Category Archives: Bible Study

A prayer for an average September morning (and beyond)

On page 143 Lysa challenges us to pray for the next 30 days asking God to reveal Himself to us and fill us with a desire for him like never before. Write your prayer here.

Father God,  you are sovereign over all things.  You are in me, around me, above me and below me.  Your Truth flows out and becomes my truth, too.  You are leading me in the precise direction you have planned.  You have placed the people in my life for a reason.  You have given me all my quirks and faults and good parts for a reason.  I know this.  I have always known this.  But I also really want to know YOU.  I want to hear you speaking, and recognize when it’s actually YOU and not my agenda.  I want to be obedient, I want to say yes to you every day.  Every day is a new chance to refine the way I live my life here on earth.  When I fall, You are there.  You are there because you already know exactly where  I’m going to fall.  You are always there.  That is so awesome.  I want my desire for you to reach a place I’ve not yet experienced.  Thank you for little, wonderful experiences like last night when I sat with Lisa and Christine on Lisa’s porch and we drank kombucha and listened to the night critters singing their songs while our kids played inside and we talked about You.  They probably didn’t realize what I was thinking.  That I was just SO HAPPY to be with them and with You and to be a mother and a sister and a friend.  That I am so thankful for healthy, happy kids and nature and freedom and choices and second chances.  You are just full of surprises and I know that the closer I follow you on this journey, the closer we will become.  We can only become closer through Jesus, whom I am looking forward to getting to know better every day for the rest of my life.  In Jesus’ holy and awesome name, Amen.

p.s.  I was also about to thank you that my kids were playing very quietly under the table at my feet while I wrote this.  Then I peeked under there and they both had my makeup bag and were smearing makeup on each other.  I was about to get annoyed when Max looked at me, covered with lip gloss, and said, “I want to look pretty for my dance party!” And then he started laughing hysterically. Yes, lucky for us you are an awesome and creative God with a fantastic sense of humor.

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Glimpses of God

Philippians 2:14-16

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

When I read this, I immediately think of being a wife, mother, and homemaker.  How easy is it to start grumbling when we get stuck in the rut of wrangling the toddlers, cleaning the litter box, scrubbing the toilet, hearing “NO!!!” from little mouths all day, figuring out what to make for dinner, stepping on the cat thinking she is a Pillow Pet (not that I did it), not being able to pee in peace…

When I reread this, I immediately think of Jesus, and how he suffered beyond comprehension to save me.  How he never grumbled or argued.  I think of the phrase “hold firmly to the word of life” and what that means to me.  I think of my sweet children who are figuring out this crazy world, just like I still am.  I think of how fortunate I am to have a toilet to scrub and I’m not homeless, going to the bathroom in an alley.  I think about how blessed we are to have enough food to eat and clean water.  I change my vision of this rut:  what a beautiful rut to be in!

Without the Word of Life, without God, without Christ, without the Holy Spirit, I have no vision.  I don’t even remember how to see without Him.

When I see the phrase “warped and crooked generation,” I think of how every generation probably thinks theirs is worse than the last, as far as morality and crime and drugs and the like are concerned.  I know my mom thought the world would end in the 60’s because everything was just so crazy.  “Blameless and pure” is tough to imagine.  Christ was blameless and pure.  And we are made new through Him.  It’s still so hard to let those whispers from the enemy just float away while I remember that truth.  That enemy is a crafty one, I tell ya.  Just when you think you are really with it, really in tune with God (which you are), he comes along and throws a wrench into things.  At least for me.  It’s a constant battle to keep my vision in focus, keep my palms up, stick with it.  And it will be a constant battle until I go home.

When I see the phrase “you will shine among them like stars,” that creates such a beautiful image for me.  And it also means it’s a lot to live up to.  I often stress about being a good witness because I am so open with my faith.  Some people are just waiting for you to mess up so they can call you a hypocrite.  Which, let’s face it, sometimes we ALL ARE HYPOCRITICAL.

When I read this all again, now that I’ve thought it through, I get a glimpse of God, and His righteousness, and His mercy, and His goodness, and His gifts, and His perfect timing, and His blessings on my life.  They are PLENTIFUL these days, they really are.  I have never felt so loved, so perfectly loved.  I want to remember this feeling of perfect love the next time I actually get to sit down and paint my nails and one of the kids has a poopy diaper 5 seconds later.  Or when I finally get around to making the bed and the kids rip it apart immediately.  Or when I get so frustrated at my daughter not letting me brush her hair that I throw it across the room in frustration, and it breaks and she cries.  Not that I did it.

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Lower Your Nets

When Simon Peter was approached by Jesus, he was obedient and subsequently blessed.  So much so, that Simon Peter left everything behind right there on the spot to follow Him.

Jesus is asking us all to lower our nets.  What little thing is God asking of me today?  What seemingly small act of obedience will result in blessings beyond comprehension?

Who knows.  Not me.

The things pressing on my heart are to stay calm with the kids, enjoy these moments with them at this young, snuggly age where I am the most important person in their life.  Sometimes that gets really hard.  But it is so crucial.

Also I am reminded that my body is a temple, and I need to treat it as such.  I want to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

I want to renew my passion for the Lord every single day when I wake up.  Every day is a fresh start.  My passions of yesterday do not need to be my passions of today.  It is totally fine to change my vision as I listen to God – as long as my vision lines up with His Word.  I admit that sometimes it is easy to tweak God’s vision to match mine – but I need to remember that just because something is PERMITTED doesn’t mean it is ACCEPTABLE.

Finally, I want the love in my heart to overflow today.  Overflow for Jesus, my husband, my kids, my friends who are coming over today, my mom whom I will surely speak to before the day is done…even my crazy cat, Gertie.  I love that crazy cat.

Dear Lord,  I want to see You today in all I do.  I want to honor You as much as I can in my words and actions…but most of all with the purity of my heart.  Please prompt me to lower my nets just like Simon Peter did; in that very moment, I want to do as You say even if I think it’s wiser to do otherwise (which, let’s face it, is ridiculous).  And then in that moment, I will be following You.  Thank you for the cool breeze wafting through my windows on this sunny day, and for helping my kids play nicely and quietly so I can write this blog this morning.  As you know, many times I am typing with two 2-year-olds literally hanging from my neck or trying to get me to stop writing and put on some Curious George.  Thank you for Curious George, which seems to have a magical calming power over my rambunctious children.  Thank you for forgiving me when I fall, which is all the time.  Thank you for giving me a confidence I never had before.  Thank you for saving me.  Thank you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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This verse doesn’t have much to do with today’s post, but I thought it was so lovely!

Fresh Vision #1

It’s never too late for a fresh vision. I thought my vision was clear:  seek God.  Follow Jesus.  Serve my family.  But I am realizing that while all these things are crucial, it’s okay to dream BIG.  Go big or go home, right?

This week in the study is about asking God to share His big dreams for us.  And He will reveal them if we are radically obedient.  And I must confess, I have not been radically obedient for the past few days, and I feel like God was using the experience to open my eyes.  To show me the things that I make an idol, and to show me how much I missed Him when I was being radically disobedient.  And I guess that’s an exaggeration; I just let myself get wrapped up in things that were a distraction.  And maybe that’s okay once in a while…?  Because the timing was perfect, actually.  I woke up this morning with my fresh vision firmly in place.

I’m going to pray and pray and write and write about my fresh vision this week.  My big dream for myself is to write.  For Him, about Him, and because if Him.  I feel that He gifted me with a certain style and communication skill, and I am to use that to glorify Him.  Which I guess I have been doing for a while now.  But I want to get bigger and better.  I want this to be not just my little morning Bible study exercise.  I want this to be kinda major.

Okay.  Things I am going to ponder (you may feel free to ponder them, too)…

1.  The inevitable fact that is that the more obedient to God I become, the more opposition I will face. (which ties into this week’s verse, James 4:7)

2.  My life will follow where I focus my vision.

3.  God uses our experiences to equip us for our calling.

I’m going to write as much as I can this week on the above thoughts, and also the suggested topics from the study.  Mama’s got a lot to say.

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I found a quote by Renee Swope from “A Confident Heart,” which is a great book and is next up in the Online Bible Study:

“Every time I fail to be the woman God calls me to be or the woman I expect myself to be, God reminds me of the progress I’ve made.  Even though I may not be who I want to be, I am not what I used to be.”

Amen to that.

#YesToGod

On page 103 Lysa shares a short prayer she prays every morning choosing to say yes to whatever assignments God places before her. Write your own personal morning #YesToGod prayer.

Heavenly Father, You are the God who sees me. You are going to meet me wherever I am. My story is already written, and I know that if I say yes to You, I will be following the story the way you wrote it. You are within me, I will not fall; You will help me at break of day. I want to say yes to you today, Lord. I know there will be moments when I forget that you are within me, and I pray that I can repent and reset and accept your gift of grace in those not-so-graceful moments. Thank you for saving me…

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(Lysa’s prayer)

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Life Interrupted

In this week’s study, one of the topics we are given the opportunity to write about is this:

Life Interrupted – Some of God’s greatest gifts are “wrapped in unlikely packages.” Share how God has used a challenging time in your life and worked in it for your good.

When I read that, I knew exactly what I would share. If I decided to share. Which I decided, yes, I should definitely share.

In August 2009, I married my husband and we decided to start trying for a baby in January of 2010. So, we tried. And I immediately got pregnant. I. Was. SHOCKED. Why was I shocked, you may ask? Because I have endometriosis, and I had 2 surgeries in the 4 years prior to this time to get rid of the scar tissue that was built up on all my inner lady organs. I had a lot of pain for a lot of years, and endo is also a huge obstacle in getting pregnant. Also, I was 36 years old. I had a doctor tell me that I would almost certainly require assistance in conceiving based on the combo of this “advanced maternal age” and the endo. He all but told me not to get my hopes up when I decided to start trying. I was so upset. I had LONGED to be a mother for as long as I can remember.

So, when I got pregnant on the first time at bat, I was like, “SAY WHAAAAAAAT?!” I was so happy. That is, until I lost the baby almost 8 weeks later.

To say I was devastated does not do the emotions I felt any justice. I was numb throughout the whole ordeal (which was painful and hideous and insane) and then I was comforting my mom and my mother-in-law and all who cried for me. “It’s okay, this was in God’s plan,” I would say. And I believed that, I really did (and still do). I’ll be fine, I told everybody. I was as strong as I could be when I got my ultrasound that we all knew would not find a heartbeat. And then through my D&C. And then when I got home and had to try to live my life.

Ha ha. I was SO NOT FINE. After the dust cleared and my Vicodin prescription ran out, I was a TOTAL MESS. I fell apart. I wept. I feel like I wept for months. And I guess I did; in those few weeks, I became fully attached to that baby (whom I really think was a girl. Don’t ask me why…but when I think of this baby, she is a girl!), and I had plans for her and dreams and there is just no way to describe the feeling of being pregnant unless you’ve done it. It’s a TRIP. Anyway, the doctor told us to wait 3 months to try again. Those three months were terrible. Every time I would see a baby I would lose it. But during those three months, every single day during my lunch hour, I would go on long walks in a park near the place where I worked. I prayed for that hour every single day as winter turned into spring, just prayed and prayed and talked to God and marveled how I was getting to experience the barren trees suddenly have teeny buds on them…and then little leaves…and by the time May rolled around, 3 months later, the flowers were blooming and the trees were green and full and the birds were singing and everything felt beautiful and bright and new. In those three months, in the midst of this new life budding in nature all around me, I also became really scared to try again. Scared to find out if my baby-cooker was all messed up. Scared to let God take another baby away if that was His will for me.

We actually tried again after 2 months, and truthfully I was almost relieved when it was a no-go. We tried at 3 months, which fell right around my birthday. I remember that birthday so well…we went out for hot wings and my husband surprised me with a new bike.

Early June rolled around, and on my lunch break at work, instead of walking in that park, I went to the drugstore to buy a pregnancy test. Because I knew. I just knew.

And there I was. Pregnant again. And terrified to tell anyone or let myself be happy about it, because I didn’t think I could take losing another baby.

I made a doctor appointment and had a blood test, and they called me to tell my my HcG (or is it HgC? I always forget) numbers, and wanted to schedule an ultrasound right away. Which I thought was weird, because my ultrasound was at 8 weeks before, and this was only 6 weeks. Oh well, what do I know? So I went in for the ultrasound and my husband went with me. I will never forget what the ultrasound tech said:

“Huh! There’s two in there!”

The noise I made cannot be typed, as I don’t think a word exists for a laugh/gasp/confused groan. And the only thing my husband said was, “Can you make sure there’s not three in there??” Ha.

Twins. I lost a baby and then God gave me two.

It has proven to be the most amazing blessing of my life. I was just telling somebody today that I didn’t fully understand the miracle of having one healthy baby, let alone two or more at a time. I had a really happy pregnancy and a crazy, sleep-deprived first year of their sweet little lives. (Everyone told me I was crazy to breastfeed twins. And it was soooo challenging. But I did it! I did it until they were two. I just treasured them so much. Still do.)

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with these two amazing little people. Thank you for giving me the strength to get through losing that baby (that baby who is with you right now), to get through that pregnancy, get through that first year after they were born, and that second year. P.S. This 2nd half of their second year is really interesting. These many tantrums per day are…yeah. Interesting. We have a lot of awesome, fun, amazing, sweet times, as you know. But MAN. Two of them tantruming out at the same time? Cray-cray. But seriously. What a gift they are. Thank you, Lord, for Max and Hazel. Thank you.

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#StickWithIt

I haven’t posted in a few days because I am struggling. Struggling with anxiety over a certain situation in my life. The other day I wrote about the Ripple Effect of our sin. I am experiencing that right now. Because I am filled with anxiety, it is manifesting itself in ways that are unrelated to the situation and that is just NOT COOL. I also realize that anxiety does not come from God, and when I feel this way that indicates that there is an absence of God’s presence in those moments. I AM LED BY THE SPIRIT. I will let Him lead me to the place where he wants me, where I am safe and protected. My story is already written. In order for it to play out, I need to be obedient. I need to say yes to God. I need to let Him lead me, not say to Him, “Hey, I love you and I know you have plans to prosper me and not harm me, but you don’t understand what I am dealing with! It’s so hard because of XYZ. I try so hard, but BLAH BLAH BLAH.” Stefanie. Please. Get it together.
So how AWESOME is it that the verse for this week of study is this:

Romans 5:3-4

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Basically, I need to stick with it. Keep saying yes, even when I get attacked from all sides. Keep saying yes, even when, as my pastor put it yesterday, that one yes will bring a thousand no’s. Keep saying yes, even when it hurts. It’s easy to say yes when you are being blessed at that very moment (which I have been in amazing ways over the past several days – real acts of love from people around me that have the Lord working through them. If you are reading this, you know who you are and I love you). These acts of love (your love and His love) fuel my desire to be radically obedient to Him. That is a beautiful example of the Ripple Effect.

Therefore, in this very moment, I am letting these beautiful things fuel that fire that I want, nay, NEED, to burn deep in my soul. The desire to serve Him out of desire, not out of duty. I am going to stick with it. Stick with Him. Be not just a follower of Jesus, be not just a Christian, but be a DISCIPLE. So please, people who I am hurting or offending or confusing or what have you, stick with me. I may make mistakes, but that’s just the way it is. We all make them. It’s gonna happen. Please know that I am trying. I am surrendering every part of me to God, and I am allowing Him to shape me into something that looks more like Jesus every day. There are going to be good days and bad days. But I’m going to stick with it.

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Remain

John 15:4 “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

There are 5 definitions for the word “remain” and they are all applicable to remaining with Christ:

1. To continue in the same state or condition: These matters remain in doubt.
2. To continue to be in the same place; stay or stay behind: We are remaining at home.
3. To be left after the removal, loss, passage, or destruction of others: Only a few trees remain. See Synonyms at stay1.
4. To be left as still to be dealt with: A cure remains to be found.
5. To endure or persist.
I am choosing to remain in Christ every second of every day. It’s a conscious choice. It’s not like to accept Jesus and decide you want to follow Him and then you’re like, “OK Lord, do your thing!” No, it is a very conscious effort. To continue in the same state or condition. To continue to be in the same place. To be left after the removal, loss, passage, or destruction by others. The be left as still to be dealt with. To endure or persist. I am making that conscious decision and effort to remain in Him. As a growing, blossoming, ever-changing yet steadfast relationship.
And when we turn back a page to John 14:20, we have this: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
This is all so simple. Jesus is in me. I am in Jesus. We are both in God. This is what I want to remember when times get rough. I don’t need to fear any day, any conversation, any confrontation, anything at all. How can I be afraid when I am being carried by Him? When He is in me and I am in Him and we are both in God? What safer place can there possibly be?
And yet this is all so hard sometimes. The world wants me to yell and scream and get scrappy and fight back and drink too much and eat too much and be lazy and spiteful and materialistic. The enemy whispers that these things are fine, legal, everyone does them! And that’s when I need to nestle into that awesome little group hug that is Jesus in me and me in Him and us in God. Then I am protected. Then I need not fear. And neither do you.

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Ripple (The Word As A Weapon)

“Ripple” is not just an awesome song by the Grateful Dead.  The Ripple Effect is very real and something that we need to think about.  The effects of our actions are far-reaching.  Often we never know the consequences of our sin.  And the consequences are not always major, like in a time-travel movie where someone accidentally steps on a butterfly in the past and consequently obliterates all of mankind.  Or like in season 2 of “Breaking Bad” when Jesse’s girlfriend gets back into drugs because of him and thus hundreds of people perish in a horrific tragedy that grips the nation.  No, sometimes the ripple only shimmies on over to our kids, or our spouse, or friends, or people at church, or at work.  But then what does that person at work, for example, do with the consequences of your sin?  Just forget about it and move on?  Probably not.  People aren’t really wired that way.  You just never know the endgame of your actions, and it’s hard to look 2 or 3 moves ahead when you are in the moment.

Jeremiah 12:2

 You have planted them, and they have taken root;
they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
but far from their hearts.

This verse refers to the “faithless and the wicked,” and how their way of life seems to be easy and prosperous, while saying yes to God seems (and let’s face it, IS) hard.  The person being referred to in this verse is not someone I want to be.  I want to be wrapped up in Him always.   I want to grow and bear fruit and have Him on my lips and in my whole heart.

I know this is unorthodox for a bible study, but I am also a Deadhead and the lyrics to “Ripple” are fantastic and beautiful and talk about this very thing I am trying to convey.  It’s a classic and gorgeous song.  For example:

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come thru the music,
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

and…

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

and…

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

 
Beautiful lyrics.  The great thing about music is you get to interpret it however you wish.  Right now I am interpreting this song to be about the far-reaching Ripple Effect of my sin, my words, His words, His work through me, through you, through all of us.  It’s a mighty responsibility, and one we all have to start taking to heart.  I want my words to glow with the gold of Sonshine.
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Amazed (Because You Answer Me)

I was looking at and pondering on Psalm 84:4 the other day and wrote about how we are all in His house together.

Verse 5 is pretty good, too (“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”) I was reading those verses in accordance with this study, and I was about to write some notes on it, when my eyes jumped to the next page and I saw Psalm 86:5-7, which just spoke to my heart so much this morning. So much so that I highlighted it and underlined it and drew squiggles and flowers and polka dots because I wanted it to stand out as the beautiful thing it is:

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I don’t even know where to begin with this. There’s a lot of things that are weighing on me right now. But the amazing thing is, I’m not weighed DOWN. I still feel His love within me, stronger than ever. When I start to feel sorry for myself, He gently reminds me of those that are truly suffering. Those who truly have it rough. I am FINE. I am fine as long as I rest in Him.

In my last post I said I was going to write about how challenging it is being me sometimes and how hard it is to follow Christ wholeheartedly, and telling Him that He can have all of me, and I want to be used in a mighty way by Him, and He is my author and perfecter and all that stuff. Now I’m kind of embarrassed that I wrote that. Now it feels silly to whine about this stuff. Sometimes we fall into that trap of “poor me, life is so hard, my problems are so major.” That’s the enemy. The enemy is trying to dig his claws into me big time right now…yet I still have peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Thanks for that reminder, Jesus. You really could not make it any plainer. I appreciate that this lesson is not in parable form, because I just need some direct guidance right now.

Lysa TerKeurst writes:

“But sometimes it is down on your face in the mud in complete humility (and sometimes even humiliation!) that you will find a sweet and tender truth. It’s from this position that you can say, ‘Jesus, I love You and I want You more than anything else. I love You and want You more than the approval of my peers, family and friends, and even the naysayers in my life. I love You and want You more than the comforts and trappings of this world. I love You and choose to believe Your truth over Satan’s lies. I love You and choose to worship You and You alone. Jesus, I love You and want to come to You empty-handed and offer my life in complete surrender.'”

Once upon a time, I would never have been able to comprehend the above paragraph. Even when I began truly following Jesus. I was still holding onto so much of myself. And I gotta be honest, I am not even sure what exactly happened. All I know is me, Stefanie in Reading, PA, right now, right this very moment, wants what is in that paragraph with all my heart. And the way I am going to get there today, now, right this minute, is this: Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to me cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, BECAUSE YOU ANSWER ME.