If You Lack… Ask

Hey! Week two of Bible Study! Please join in. (Doing week one is not necessary for you to participate this week. Each study stands alone.) I loved reading your comments last week. Pure love. Is there anything better than seeking God togther? (BTW, I fixed the comment section. Yay! So, if you’re game, read on, and if you feel led, answer noted questions in the comments.) Maybe, take a minute to pray prior to starting. And, please, pray for me. Ask that God will reveal himself to me, and give me wisdom in the inmost places of my heart. I am praying for you, too. Blessings, Cinthia

Scripture for Today

Before we even start, I feel some sweet woman needs to hear this today: the Lord adores you. He doesn’t just love you, he pursues you and loves you. Let that sink in for a minute. He so loves you that he will go to the ends of the earth to make you His. Rest in his embrace and grace. Rest in his favor. It is yours.

The book of James holds some of my favorite verses, James 1:5-8. Read it in The Message and the NIV below.

The Message:

5 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. 6 Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. 7 Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, 8 adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

The NIV:

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

For a woman who has spent her life slightly unstable, second guessing every decision she’s ever made, and, has often said, “I’m walking around the world without a map,” these verses are solid gold. I love how The Message just lays it out there–if you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. That deserves an Amen, because I don’t know what I’m doing. Do you?. How many times have I hit the wall of my own thinking, finding myself back where I started, confused and uncertain. I need the Lord’s help. Is this verse as refreshing to you as it is to me?

Comment Question:

  • Do you think there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom? Where does discernment fall? Please share your thoughts below on this, if so led.

I have a lot of knowledge about plants, but I don’t always know how to apply that knowledge. Translating what I know to my client’s landscapes is tricky. I triple-guess my plant choices. Will that plant thrive in that spot? My own yard can be an experiment, but for my clients, I want to get it right.

When I started my job (three years ago now!), I told myself I would do two things. Work hard and ask for help when I needed it. Sounds simple, right? But, I hate asking for help. I’m afraid it makes me look all sorts of things–everything from incompetent to just plain dumb. And, truthfully, to some people it does. They could actually be thinking, Really? Why don’t you know that? As parents we do this to our children all the time. We expect them to know how to do something we never taught them, and we get pretty aggravated when they can’t. But, James tells us that God gives wisdom without reprimand. That means, he gives us the wisdom without adding on the “Really?” part. And, best of all? The Lord gives wisdom generously. He won’t make fun of me, tire of me, or wonder if I will ever figure it out for myself. He’ll keep giving me the direction I ask for, and the wisdom to know what to do.

But, is it wisdom for what I need? Perhaps, you don’t have life-altering things staring you in the face. Maybe you aren’t curious about the mysteries of the universe right now. You’d rather have wisdom for your job, or to acquire a skill. What about wisdom for raising a child, or a loving a spouse, or making small but significant decisions? Not all wisdom comes wrapped in a big theological box. Some of it is just ordinary, everyday wisdom to help us navigate our lives.

Personal reflection:

  • Name two things you need wisdom for in your present situation. Be specific, and consider that you don’t need to be in dire straights to need it. If you’re trying to pick the right childcare or adultcare, or deciding on a big purchase (or not), name it. All of it counts.
  • Check out Colossians 1:15-17, So, who is the source of all–not matter the type–wisdom?

James’ audience was Christian Jews, and Jews sought wisdom, so he’s speaking their love language. But, they had leaders with wisdom. Leaders like the Sanhedrin, the rabbis and the priests, all able to interpret the law for them. Wisdom likely seemed reserved for those guys, not the average Jew. Sound familiar? How many of us depend on our pastors, deacons, teachers–anyone other than ourselves–to understand Scripture or the mysteries of God, for us? Yes, those folks are there to guide us, but one thing is true for all Christians; we have the Holy Spirit living in us.

Comment Question: 

Read these verses and note a couple of ways the Holy Spirit helps us in our wisdom seeking..

Got any verses you would add?

Okay, last thing. Verse 8 is pretty straightforward, using the term double-minded. Here’s where my double-mindedness comes in. I listen to the world and to God. I try to keep my options open, just in case.

Personal reflection:

I’ll let you fill in your own “just in case.” Are you trying to keep your options open, just in case _______ (What happens? Fill in the blank with that.)

I’ll leave you with Matthew 7:11 Does help with the “just in case” part?

Father, by the Spirit we cry Abba, or Daddy. We need wisdom for so many things. Prompt us to come to you, the Source of all wisdom and ask for what we lack. You love us so deeply that not only do you have the wisdom, but you give it to us happily. Give us the courage to believe that wisdom, but may we never let prayer be a means to an end, instead finding our end in you. In Jesus name, Amen.

.

The Half-Backs of Brevard

So, it seems, three posts a week is gong to be my schedule.

  • Monday–Blog Bible Study
  • Wednesday–Garden Talk
  • Friday–Weekly Wrap Up, i.e.whatever is in Cinthia’s head

Take note: this could change. Surprising, I know. But, since it is Friday’s post, which means weekly wrap up time, I’ll give you the news of Brevard, metropolis that it is.

My little town, whose population reaches around 7500 (I find that insanely large), is over-populated presently. It’s all the Florida-to-the-mountains folks. They live in Florida half year, here half year. It has something to do with taxes. Because they live in Florida half the year, then they pay less taxes. Don’t ask me why. When your tax bracket is fairly low, you get to live wherever you want any amount of the year, and you don’t wonder about Florida’s taxes. Nov-May they live in Florida. May-Nov they come to our mountains (Blue Ridge Mountains).

Transylvania County is home to the City of Brevard (yes, Halloween is a blast here) and it is called “Land of the Waterfalls.” It should be called “Land of Lakes,” (without the butter). We have a billion lakes–little lakes and big lakes. I am always visiting clients at their lake homes. Today was no exception, and when I was leaving I feared i’d taken a wrong turn. So, I stopped, rolled down the window and politely (because I was raised in the South) asked a couple how far it was to Highway 64. They went into great detail, explaining that it was at least 5 more miles of winding, curving, switchback roads. Since I’ve driven on those roads all my life, I wasn’t as impressed with that fact as they were. The woman, who I’m betting had waited for this moment since moving to the mountains, said, “You’re in the mountains, now,” taking a sip of water from her camelback while letting the enormity of that sink in. I refrained myself from killing her. I also refrained myself from stating the obvious. “No,” I really wanted to say, “you’re in the mountains now. In six months, it’s back to the humidity for you.” I can be so snarky. I actually said, “Indeed I am,” while rolling up my window.

In the winter, we get our town back.

I always wonder if the half-backs wonder about us. (Half-backs, as we fondly call them, refers to the fact that they are not from Florida, either, but from NJ or NY or somewhere really cold, and when they started to move back there, they only made it half-way back, which left them here.) I do wonder about people who live split lives. I realize that is a bit over-stated, but for the life of me, i can’t imagine what it is like to live 1/2 and 1/2, though I like my coffee with 1/2 and 1/2. I think I’d get homesick for one 1/2 or the other.

But, after awhile, even the half-backs find their place here. We all form friendships and miss each other come Nov-May. They long for their mountains, while they sit in their patio homes and watch the movement of pool water instead of lake water. They have carved out a niche for themselves in these mountains, and, odd as it is, summers wouldn’t be the same without them.

July is almost over and that fact astonishes me. Rudbeckia is in all out bloom, signaling the nearing of fall. Joe Pye Weed is blooming on roadsides and mornings have been cool. My evening walks with Aggie require a light jacket. It has rained for days and that brought a cooler front with it. I will soon have less and less work to do, and my fireplace will take the place of my air conditioner, making me feel older but somehow comforted by the seasons.

I thought quite a bit today about living an ordinary life, and wondered what it would be like to be extraordinary. I decided it would be a lot of work. So, I’ll leave you with this quote. I have no idea who said it. Somebody very extraordinary, I suppose.

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” 

Or, climb the mountain because you’re half-way there, and well, are you going to turn back now?

 

 

The Weekly Wrap Up/The Half-Backs of Brevard

So, it seems, three posts a week is going to be my schedule.

  • Monday–Blog Bible Study
  • Wednesday–Garden Talk
  • Friday–Weekly Wrap Up, i.e.whatever is in Cinthia’s head

Take note: this could change. Surprising, I know. But, since it’s Friday’s post, which means weekly wrap up time, I’ll give you the news of Brevard, metropolis that it is.

My little town, whose population reaches around 7500 (I find that insanely large), is over-populated presently. It’s all the Florida-to-the-mountains folks. They live in Florida half year, here half year. It has something to do with taxes. Because they live in Florida six months, they pay less taxes for the year.. Don’t ask me why. When your tax bracket is fairly low, you get to live wherever you want any amount of the year, and you don’t wonder about Florida’s taxes. Nov-May they live in Florida. May-Nov they come to our mountains (Blue Ridge Mountains).

Transylvania County is home to the City of Brevard (yes, Halloween is a blast here) and it is called “Land of the Waterfalls.” It should be called “Land of Lakes,” (without the butter). We have a billion lakes–little lakes and big lakes. I am always visiting clients at their lake homes. Today was no exception, and when I was leaving I feared I’d taken a wrong turn. So, I stopped, rolled down the window and politely (because I was raised in the South) asked a couple how far it was to Highway 64. They went into great detail, explaining that it was at least 5 more miles of winding, curving, switchback roads. Since I’ve driven on those roads all my life, I wasn’t as impressed with that fact as they were. The woman, who I’m betting had waited for this moment since moving to the mountains, said, “You’re in the mountains, now,” taking a sip of water from her camelback while letting the enormity of that sink in. I refrained myself from killing her. I also refrained myself from stating the obvious. “No,” I really wanted to say, “you’re in the mountains now. In six months, it’s back to the humidity for you.” I can be so snarky. I actually said, “Indeed I am,” while rolling up my window.

In the winter, we get our town back.

I always wonder if the half-backs wonder about us. (Half-backs, as we fondly call them, refers to the fact that they are not from Florida, either, but from NJ or NY or somewhere really cold, and when they started to move back there, they only made it half-way back, which left them here.) I do wonder about people who live split lives. I realize that is a bit over-stated, but for the life of me, i can’t imagine what it is like to live 1/2 and 1/2, though I like my coffee with 1/2 and 1/2. I think I’d get homesick for one 1/2 or the other.

But, after awhile, even the half-backs find their place here. We all form friendships and miss each other come Nov-May. They long for their mountains, while they sit in their patio homes and watch the movement of pool water instead of lake water. They have carved out a niche for themselves in these mountains, and, odd as it is, summers wouldn’t be the same without them.

July is almost over and that fact astonishes me. Rudbeckia is in all out bloom, signaling the nearing of fall. Joe Pye Weed is blooming on roadsides and mornings have been cool. My evening walks with Aggie require a light jacket. It has rained for days and that brought a cooler front with it. I will soon have less and less work to do, and my fireplace will take the place of my air conditioner, making me feel older but somehow comforted by the seasons.

I thought quite a bit today about living an ordinary life, and wondered what it would be like to be extraordinary. I decided it would be a lot of work. So, I’ll leave you with this quote. I have no idea who said it. Somebody very extraordinary, I suppose.

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” 

Or, climb the mountain because you’re half-way there, and well, are you going to turn back now?

 

 

Short and Sweet, Black and Blue

Every growing season we get “the question.”

Turns out some magazine (Fine Gardening, Southern Living) decides to print an article about saving the monarchs (this year’s question), or saving the bees (last year’s question), and then everybody and their brother comes into the store, wanting to buy milkweed to save the monarchs. I am not exaggerating when I say they come in droves. Fine Gardening has no idea. (I actually don’t know what magazine the story was in this year, but since Fine Gardening or Southern Living are generally the culprit, they get picked on.)

Hey, I’m all for saving the monarchs and the bees (love the bees) but may favorites, the hummingbirds, seem to have been looked over this year. So, while I am not Fine Gardening or Southern Living, this is my attempt to the get the hummingbirds what makes them happy. I’m featuring a plant that is a) gorgeous b) cheap c) easy to grow in container or landscape d) a bit different e) is hummingbird crack.

In our area it is a bit tender, meaning I treat it as an annual. Depending on the winter, it will either make it or not (last winter would be a not), but that doesn’t stop me from buying a flat of it each year and filling up my containers with it.  And, yes, you can still buy it now, and plant it now, though I’d probably stick with containers this late into the season. It will continue blooming right on through September.

So, go feed a hummer! Here it is.

Oh, but some details first. The blog post is short and sweet, the plant is not. It can get quite tall, almost 4 feet. Mine generally stay closer to 2.5, or 3. Width is about 36″. Can tolerate some shade but not much without getting leggy. Does not like clay soil, great soil is not absolutely necessary, but clay is too wet. Blooms July to frost. Zones 8-10, Butterflies dig it, too. Deer tend to stay away from it (unless you live in Connestee Falls and well, all I can say is, consider moving). We sell it at the store. That’s where I get mine.

Finally, here it is.

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'

Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

Short and Sweet, Black and Blue

Every growing season we get “the question.”

Turns out some magazine (Fine Gardening, Southern Living) decides to print an article about saving the monarchs (this year’s question), or saving the bees (last year’s question), and then everybody and their brother comes into the store, wanting to buy milkweed to save the monarchs. I am not exaggerating when I say they come in droves. Fine Gardening has no idea. (I actually don’t know what magazine the story was in this year, but since Fine Gardening or Southern Living are generally the culprit, they get picked on.)

Hey, I’m all for saving the monarchs and the bees (love the bees) but may favorites, the hummingbirds, seem to have been looked over this year. So, while I am not Fine Gardening or Southern Living, this is my attempt to get the hummingbirds what makes them happy. I’m featuring a plant that is a) gorgeous b) cheap c) easy to grow in container or landscape d) a bit different e) is hummingbird crack.

In our area it is a bit tender, meaning I treat it as an annual. Depending on the winter, it will either make it or not (last winter would be a not), but that doesn’t stop me from buying a flat of it each year and filling up my containers with it.  And, yes, you can still buy it now, and plant it now, though I’d probably stick with containers this late into the season. It will continue blooming right on through September.

So, go feed a hummer! Here it is.

Oh, but some details first. The blog post is short and sweet, the plant is not. It can get quite tall, almost 4 feet. Mine generally stay closer to 2.5, or 3. Width is about 36″. Can tolerate some shade but not much without getting leggy. Does not like clay soil, great soil is not absolutely necessary, but clay is too wet. Blooms July to frost. Zones 8-10, Butterflies dig it, too. Deer tend to stay away from it (unless you live in Connestee Falls and well, all I can say is, consider moving). We sell it at the store. That’s where I get mine.

Finally, here it is.

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'

Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

Garden Coaching (me) and Life Mentoring (not me)

I spent my morning in the most beautiful garden. Terraced and hosting gorgeous views, the quiet of this mountaintop garden was captivating. A high elevation, and an early hour (8 a.m.) allowed for a light sweater. To make the morning sweeter, my client was a charming lady, about 20 years older than I.

She is one of those rare women, that when you meet them, you find yourself squaring your shoulders a bit more, and holding your head higher. She epitomized grace and confidence, was kind enough to look past misplaced manners, and likely finds common ground with any individual.

We chatted as we surveyed the garden, discussing a new perennial bed here, cutting down a few trees there, pruning some shrubs in the corner, and wondering if a new design was in order for the front. Several times she mentioned a class she’d taken when she was in her 50s–my age now. When she did, I had to stop myself from grabbing her arm, and saying, “Please tell me about being 50.”

I wanted to her to tell me about the last two decades of her life. I had a billion questions for her.

Mostly, could you tell me that the next 20 years has more than just getting old in it? Is there joy or purpose over there?

She confided a few details of her life, enough for me to know it hadn’t been all ease. There was some deep pain tucked into the those two decades, and before. And though, I slowed my pace down considerably to meet her’s, and waited as she caught her breath going up steep hills, she was still there, creating her garden, wondering if the lavender should be replaced or we should replant with something else.

In case you missed it, I am in desperate need of a mentor. But few are found, and most are enjoying a retired life, and sadly, living in a retired community. They are separated from us! How I hate that. What wisdom this woman who has already traveled the next 20 years–my next 20 years–has for me.

I sometimes want to mentor the young mothers–not about parenting their children, they are doing an amazing job there–but in their marriages, I watch them, in my social and work settings, assuming their husbands are happy. (Is he? Or does he just dislike conflict?) They assume there is no limit to the demands they can put on their husbands, or that there is no demand he will not find a way to grant. Because men are so good at that–quietly going about getting the job done, while dying inside. I don’t want to criticize or judge them these young women, just instruct them. The fathers they currently raise children with, will be the husbands they grow old with. Why not be his best friend?

I so wish the woman who was ahead of me in her marriage, had stopped for a brief moment, and turned around to tell me that. What a difference it would have made. Maybe not a different outcome, but a different story. Perhaps one with more grace in it..

I so wish the woman ahead of me now, would turn around and tell me her story. What treasures could I gain?

I could use a mentor over a therapist any day The mentor has charted the path. She knows the stumbling blocks, the obstacles, the switchbacks. She knows that if you just keep going, there is life ahead, even when you think there isn’t.

I grabbed onto bits and pieces of my client’s life, as she kindly shared some stories. I did not interrupt her with my questions, but stayed with the garden talk because that was the day’s job. But oh, in a minute, I would have torn up that check, trading it for an hour of her wisdom instead of mine. Because, I have a sneaking suspicion, just an idea, that perhaps, she knows where joy lives.

Shack Suffering and Joy

Consider it… pure joy

The book of James, written by James, (some say Jesus’ half brother, others say his cousin) begins without any lead-in. He straight-up tells his readers to consider whatever trials they are facing as pure joy.

Here is it is in the NIV translation of Scripture:

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:Greetings.2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Consider it: The reason I can don’t skip these verses entirely and move on to number 5 (which is a favorite) is that James tells me to consider that my suffering is pure joy. I like the phrase consider it (over feel it), because it gives me space to step back from my suffering for a moment, and reflect. 

I feel James asking for a shift in my thinking. “Cinthia,” he seems to be asking, “Can you view your suffering through a different lens, and possibly find joy?” In a world that views suffering through the lens of horror while asking the question, “Why does God allow suffering?” James (who was martyred for his faith, so he is no slackard on the subject), tells me that suffering comes bearing gifts–joy, perseverance, and a perfected faith that lacks nothing.

It is hard to consider suffering in any light other than panic and fear, because suffering is so often unfathomable. Don’t think this short study is easy for me to digest because I’m the one writing it. It isn’t. I am heartsick for your suffering and mine. I know women who have buried children, and in the same year, spouses. Women who received the bodies of their son’s, returned to them in a casket from Afghanistan. Women who were just told, you have Alzheimer’s, at 45. I shed tears, now, over it. I cry out, quite literally, to my God, and say, “She is your daughter. Go to her!” The tears of friends are my tears too. Suffering is no small subject and I do not make light of it, but James asks us to consider it, and so we do, even when we are shocked, confused, outraged, feeling assaulted, and wondering how to fix it immediately. Remember this, when the unthinkable happens and we are not prepared for it, God is. In that regard, Scripture speaks to suffering in all 66 books. Generally, we are given three primary things to consider about suffering (if you have time, look these verses up):

  1. We will suffer. (John 16:33, I Peter 4:12)
  2. God is with us in our suffering (Psalm 22:24)
  3. Direction and understanding about our suffering. (Ephesians 4:14)

If Scripture is true, and I believe it is, then we will suffer trials of many kinds. Don’t immediately discount your suffering because it isn’t persecution for your faith. The kind of suffering James is talking about here takes any form, hence many kinds. I’m even going to be bold enough to toss some of my “consequences for not so stellar decisions” into that definition.  I don’t mean I will blame God or others for my mistakes and sins, but I plan to hold onto God’s refining fire of me during those consequences. I want my suffering, whether I brought it on or got blindsided by it, to count for something. I don’t want it to be wasted. Pure joy actually sounds good. It gives me hope that the suffering isn’t just for suffering’s sake.

Personal Questions (for journaling or reflection):

  1. What does James promise as a result of the testing of our faith in vs. 3-4? .
  2. How do the words not lacking anything resonate with you? Do you desire that kind of faith? (Can we be honest about it? Because God is not only able to handle our honesty, he uses it to raise our chins. He uses it to free us.)

Don’t confuse not lacking anything with moral perfection. It is the perfected faith of believers that is the topic. I’ll be honest. I want a mature faith, just like I want an established and prosperous career. But, I am not sure I want the work that accompanies that career, or the suffering that develops that faith. Can you relate?

Personal Questions:

  1. What could be the perfect result of your (my) present suffering?
  2. What would be the result if you (I) could skip the suffering?

Because, here’s the deal. I think we can and often do skip it. We:

  • Shop it away.
  • Drink it away.
  • Exercise it away.
  • Work it away.
  • Compartmentalize it away.
  • Play it away.
  • Literally move away.
  • Pretend it away.
  • Use anger to keep it away.
  • Use relationships to distract it away.
  • Blame it away.

I have refused the perfect result of suffering for much less. But does it make sense too? C.S. Lewis related suffering and endurance to a surgeon’s knife. If you were sick and needed surgery, would you stop the surgeon half way through his task? No. Even if it required your suffering, you know that to finish the surgery is to be healed. You endure the surgery for the perfect result.

Since there has never been a time in my life when I was not lacking something (spiritually speaking), then I am quick to dismiss James’ here. If I can’t envision it, I don’t seek it. But, if suffering is going to come, whether I am seeking it or not (and seeking it is fool’s play), then perhaps my ability to envision the joy or maturity that follows, doesn’t matter. What matters is the gift of God’s Word framing my thinking during my plight. When I am blindsided by life, I can hold onto what God promises through James’ pen. There is joy in the midst of my pain, and my suffering will not be wasted. It will produce fruit in me. That is hope for uncertain times. 

Comment questions: (Answer in the comments below if so led):

  1. Has there ever been a time when you chose to skip the suffering through some worldly effort?
  2. What was the result of that “skipping?”
  3. If it is possible, would you consider experiencing the suffering now, and letting God have his perfect way with you?

If we’re going to consider (not feel) our trials as pure joy, we must consider the perfect result of that trial. We must consider that the answers to our probing questions are found in the completed suffering, not in the deliverance from it.

That is surely enough to consider for today.

Father of grace, Lord of life, Creator of all things, 

Fight for us. Come to us. We are scared, tired, weary, unsure, defeated. We are lost. But you are there. In the darkness and in the light, your arms embrace us. Your arms enfold us. Let us rest in your arms, comforting our hearts with your great presence. Understanding that the You and you are alone are worthy, and in you we are fulfilled. You are life. In the midst of our fears, and all that assails us, come to us. Fight for us. We love you. In Jesus Name.

Blog Bible Study–Need Some Ideas!

Let’s do a blog Bible Study.

Once a week. On Mondays. I’ll dedicate the blog space for it, but will leave the other four days (Tues-Friday) open for my usual gardening/life/ranting posts.

Here’s how it will work:

1. You don’t have to sign up. You can just log on every Monday (or the day of your choice, read #10 below) to participate.

2. You will read the study, look up a few Bible verses, and answer a couple of questions. A notebook or journal would be helpful. Or read #3 if answering questions is more than you want to do.

3. You can skip the questions part, and just read the blog/study part if that’s good for you. I’ll set it up for either.

4  I’d love it if you commented about anything the Lord teaches/reveals to you, but it isn’t necessary to do the study. Your thoughts are helpful to the rest of us journeying along beside you, but they are also your thoughts and sometimes for you alone. You decide if you want to share.

5. Don’t let the word study send you screaming. It will be something you can do in under 15 minutes.

6. If you have questions about it or during it, feel free to contact me.

7. Please tell friends about it. I miss teaching, and I often do my Bible Studies alone, because my work hours don’t allow for me to meet when most of the women’s groups meet. So, this is really for me, and I’m hoping you’ll join me. Oh, and non-believers are welcome too. I am blessed to have Christian and non-Christian friends, so all can study together.

8. Each study will be independent of the others, so missing a week or many won’t matter. But, after 6 weeks, let’s reevaluate. . . Did we like it? Want to keep going? It tanked? Did not work? We’ll decide. Or, do we need changes? More? Less? Again, we’ll decide.

9. I’ll post it Sunday night to be in your in-boxes early Monday morning. Or, again, log on Monday (or the day that works for you) to participate.

10. You can do it any day you want! I’ll have it up on Monday, but if Friday is your best day, then that’s the day for you. I have never been an up-early-every-day-doing-my-Bible-Study kind of girl. Some days I am up early doing it, other days I am lying in bed at midnight doing it. Some days I do two days worth because I have the time, and some weeks I completely miss. So, feel free to comment if you find the study long past the time I’ve posted it. I will be blessed by your thoughts, no matter when you do it.

11. I worship with all Christians, so any denomination is welcome. And, the only thing I’d ask is that we respect each other in the comments, if we leave one. We can disagree diplomatically.

12. You do not have to participate each week to do the study.  If you miss a week that’s okay, since each will be independent of the others.You can join in anytime or drop out anytime.

13. Please provide me with ideas! Anything you really need right now? Is there a Bible character you’d love to learn more about? Suggestions are welcome. Topics, people, books, I’d love to explore them with you. Leave a comment or contact me. I respond best to email, or text.

Finally, how about we start this coming Monday? July 21? It can be our first practice round. We’ll see how it goes and continue on. I look forward to spending time in God’s Word with you. Now, send me some thoughts! Much love, Cinthia .

The Book of Jacob

I’ve been reading the book of James. For my non-Christian friends, that’s a book in the Bible. If you’re interested, it is located toward the back of the Bible, sandwiched between the book of Hebrews and the first letter from Peter. Or look in the table of contents. Honestly, that’s what I do. For my non-Christians pals, think of it as chapters and that will make it easier to find.

James was the half-brother of Jesus, son to Mary and Joseph. Well, there is some debate about that actually, because the word brother can also be translated cousin, but I’m reading it from the perspective of James as Jesus’ half brother.

Turns out James (the English name) was Jacob. Likely named for his grandfather (on Joseph’s side, Matthew 1:15-16). If you’ve read James, and you’re aware that Jacob (not the grandfather, several generations back) was the name of the Jewish patriarch, this fact will make you smile. James gets no small amount of grief for being, well too Jewish, i.e. all works and no faith.

In the first chapter–heck the second sentence of the first chapter–James instructs believers to, Consider it pure joy, whenever we face trials of many kinds. I like that James doesn’t get into listing the possible scenarios of trials. He only says trials of many kinds. I like this because I tend to minimize my trials, thinking my problem is a severe lack of coping skills, not a trial. So, right off, James gives me permission to at least ask myself this question: Is this a trial I am facing?

But then, he commands me to consider my trial pure joy. His reasoning is that it will aid in making me mature and complete, not lacking anything. Isn’t that funny? Because I’ve always noticed that trials come with loss, but James says they come bearing gifts. Something to ponder.

The chapter goes on to say many things. Here’s just a few.

  • If you lack wisdom, ask God for it, he gives generously without finding fault.
  • The poor man is in a “high position,” the rich man is in a “low position.”
  • God does not tempt us, generally we’re just carried away by our own lusts, which gives birth to sin, and when sin has matured, it gives birth to death.
  • Every good and perfect gift is from God, the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger–for a person’s anger does not bring about a righteous life.
  • Don’t just listen to God’s Word, but do what it says.
  • There is a law that is perfect and it gives freedom.
  • Religion is taking care of the poor and widowed, and keeping ourselves from being infected by the world.

Seems James has a lot on his mind. So, do I. We should fare well together.

The Taliban Blew Up My House Today

Okay, so yeah, I still have issues. At 55. I see myself as such an uber-cool adult woman who is slightly successful, but not overly, because then I wouldn’t be humble. I also have an amazing wardrobe, interesting friends, and the ability to be pretty chill about everything,  At least, that’s my picture of myself, a chill, well-dressed, successful woman.

And then, the Taliban blows up my house.

Here’s what happened. I dreamed that my ex brought his new girlfriend over to meet me. (I need to add that she is also his ex-mistress, which might help you understand the dream a tad bit better.) I didn’t ask him to bring her. He volunteered, presuming it would be nice if we met. He can be so thoughtful that way. Anyway, so there she is sitting on my couch in my new little rental house that I love, and well, AWKWARD. Then the ex informs me that he is going to leave her with me for a week, so we can really get to know each other. And, then he leaves. I’m freaking out, but before I have time to say do you prefer flat or fluffy pillows, the Taliban shows up and starts bombing my house. So, I grab my College Son, who is asleep. Remember, he’s in college, he can sleep through ex-mistresses and the Taliban. I jerk him awake, and we run to safety, while my house burns to the ground. There goes my cute little house.

The dream was so real that I had to stop myself from calling my ex today and saying, “The farm wasn’t enough? She had to hire the Taliban to blow up my house?! It’s a rental. What do I do now?!”

So, if you spend most of your day thinking, am I ever going to get over my issues, take solace. The Taliban is probably not blowing up your house.

Fortunately, for me, my boss is a godly, Christian man. I told him my dream when I got to work today. After he stopped laughing, he said, “Cinthia, you need this book I’m reading on total forgiveness.”

I said, “When she stops destroying everything, I’ll forgive her.”

He cut his eyes sideways at me. It’s his look. The look that says, is that forgiveness? Is that how Christ forgave and forgives? Well no. He forgave while they were torturing him, mocking him, and crucifying him. He forgave during not after. And then it hit me. Forgiveness is a during event, not an after. It is an on-going process, not something I do when the dust finally settles, because let’s face it, it may never settle with some folks.

I buried my head in my hands and said, “I’m so screwed up and the Taliban burnt down my house!”

My boss smiled and said, “Well, my dear, we all are. That’s why it is called grace.”

And so it is. Grace extended to everyone. Even the Taliban and ex-mistresses. Could anything be more radical than that?