Tag Archives: 66 books in a year

Job 1-3; Psalm 29; Revelation 10

He was about to lose his life as he knew it. I’m so thankful for these years reading through the scriptures, getting to know the people and my God better each time. But interestingly, the frequency and familiarity don’t make it easier–sometimes it gets a little harder.

I want to hit pause as I read the opening lines of Job–a man of integrity, a man who feared God and stayed away from evil, a loving father of sons and daughters, his home a place of feasting. He was considered rich by his community’s standards, and by my own standards his heart for God and family make him truly wealthy. He was a disciplined man, and his life had a beautiful rhythm.

And he was about to lose his life as he knew it.

This time around, it’s hard to keep reading farther. The loss, the wrestle, the tugging pull of assumptions, accusations, confusion–and a lot of that comes later. His pain is deep; he wonders many things; he wants to erase the wounding and lock it all away from light. There are many things loss dredges up to the surface that survivors must confront. This is hard work.

I know if I sit here longer with Job, I will learn things. Because there will be a time when life feels upended, and life as it was known is lost. How do I look at Job’s grief when I can’t even resolve my own? I turn the pages and focus on this: the voice of the Lord.

Across the seas and among the cedars and oaks, the barren places and wilderness, his voice echoes, strikes, wrings, and strips.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic (Psalm 29:4, NLT).

I listen for your voice, Lord.

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:10-11, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, Old Testament, Psalms

Nehemiah 1-3; Revelation 5

And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (Revelation 5:8, NLT).

When I went back to see my doctor after cataract surgery, I knew that I was going to thank him for restoring my sight. What I said to him came from my heart, and gratitude brings me to tears.

During sunrise walks, I think on things that God has done in my life. I challenge myself to discern what a walk with God should look like. I meditate on messages I get through podcasts, and sometimes am brought to tears (like yesterday when one podcast played music from Rocky, an inside story that God would know, and I’m moved mightily by his attention to detail).

In 2017, I chose a focus word RESTORE. I thought specifically that it would mean restoration in a broken relationship, but it didn’t. With some distance in hindsight, I see that year was the beginning of God restoring me. Fixing the brokenness, strengthening weak spots, releasing me from shackles (mindsets and practices) generations long. And today, in 2018, I am lighter in every respect. Life isn’t easier, but I see it in a different way, literally.

That gold bowl of incense holds my prayers. It holds my hurts and deepest hopes. It holds my crying and struggling expressions. It holds Nehemiah’s prayers too. Fragrant offerings.

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’

10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” (Nehemiah 1:5-11, NLT)

God made a way for Nehemiah and many others to begin repairing (restoring) the wall in Jerusalem. In Nehemiah, he lists by name the families who came out and where they repaired the broken and weak spots. Perfumers, goldsmiths, merchants, daughters–all had positions to work.

(20 “Next to him was Baruch son of Zabbai, who zealously repaired an additional section from the angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.” Nehemiah 3:20, NLT. I love this notation, emphasis added.)

Imagine a focus and purpose to act on what is in front of us: broken relationships; generational sins; ownership of what is in our ability; a ruthless assessment of our condition, neglect or weakness–couldn’t those things, wouldn’t those things be lifted up to our great God, a fragrant offering in a gold bowl; oh, couldn’t he, wouldn’t he make a way for his people?

28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house. 29 Next Zadok son of Immer also rebuilt the wall across from his own house, and beyond him was Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the gatekeeper of the East Gate. 30 Next Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section, while Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall across from where he lived (Nehemiah 3:28-30, NLT).

Lord Jesus, when I think of how you have transformed my life these past two years, I am brought to tears (and more so with a Rocky soundtrack, thank you!) at your care, your provision, your direction, your protection in my life. Lord, help me to discern where I should focus this next year, places of neglect and disrepair, and may I work zealously for you like Baruch. Help me to keep the focus. Help me to persevere. I am so deeply grateful for your love.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezra 5-6; Psalm 95; 3 John

My first impression reading of the prophets speaking over the people was of God’s sovereignty.

At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them (Ezra 5:1-2, NLT, emphasis added).

I thought about God’s sovereignty in the wait. When rebuilding was questioned and archives were searched to verify permission, I thought about what their life might have felt like in the wait. (I thought of what my life has felt like in times of wait.)

Then I saw his abundant provision. The prophets of God were with them and helped them. King Darius responds to the query, confirming permission and payment in full from the taxes collected so that their work wouldn’t be interrupted, and he adds:

Give the priests in Jerusalem whatever is needed in the way of young bulls, rams, and male lambs for the burnt offerings presented to the God of heaven. And without fail, provide them with as much wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as they need each day. 10 Then they will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his sons. (Ezra 6:9-10, NLT, emphasis added)

Father God, you remind me: You are sovereign. You are my provider. You are my portion. I keep my eyes fixed on you, seeking your kingdom, listening for your voice.

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
    a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
    and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
    His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
    the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today! (Psalm 95:1-7, NLT)

God affects life in his big-picture way, and allows us to be agents on his behalf in the details, rolling up sleeves like the prophets did in Ezra, supporting others in ministry, using gifts and talents for God’s kingdom.

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. (3 John 5-6, NLT)

And, in response to Diotrephes’s pride and motivation:

11 Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God. (3 John 11, NLT)

Lord, thank you for meeting me every morning for a sunrise walk, for speaking into and over my life, for changing my heart and changing my vision. Thank you for letting me show your love when I serve others. This is a sweet privilege.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Daniel 7-9; Psalm 91; John 19

Daniel gets visions that terrify him, images and meanings he doesn’t understand.

26 “This vision about the 2,300 evenings and mornings is true. But none of these things will happen for a long time, so keep this vision a secret.”

27 Then I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for several days. Afterward I got up and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly troubled by the vision and could not understand it. (Daniel 8:26-27, NLT)

They are explained to him, and the end result, after all the struggle, is victory.

26 “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. (Daniel 9:26, NLT)

Psalm 91 proclaims the Lord’s presence and protection. Terrors, disease, deadly traps, the Lord says:

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16, NLT

They mocked Jesus, slapped him, crowned him with thorns. Pilate knew enough to fear.

Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:5-11, NLT)

The love of the Lord and his victory are woven throughout the scriptures–the thread that breathed existence holds the world together. Forces that punish, manipulate, deceive are put in proper light. Battles waged on earth are fought also in heavenly realms. An Anointed One is killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing … taken down from a cross, wrapped in a cloth, and put in a tomb. It may have looked like an end, but the victory was and is always his.

This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him. (Psalm 91:2, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 40-42; John 14

While Jesus was making his ultimate journey to the cross, he continued teaching those around him. His words were often confusing to them because they didn’t have an understanding of the scope of what Jesus was doing.

The passages in Ezekiel were measurements and meaning to the temple. In John, Jesus speaks, and I listen. I have a sweet luxury of the written word, and I can return to it often and sit at my Savior’s feet.

15 If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

30 “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, 31 but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going (John 14:15-31, NLT).

Jesus was fulfilling a requirement to show his love for the Father. And in these passages he takes time to explain to the disciples who he is, that he is making a way, that he is coming back–assurances and comfort. He tells them he’s not leaving them as orphans, but sending the Holy Spirit who will guide in truth. He leaves a gift, and it’s something only he can give, and we won’t find it in this world. This world won’t give the kind of peace that Jesus can. Jesus explains these things to the disciples while he is with them–and this is deeply meaningful to me: that he prepares them, comforts them, provides for them, assures them. There is so much love and care in this dialogue.

Lord Jesus, I’m grateful for the ability to read these words and read them often. You are the example I want to follow–your love, your wisdom, your obedience, your guidance, your provision. You show me how to be the kind of friend and parent who cares tenderly, lovingly, responsibly. This is relationship. This is treasure. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 25-27; Psalm 85; John 9

Were the Pharisees upset because Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath, or because they themselves were unable to perform miracles? Was it because they didn’t feel the blind man deserved healing? Was it because all the attention was diverted from their pious ways to this Jesus who was gaining a following? Was it anger? Offense? Disbelief? Jealousy? Hatred?

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:2-5, NLT, emphasis added)

A blind man (from birth) can now see. Where’s the party? (Instead, he’s interrogated. And even his parents kept a safe distance away from him.)

When I first became a Christian as a new adult, a sibling skeptically commented to another, “We’ll see how long that lasts.”

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
    for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
    But let them not return to their foolish ways.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    so our land will be filled with his glory. (Psalm 85:8-9, NLT)

 

When my husband, kids and I didn’t participate in the lie (consequently breaking the reach his legacy of lies), that relative wouldn’t speak to or see me/us for two years.

This year, a pursuit to establish healthy boundaries, to lose weight, to change–each was met with anger and/or silence from some extended family and some years-long friends.

Where’s the party? When God shows up in a life and starts His transforming change, isn’t it cause for celebration?

When I went in for my post-op visit after last week’s cataract surgery, the assistant removed the patch and bandage over my eye. At first I wouldn’t open my eyes.

“Open your eyes,” she encouraged. “You’ll like what you see.”

And I opened my eyes and saw with clarity through an eye that, for more than half my life, had worn prescription glasses, and was more recently clouded by cataracts. I started to cry.

“Is it OK to cry?” I asked, holding back the largest wave of emotion.

“Yes,” she said. “I remember, you’re the crier.”

Father God, I’m grateful for the gifting and talent and wisdom you have measured out to people all over the world. Because of a man’s interest in healing eye disease, I can see. Because of one believer’s response to a call in her life, a nurse prayed with me before the operation. Lord, when I look with holy vision, I see your work in the world and in the hearts of those around me. When your work in my life is met with anger and silence from another’s heart, I trust that you are at work there too (because you’ve used those same responses in me to look deeper). And I can be grateful and peaceful instead of hurt. Thank you, God, for restored vision and new vision.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 10-12; Psalm 83; John 4

I recently got results from a DNA ancestry/health test I took. I was unprepared for the depth of feelings I’d feel as I looked at the results and saw a profile of my ancestry–such a gasp of wonder and joy, a glimpse into a past. It was really exciting, and more than that, I felt a connection and belonging to a greater history. There were fun findings–that I’m likely to drink more caffeine than average (true) and that I am likely to be more afraid of heights than others (also true). And it fell short in a couple of places suggesting that I don’t have a widow’s peak (I do), and that I’m likely to dislike cilantro (I buy it weekly–love!).

Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. They talk, and he tells her things about herself she already knew–things about her choices and past. It’s stuff the people in her life might know, that she might even be known for, but that a stranger wouldn’t know. Instead of feeling shame or embarrassment or apathy, she has a kind of wonder, and perhaps relief.

39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” (John 4:39, NLT, emphasis added)

She comes to the well every day to fill a very real need (and perhaps much of her life was spent trying to fill a need for acceptance, provision, love, belonging, purpose, fulfillment), and he promises her an everlasting satisfaction. Living water.

I think of my ancestors and I want to know more–their names, their stories, and what they were searching for. What were they leaving, and what were they pursuing that moved a lineage from place to place, and finally here to my doorstep in the woods?

Father God, you will stop at nothing. No distance. No desperation. You already know I love cilantro and coffee. You know the depth of my weaknesses. You know my struggles and my strengths. You know every thought I’ve ever had, every word I’ve ever spoken, and every feeling I’ve ever felt (even the ones I try to keep from myself)–and you don’t flinch. You don’t turn away. You meet me in the place of my need, and I feel like you’re telling me, ‘You can keep coming back to (this place) looking for (understanding, satisfaction, answers, fulfillment, love), but even if it meets your need today, you’ll be back here again tomorrow. I can meet that need once and for all time so that you don’t need to keep returning to (a place) that can’t (heal you).” Lord, I believe you because … you know everything about me, you keep your promises, you are able.

Courtney (66books365)

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