if there's something you're feeling led to do, don't let anything get in your way. God deserves our devotion and dedication. Remember that every time we put off answering His call, we are telling Him that He's just not as important as whatever it is we're choosing to do instead.