This is a 5-day Bible Study Journey through the Book of Philippians. May your life be enriched as you "walk" with the Apostle Paul.
Living in the Upper Midwest, we know that winters can be long and harsh, but as tough as winters are on our gardens, summers can be equally harsh, if not more so.Under a blazing sun day after day with limited rainfall, our plants can quickly shrivel and die. That is why it is important to take this wonderful opportunity spring time gives us to equip ourselves to be garden-ready.
Because there is much to know and do to keep a garden thriving,I try to read books that explain hardiness zones, soil types, fertilizers, and dead-heading. I'm also learning which types of plants require shade and which ones are sun-lovers.Yet, in spite of this, I find that I still need to seek out the wisdom of the experts. Be it magazines or Master Gardeners, I benefit greatly when I am willing to remain teachable.
Over the years I've learned that I am in an ongoing battle with garden enemies of all shapes and sizes. In the spring our pesky neighborhood rabbits assume the tulips and crocus that I’ve planted are for their snacking pleasure. Then when summer arrives slugs love to polka-dot my hostas with holes and aphids are continually trying to set up shop in my Russian Sage. This means I must make regular inspections and know what trouble signs to look for, as well as how to combat all of their destructive endeavors.
Quotes on Soul Friendship with God
Incredible as it may seem, God wants our companionship.He wants to have us close to Him.
We live in a noisy, crowded, busy world. In the realm of man's spirit the devastation wrought by our much vaunted modern way of life is beyond measure. People are so driven. A thousand false voices call to them to find fulfillment in the transient, tempting pursuits of time.
But, man was made for a greater good than all of these.He was made for God. And he will never find rest of soul, serenity of spirit, until he finds that repose in stillness and quietness in company with Christ.
We cannot give ourselves to spiritual things and deepen our relationship with God if we are obsessed with a multitude of things to do and always on the go. Love for God is a tender plant that can mature only when it has time to grow. God cannot be loved on the run!
God will never adjust His agenda to fit ours.He will not speed His pace to catch up with ours; we need to slow our pace in order to recover our walk with Him.God will not scream and shout over the noisy clamor; He expects us to seek quietness, where His still, small voice can be heard.
What to Look for in a Soul Friend
*Someone who truly hears what you are saying because they are not busy formulating a response or interrupting you constantly to share what they think or change the subject to themselves or their experiences.A good listener is a patient listener.
*A good listener also listens for what isn’t being said.They are listening and watching for what lies deeper, depending on the Holy Spirit’s nudging’s to guide them.In other words, a good listener is prayerful listener.
November is a month of remembrance and gratitude for most Americans as we prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving. But, it holds particularly deep meaning for me...especially this year. Thirty-five years ago November 7th I faced into death and was given life. Thirty-five years ago, despite being given a 30% chance of survival, God carried me through a delicate and grueling nine-hour procedure to wire my severely broken neck back together. And standing beside me through it all was a tall basketball player from Bethel University who has never wavered in all the ups and downs that life has thrown our way.
With a heart full of thanksgiving to God...I dedicate these little thoughts to my hubby.
Perhaps like me, you get to the end of a particularly busy day and realize that your thoughts rarely, if ever, turned heavenward. If you are having a hard time keeping your eyes "fixed" on the Savior as you go about the course of your day, you may want to utilize an ancient prayer practice I have found particularly helpful. Christians throughout the ages have used a pattern called the Sacred Hours or Divine Hours to remind them to consciously pause what they were doing and focus on the One who gifted them with those very hours.
I suggest you make a copy of the following text, then cut each section out and place them where you can see them throughout your home, car and office.
I pray they will be a source of great blessing in your life, as they are in mine!
The Sacred Hours
Dawn – The Awakening Hour
Theme: Resurrection - Praise - Delight
Scripture: Psalm 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love; so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Quote: I cannot open mine eyes but Thou art ready there to catch my morning soul... Teach me Thy love to know, that this new light which now I see, may both the work and Workman show. George Herbert
Mid-morning – The Hour of Possibilities
Theme: Work – Potential - Blessing
Scripture: Psalm 90:17 Let your loveliness shine on us, and bless the work we do, bless the work of our hands.
Quote: I dwell in possibility. Emily Dickinson
One way that God speaks to my heart is through story. From the time I was a young girl, I didn't just read stories, I entered them. I walked the English Moors with Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and was one of the Pickwick Club members in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
Recently, as I sat reading John 15, the following story-form devotional began to take shape in my head... so I've put it down on paper for you. It will require some imagination and creativity on your part, but, I pray that it will be a blessing nonetheless. So, carve out some time to spend with your Savior in...
It has been a long while since you’ve been able to leave this busy world of yours behind and do something that breathes life back into your soul. In fact, it feels odd to get behind the wheel of your car and steer it away from commitments and appointments. You have to pinch yourself as you make your way through the hubbub and out along little winding country roads; you can hardly believe that it’s real.
It all happened so suddenly. But, as you think back over the steps leading up to this moment, you realize that this little getaway is more than a gift from a good friend, it is a divine appointment. You had thought that you were doing a good job hiding the emotional wrestling match you’ve been engaged in from others. Apparently you've fooled no one but yourself. Sensing the quiet storm that has been surging just below the surface of your life, your friend offered you an opportunity to get away and spend a little alone time with God.
What have you been wrestling with of late? Job pressures? Life changes on the horizon? The loss of someone precious to you? Your health? A struggling child? A broken heart?
I love to spend time in God’s love letter, the Bible. And one of my favorite ways to do that is by using a lectio divina approach. Lectio divina means divine or spiritual reading in Latin. It is a quiet, prayerful practice where we invite the Holy Spirit to open the ears of our hearts in order to hear God's still small voice speaking to us through His Word. It is not a discipline meant to master the Word or to acquire new information or knowledge, it is, as Henri Nouwen calls it, reading the Bible on your knees...where we allow the Word to descend from our minds into our hearts and become a personal word to us.
But, quieting ourselves and listening for God's whisper isn't an easy thing for us to do in our hurry-up, commotion-filled world. Yet, it is so vital to our spiritual well-being. So...I would like to issue an invitation to you today to carve out some time over the next several days to walk with me through the book of Ruth...lectio divina-style.
The first thing you are going to need, if you accept my invitation, is a quiet little corner to meet with God. It may be out on your back porch or on a comfy couch in your living room, but, quiet is the operative word here. Try to make that space as interruption-free as possible. It should be a set-apart place where you enter, as it were, the Holy of Holies to meet with your Savior.
Have a journal and pen with you. Throughout this experience you may feel compelled to stop and write something that touches, convicts, or challenges your heart. Or you might want to dialogue with God, writing out a prayer or words that you sense He may be speaking to you.
Once you enter this space, take a minute or two to quiet your spirit. Ask the Savior to silence the voices that may whisper to you from time to time to draw your attention away; and ask the Spirit to open the ears of your heart so that you may be attentive to His voice alone.
Open your Bible to the book of Ruth. (Her story lies about halfway between Genesis and the Psalms.) Slowly read through the first chapter. I like to read it out loud just to get the gist of it.
I pray that the Savior spoke sweetly into your life as you sat quietly with Him in the first chapter of the book of Ruth.
Before we rush on into the rest of this amazing story, however, I believe that we would be greatly blessed if we slowed down here and spent a little more time getting behind the eyes of Naomi and Ruth.
All of us at one time or another in life have passed through trying, pain-filled trials that have left us reeling. Perhaps some of you can relate quite personally to the human tragedy these two women are passing through in this book. As we walk alongside them, listening to their hearts, we give God an opportunity to touch us as well.
Before we get started, be sure that you are settled in a nice comfy spot where your heart can be most attentive to the Savior's voice. Give yourself a few moments to sit quietly. Ask the Spirit to sweep in and through you to clear away any stray thoughts that might distract you from meeting with God today.
Open your bibles to Ruth Chapter One. Slowly read through it with Naomi in mind. As you read, imagine her life as it was both in Israel and Moab. Ask the Lord to help you get behind this woman's eyes, to imagine what life felt like... looked like... to her. Allow the Holy Spirit's creativity to flow...
Calamity and loss seem to be the continued headlines in our newspapers. From tornado-ravaged towns, to devastating drought and fires, to earthquake and hurricane-flooded cities...many in this world of ours know what it's like to feel stripped down to nothing like Naomi in chapter one of Ruth.
When life collapsed in on Naomi, she felt sure that God had turned against her. Standing in the ashes of her life, she could not foresee any sign of hope in her future. All she knew now was that she felt stripped... her life empty, barren, filled only with bitterness. But, Naomi wasn't the only one to have experienced loss in this story. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, had also seen bitter days.
Let's take some time this week to walk back through chapter one once more. Open your Bibles and read the chapter with Ruth in mind, using the Holy Spirit's creativity to step into her shoes and hear, see, and feel what might have been going on inside of her.
For those of you puttering along with me through the book of Ruth... we are now moving on to Chapter Two.
As in times past, before you get started, be sure you are nestled into a quiet little niche, free from distractions. Take a moment or two to close your eyes and allow the silence to settle your spirit.
When your heart is ready, open your Bible to Ruth, grab your journal and pen, and ask the Savior to give you "ears to hear" His voice today.
Take some time to read through chapter two in it's entirety. Our story opens with Ruth and Naomi settling into their new lives in Jerusalem. As you eavesdrop on their conversations and their comings and goings, take note of a verse or verses that stand out to you. Jot them in journal...
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
If there is one thing that stands out to me as I read through Ruth chapter 2, it is Ruth's loyalty, care and kindness to her mother-in-law. Even folks living throughout Bethlehem were talking about it, according to verse 11. People couldn't help but stand up and take notice of this foreign woman. Ruth had willingly left her homeland and family behind, in order to be a loving helpmate to Naomi, when she had absolutely no obligation to do so.
Let's take some time now to dig a little deeper into this remarkable woman's life. But, before we do, make sure that you take a few minutes to quiet yourself before the Savior. Allow the cares and concerns in your life to drop away. Let the stillness of this moment prepare your heart to meet with God.
Ask the Holy Spirit to still any voices that might be clamoring for your attention and to give you ears to hear what is on His heart for you today.
Open your Bibles back up to Ruth 2. And as in times past, read the passage slowly - keeping Ruth in mind.
Figuring prominently into Ruth and Naomi's story here in chapter two is a man named Boaz. Much like his future great-grandson, David, to come, Boaz had a heart after God's. Let's take some time now to sit quietly with him and get to know him better...
But, before we do, be sure that you prepare your own heart for the encounter. Life can be chaotic, with our calendars and our heads filled to overflowing. It is imperative, then, that we take a few minutes to clear away all that would distract us from hearing God's voice. So, as in the past, settle into a quiet little niche where you can take a few minutes to calm your spirit. You may want to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Remember that the Savior is waiting to meet with you today. Thank Him for being with you and invite Him to speak into you whatever is on His heart.
Open your Bible to Ruth chapter two and read the passage slowly and reflectively with Boaz in mind. Try to picture the scene as it unfolds.
A letter to my precious friend Alyn... in heaven.
Do the heavens open for you to see all that's happening here in Haiti at Grace Village, Alyn? Surely they must, for when I stand on that hill, I am certain it is the place that heaven touches the earth.
Where heaven touches earth...
As you open your Bibles to Ruth 3 today, you will discover Naomi’s hope for her daughter-in-law Ruth's future blossoming into a beautifully unique love story. But, before we get up close and personal with each character individually, let’s step back for a spell and take some time to sit quietly with the overall chapter itself.
Find a quiet corner where you can sit silently for a few minutes. I know this may seem redundant or insignificant after a time or two, but, we so often carry a heavy sack around with us of daily concerns that we don’t even realize how much it can interfere with hearing the Spirit’s still small voice. So, imagine yourself laying it down now at the feet of Jesus…
As you prepare to read chapter three of Ruth, whisper a prayer, asking the Savior to silence any stray thoughts and to give you an open heart to hear His voice alone.
Read chapter three through… just to get the gist of it.
If you're anything like me, you may be getting a bit antsy at this point to flip to the last chapter of Ruth and wrap up your time in this book... we have, after all, spent a good many days with Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Yet, in my heart, I know that good things come to those who wait. So, if you are willing to spend a few more days puttering along with me, I believe God will reward the time we spend with Him and whisper truths into us that we simply would not want to miss. And who would want to walk away now, when a good love story is developing?! :o)
As is our pattern then, be sure that you are comfortably situated in a quiet little nook where you can be distraction-free. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to sit silently before God.
Ask the Savior to guard your thoughts; that you may be able to shut out all those voices that can so easily side-track, in order to hear only His still, small voice of love whispering what is on His heart for you today.
Open your Bible to Ruth chapter three and read through it slowly. Imagine yourself there in the scene. What do you see, hear, sense? Pull out your journal and try to describe the scene.
After an exhausting evening of winnowing barley, Boaz sat down to enjoy a hard-earned meal after all of his labor. Little could he have imagined that hiding in the shadows, the young Moabite woman, Ruth, was praying for the courage to lay herself at his feet to seek his forever protection.
Before we step onto the threshing floor to take in this scene in Ruth chapter three, however, it is important that you situate yourself in a spot that is quiet and most conducive for the Spirit to speak into your heart through our reading.
Take a few minutes to sit in silence. Allow yourself to rest in the presence of God. Ask Him to put a hedge of protection around your time together.
Open your Bible and read chapter three. Imagine the scene as it unfolds. Pull out your journal and describe what you envision it to have looked like, smelled like, etc.