Tag Archives: word of the year

Exodus 38-40; Acts 4; Psalms 15, 19

Integrity. Obedience. Trustworthiness. Excellence. Perseverance. At first, I was dazzled by the detail and skill of the craftsmen. Then I was humbled by the very ordinary (not-so-ordinary) routine setting up and taking down of a traveling tabernacle. God has me wrestle with obedience this week. (I just finished a read aloud with my youngest, a book by Geraldine McCaughrean called The Kite Rider. A theme throughout is obedience, and the cost of obedience.)

Today, I read of Bezalel, being who God created him to be, and cheering him on for his excellence.

Bezalel made the chestpiece with great skill and care. He made it to match the ephod, using finely woven linen embroidered with gold and with blue, purple, and scarlet thread (Exodus 39:8, NLT, emphasis added).

Do I cheer the ordinary (not-so-ordinary) as well?

16 Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him. 17 So the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year. 18 Moses erected the Tabernacle by setting down its bases, inserting the frames, attaching the crossbars, and setting up the posts. 19 Then he spread the coverings over the Tabernacle framework and put on the protective layers, just as the Lord had commanded him (Exodus 40:16-19, NLT, emphasis added) .

(For some reason, these preparations made me think of congregations gathering on Sundays in rented school spaces, setting up and tearing down. The routine of ordinary-not-so-ordinary.)

And something I notice too in obedience–anointing.

12 “Present Aaron and his sons at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and wash them with water. 13 Dress Aaron with the sacred garments and anoint him, consecrating him to serve me as a priest. 14 Then present his sons and dress them in their tunics. 15 Anoint them as you did their father, so they may also serve me as priests. With their anointing, Aaron’s descendants are set apart for the priesthood forever, from generation to generation” (Exodus 40:12-15, NLT, emphasis added).

And in the New Testament, Spirit-filled teaching and preaching. Who can stop it?

19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, NLT, emphasis added).

Lord, you challenge my thoughts and you challenge my heart–to examine my response in the ordinary-not-so-ordinary. Forgive my dragging feet and reluctance. I remember the times I served and served wholeheartedly.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever. (Psalm 15, NLT, emphasis added)

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much to redirect my thoughts to you, and to what matters beyond what I can see.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus

Exodus 22-24; Luke 23; Psalm 12, 14

14 “Each year you must celebrate three festivals in my honor. 15 First, celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, just as I commanded you. Celebrate this festival annually at the appointed time in early spring, in the month of Abib, for that is the anniversary of your departure from Egypt. No one may appear before me without an offering.16 “Second, celebrate the Festival of Harvest, when you bring me the first crops of your harvest.

“Finally, celebrate the Festival of the Final Harvest[i at the end of the harvest season, when you have harvested all the crops from your fields. 17 At these three times each year, every man in Israel must appear before the Sovereign, the Lord. (Exodus 23:14-17, NLT)

A deliverance. A planting. A harvest. These are the three festivals for the Lord’s honor.

When I first started reading the scriptures today, I hoped that I could gain insight to a specific circumstance in my life. While the reading didn’t necessarily address it, I was reminded: God is just. And I trust in that. As I read about the festivals in His honor, I think of it symbolically today.

God delivered me from the captivity of sin and oppression. He has planted me in this place to sow what I will. And at the end of a life or a time, there will be a harvest.

19 “As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 23:19a, NLT)

These festivals were held yearly in the Old Testament–and I wonder if I looked closely at how I spend my time, what would I notice of sowing and harvest in a year? Would it honor God? Did I take what He has given me and use it wisely, intentionally? Have I given Him the honor and best of the harvest?

Lord, I’m so grateful for all that you have done for me. In this time of healing and discovering, I trust in you. I want to take my eyes of my broken heart and focus on purpose–a kingdom purpose. Help me to steward well what you have entrusted me. Help me to honor you and keep you as the focus of my heart, my words and my actions. Thank you for your Word that speaks to me of your presence and promises. Thank you for being trustworthy and just. Thank you for loving me just as much on the days I’m a shortsighted mess as you do on the days I’m bringing my best.

Courtney (66books365)


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

Exodus 5-8; Luke 18

My friend for more than twenty-five years died the other week. I listened as his wife spoke in eulogy of his lifetime–told about this man I loved, and shared many things about him I never knew. He had delightful interests, so much talent, and his life story was full and generous and loving and adventurous. How I wished I’d had more time with him–he was truly like a father to me. His life, even in death, continues to inspire me: to live in purpose, on purpose.

The weight of grief, worry, strife and stress has felt oppressive in recent years–these things can take me off course, derail me from life and its purposes. I live in the woods, and find myself wishing I was deeper in the forest, averting my eyes and sometimes my heart from making contact—it feels an awful lot like despair.

I’m not sure if it’s circumstance or the things one tells himself or hears from others, but I hear it in Pharaoh’s voice as he tells Moses, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work (Exodus 5:4-5, NLT).”

I can get caught up in the task (of work or routine or stress or grief) at hand, that my focus is redirected into a worldly (small) view instead of a deeper calling and purpose. And whether one places it upon himself, or it’s the voices of those in his life, Kingdom work and purpose can become muddled and muted. Moses and Aaron weren’t distracting the people from their tasks–they were pointing them to it. The world gets it so very backwards, and I fall for it too. Too many hoops, too many tasks, too much people pleasing and accommodating that I neglect the very One who gives me strength, neglect the passions He’s put in my heart and compromise my focus and time until I am weary and worn out. It feels an awful lot like despair.

“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’”

So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery (Exodus 6:6-9 NLT).

Lord, repeatedly I train myself to order my tasks but to keep my eyes on you. Again. Again. When my focus slips to what’s in front of me, I forget what’s inside of me and what’s ahead of me. The shrill of the ringtone, the chipping away at peace, when I lose sight of you, I become too discouraged too.

I set my thoughts on a Kingdom purpose, a Kingdom focus.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, 30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come (Luke 18:29-30, NLT).”

That rich man was disheartened because, perhaps, his (wealth/success/pride/ability) was his real focus, not the inheritance of eternal life he believed he wanted.

Lord, help me to do what I need to do, and let go of what needs to go. I want to walk in truth, and keep my eyes focused on you. Thank you for a friend like David, whose life spoke of intention and inclusion, generosity and love. Thank you for challenging me to see things in a new way, for revealing truths I didn’t see, and for reminding me to seek your Kingdom first.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament

Genesis 27-28; Luke 8; Psalm 4

Jacob and Esau. God’s purposes bring to light what’s in the heart.

Jesus speaks of seeds and light:

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest (Luke 8:11-15, NLT).

Jesus heals a man possessed by a legion of demons, yet the area people beg Jesus to leave out of fear.

40 On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for him (Luke 8:40, NLT).

There, a woman reaches out and touches the hem of his garment. A daughter is healed.

The full reading illustrates contrasts–worldly focus against kingdom focus. One son burns with resentment; the disciples are terrified by the storm; a town is fearful of supernatural power–in contrast to seeking God’s will even when everything feels upended; trusting in God’s protection in the storm (and nothing reveals that protection quite like the storm); a crowd welcoming and waiting on an opposite shore.

You can be sure of this:
    The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
    The Lord will answer when I call to him (Psalm 4:3, NLT).

Lord, thank you for impressing upon me a kingdom focus. Thank you for reminding me again and again to focus on you.

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8, NLT).

Thank you for loving me. You call me yours. You are there when I call to you. You keep me safe.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 9-12; Luke 3

Lord, let me build my altar to you.

Ancestry–a lineage from Adam to Jesus. In these passages, I linger in Noah’s story. I witness a tower project–and a scattering. I travel territories with Abram. He stops. I notice what he does.

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord. Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev (Genesis 12:7-9, NLT).

I’ve read lots of reflection on a finished year, and I consider my own. In a digital age, the altars are images and words. Am I making monuments of milestones–or altars of angst? Still fresh, coming out of a year-end reading of Job and Revelation, was 2018 the year I lost (a sense of everything) or the year I was restored?

Ancestry–a lineage in a genetic test kit. I read my results with wonder. I think of sea views and mountain views and snowy valleys–journeys traveled through the ages leading here. This place. My place in the story of a history.

Lord, let me build my altar to you, grateful for your work in me and in my life.

I celebrate your majesty, your sovereignty, your faithfulness and love. I worship you here. Thank you for restoring me. You are near, and I am thankful.

Courtney (66books365)

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Job 34-36; Revelation 20

I had lunch with a friend recently who shared she’d read a book in one day. I was intrigued. I’m not usually a fast reader. And I’ve been known to fall asleep during read-alouds if we venture past three chapters at a time–and I’m the one reading out loud. I looked up the average reading speed and decided to test it out, if I could read 50 pages in an hour. I began to calculate how long it would take me to get through a stack of books I really and truly want to read. Maybe 2019 will be the year I read all the books, at least, all the books I have that I want to read but haven’t yet.

The first time I ever stepped foot into my dad’s house was the day after he died. I took in the details of his life, one I had not been invited into; I noticed a lot of things, but maybe what surprised me most were the books he had about Christianity and Jesus, and not one book spine creased. They were brand new, unopened. My impression of him was he was seeking and hoping. I felt a sadness, and not because he didn’t read those books (those books are not his salvation)–but for so many other things that run profound and deep. Grace reaches here too.

It’s almost two years since he died. I’ve thought long on legacy, family, faith, the marrow of what matters, and eternity. I’ve wondered about success and purpose and how others define it–or is there a universal definition? Mostly, I’ve focused on my own walk, and to this point I thought I had been intentional, but now even more so. My words and actions will either reveal or betray my heart–they will show what really mattered to me.

11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15, NLT).

My 2018 word was seek, and God showed me many things. But seek first his kingdom was the underscore of so much. Next year, a focus on purpose (and reading all the books). (Did you pick a word? Also, what’s on your reading list?)

Lord, it is everything to know you and to be known by you. To love you, and to be loved by you. It is joy, confidence, safety, peace, hope, strength to be in relationship with you. You called to me to seek your face, and it has changed everything.

Courtney (66books365)

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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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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Nehemiah, New Testament, Old Testament, Revelation, Uncategorized