Did I get your attention with the title of this blog post? I hope so! That was my goal. Do you know what the definition of masticate is? If not, let me enlighten you. Masticate means to chew. And, today I want to talk to you about digestion. Digestion starts as soon as you take the first bite of a meal. Chewing is the first step in the digestion process and it is a crucial one. Chewing breaks the food into pieces that are more easily digested, while saliva mixes with the food to begin the process of breaking the food down into a form that your body can absorb and use. In other words, if you want to get the most out of your meals, the most nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, you must thoroughly chew your food before you swallow it.
So, what does chewing and digestion have to do with growing closer to God? A lot. Stay with me here.
As a kid, did your mom tell you to take your time and chew your food? To not gobble it up? Or, just not to eat so fast? If so, you had a smart mom! Per science and research, this is one instance where mom knows best. You should slow down and savor your meals. When you chew slowly and chew at least 32 times—it is better for your overall nutrition, digestion, and for telling our brains we are full so we don’t overeat.
I think we should apply these same principles to reading our Bibles. (Or, as I say, Book of Life.) I have been talking a good bit lately about growing spiritually and having a better relationship with Christ. The two best ways we can do this is by spending time reading our Bible each day and by praying. Today I am focusing on reading our Bibles.
Now, I know what you are thinking, reading the Bible is no easy task. It is a big book. Just looking at it can be intimidating. And, depending on which version you have, well, that can make it tougher. I grew up with the King James Version and all those “thous” and “arts” make it difficult to understand. As a theatre nerd, I liken it to reading Shakespeare. (I love Shakespeare, but it takes me a good deal of time to read and understand his plays. And, having two degrees in theatre, I have studied my fair share of them.)
But, fear not! Living in the 21st century has its perks! There are newer translations of the Bible that are easier to read than the King James Version. I know that there are lot of translations available and that in and of itself can be confusing. I am currently reading and studying a New International Version (NIV) of the Bible that was created specifically for study. I really enjoy it. And, below are some suggestions that I want to share with you that I think are helpful in reading your Bible.
First, take some time one day, go to a book store and pick up and read several translations. Buy the one that you understand the most. Personally, I don’t think God cares which version you read, He just wants you to read it. I think you will find the Holy Spirit in all of them! By reading it, you will be spending top quality time with the most important person in your life!
Once you have a Bible that you are comfortable with, schedule a time to read it each day. If you put it in your schedule, you are more likely to do it. You eat three meals a day (or you should) and those are scheduled at certain times. Think of reading your Bible as eating a daily meal. You need the nourishment from the Bible as much, if not more, than you need to eat food each day. Going to church on Sunday is not enough! Can you imagine only eating one day a week? That would suck! If I go a few hours without eating, my head starts to hurt. There is no way I would last a day without food, much less a week, without being completely miserable.
Then, once you have a set time to read your Bible, take your time with it. Go at your own speed. There are no rules here. No one says that you must read a chapter a day, or get through the whole Bible in a year. Maybe you just read for 10 minutes a day, maybe 30. Do what works best for you. But, I do suggest that whatever time you put into it, make it count. Since the Bible is sustenance for the soul, treat it accordingly. Don’t just pop it into your mouth and sallow it--masticate it slowly, savor it, and really enjoy and digest it. There are life-giving words in this book. Let these words become your life-blood. Let them enter your blood stream and flow to every part of your body. Let them renew your spirit, let them rejuvenate you!
And, because it can still be a hard thing to do, let me give you one last suggestion. There is a great book that was published in 2016 that can help you. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Charles R. Swindoll’s Searching the Scriptures when you buy your Bible. I found this book in my library when it first came out and I realized that I needed to own it. It is fabulous tool that shows you how to dig deep into the scriptures. Plus, it was a 2017 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist in the Christian Living category. (ECPA stands for Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. You can read more about them here.) I think this book and a Bible are the two basic tools you will need to begin to transform your spiritual life.
By spending time with God each day by reading your Bible and in prayer, you will be putting yourself in the perfect position to grow in your spiritual life by leaps and bounds.
This is how you will grow your faith. This is how you will grow up. And, this is how you fight the good fight.
I wanted to share some things with you that have been on my mind lately, no pun intended (see title). And, my purpose in sharing this information is to educate you. So, before we go any further, I need to point out that while I hope this information is useful to everyone, I think it will be especially useful for those of you who “over-think” things.
I am an “over-thinker”—and I hate it. I honestly think sometimes about how nice it would be to be able to “flip a switch” in my brain and turn it off the part of me that cares about things so much. (Hence, the over-thinking.) I know that sounds bad, but, I am just being honest. Or, I think about lobotomies. I had a great-uncle that I never got to meet who had a lobotomy. (At least, I am pretty sure he did.) And, being a theatre nerd, it leads me into thinking about The Glass Menagerie and Laura/Rose. But, I digress.
I guess I just like the idea of being able to turn off my thoughts when I need to. I am learning, or trying to learn, to love myself just as I am. I mean, after all, this is the way God made me. And, the Bible tells us that BEFORE God formed us in the womb, He knew us and that we were set apart. (See Jeremiah 1:5) Plus, I also know from the Bible and experience that, through God, we are made strong in our weakness.
So, how about you? Are you an over-thinker like me? Do you pick things apart and go over them a million times? Do you obsess about people or things and wish you could change them? If so, I am here to tell you that you are not alone and there is help. Isn’t that great news??
I am part of a book club. I call it the Bible book club, as it is through a church and we read books by Christian authors to help us grow spiritually. (Side note, it is one of my favorite activities!) We recently finished reading the book The Mind Connection by Joyce Meyer and it has truly been a God-send. The secondary title of the book is How The Thoughts YOU Choose Affect Your Mood, Behavior, And Decisions (emphasis mine). Our book club not only reads books, but we work on the study guides that go along with the books we read. And, The Mind Connection has a great study guide for you to use. It helps you think about the topics more deeply and get more out of the whole experience.
I just love Joyce Meyer! If you have never ready any of her books, I strongly urge you to pick one up. Joyce writes from her heart and she writes in way that is easy to understand and follow. And, once you know her history, she will become an inspiration to you. But, this book in particular has been so helpful to me. I have already decided that I am going to re-read it again soon. And, it is one of those books that I now carry around with me, so I can quickly go back to certain sections when I need to.
For whatever reason, many people believe that they have no control over their thoughts, but it is not true! The main point of this book is for you to realize that YOU are the only person who can control your thoughts. Joyce points out that what you think about is reflected in your words, actions, decisions, and emotions. With God’s help, you can control what you think about. With God’s help, you can renew your mind and your thoughts. You can get better!
There is a question that Joyce asks in an earlier part of the book, that really struck a chord me with. She says, “I wonder how many blessings and provisions we miss in life because we simply have the wrong attitude. How often is God merely waiting to see how we respond to difficulty before He moves to help us?” My bet is A LOT! What do you think?
So, if you are like me, and over-think everything all the time, you need to read this book. You need to take all the great advice and recommendations in it to heart. It may take some time to wrap your head around it and to act upon the information in it. But, if you want to see changes in your life--if you truly want to change, with God’s help, you can! I know this is true because it is working for me right now.
Thanks to Joyce and her book, I am changing the way I think about things. And, I am NOT focusing on things or people like I used to. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am making progress. It is all about baby steps for me. I am handing off most of the stuff that I can’t deal with to God. And I am adjusting my thoughts to the good and positive things in my life. And, I plan on staying the course. Read this book and join me, won’t you?
The Bible is called by many names: The Word, Word of Life, Holy Scriptures, Holy Writ, Good Book, and Book of Books. (These are just the ones that come to me at the moment. I am sure there are some I forgot.) While these are all accurate descriptions of the Bible, my favorite is Book of Life. Why? I guess because in the simplest terms a) it is a book and b) it gives me life. I honestly think that it is the most important book you can ever read. It is often referred to as living and breathing. And, I truly believe that it is! (Which is just another reason to refer to it as the Book of Life!) And, as a Christian who longs to grow up in Christ, it is vital to take time each day to read this Book of Life. Read it over and over and over again. Each time you do, you will gain new insight and wisdom that you missed before. It may sound crazy, but it is true.
Have you ever watched a funny movie and then re-watched it later and realized that you missed a funny part? Maybe you were laughing too much from something that happened earlier. Maybe it was just a quick visual joke. Maybe you were too busy digging that popcorn kernel out of your teeth. Whatever the reason, you got something out of it the second time around that you didn’t get the first time around. The Bible works the same way! The only difference is that after watching the same movie over and over, you eventually run out of things to discover. The Bible is so dense and packed with nutrients that your spirit needs, you can NEVER run out of the hidden gems it contains. I believe that this is yet another reason people refer to as living and breathing.
The book of Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.“ In other words, for those who read it and believe it, this Book of Life gives you all of the tools and resources you could ever need to live your life successfully in and for God.
Commentator Matthew Henry wrote of the Bible that it “convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It makes a soul that has long been proud, to be humble; and a perverse spirit, to be meek and obedient. Sinful habits, that are become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, are separated and cut off by this sword. It will discover to men their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of many, the bad principles they are moved by, the sinful ends they act to.” Pretty powerful stuff, isn’t it?
In today’s world, you don’t have to carry around a Bible to get the benefits from it. If you have a cell phone, that is all you need. You can either read the Bible from an app on your phone, or you can listen to it being read to you. Or, you can be a nerd like me and lug around your Bible in a tote bag. I like to keep it handy. You never know when you will get an opportunity to open it up and glean some fresh understanding, or share it with others.
So, I hope that you will take some time out of your day and read your Book of Life. Get into the habit of reading it each and every day. It could be just the refreshment that your weary soul needs. (How do I know you are weary? Well, aren’t we all??) And, I will leave you with a link to my current favorite song, “Word of Life” by Jeremy Camp. It is an energetic song with compelling lyrics about the Bible. You’re welcome! :)
Recently, I have been talking about “growing up” in the Lord; becoming spiritually mature in Christ. I started this blogging journey in November of 2015. It was then that I earnestly put forth an effort to focus on God and my relationship with Him. I started my true spiritual journey about three years before that. (Even though I was saved when I was 12 years old.) So, for the last six years or so, I have been spending more and more time with God. And, I am so thankful and grateful to be making forward progress in my relationship with Him. But, I have to be honest with you, making God a priority in my life has been a slow process for me. I am sharing this with all of you because I think a lot of you can relate.
As I have mentioned before, even though I was saved at age 12 (or so), I didn’t really have much of a relationship with God to speak of. I went to church each Sunday for years. For a good while I went on Wednesday evenings as well. I celebrated Christmas and Easter each year with my family. I prayed when I wanted something or when something bad was happening. (Basically, when it was convenient or as a last resort.) Other than that, I didn’t think about God much. Or, if I did it was in a more abstract sense. I don’t think it ever occurred to me back then that I could have a personal relationship with someone who wasn’t flesh and bone. I mean, I knew He was real, but so is the president of the United States. I knew of both of these guys and believed in them both, but didn’t have a relationship with either one of them. (If that makes sense.) Also, being a kid, I think things like that are hard to comprehend anyway. Plus, I had other things on my mind, like playing and school and friends.
As an 18-year-old, I headed off to college. I went to Georgia College in Milledgeville which was about 90 miles away from my home and I lived on campus there. And, sadly, what tiny relationship I had had with God before then, soon dissipated into nothing. Once I was away at college, I no longer did the one thing I used to do every week; go to church. I lost the one real connection (if you can call it that) that I had had with God. College swallowed me up and took all my time. As a theatre major, I was taking classes and working on productions. We worked on shows all during the week and on weekends too. That meant I rarely went home. And, I was ok with that. I was busy learning new things and making new friends and becoming “me”, or at least so I thought. And, I was content. (Again, or, so I thought.)
After college, I went to graduate school at Oklahoma State University. I continued to study technical theatre there. I loved Oklahoma and really enjoyed my time in Stillwater. God entered my mind every now and then, thanks to working on some different plays there. But, again, He was not a priority. I was just floating along in my life without giving much thought to God.
Actually, as I type that out, I realize that what I have done most of my life is just float along. (Up until recently.) I can compare my life to being in a canoe in a river without a motor, a paddle, or even a rudder. I never gave much thought to what I was doing or where I was going or ultimately, what I wanted out of my life. I have never really had any life-long goals, unlike most people. (At least, I think like most people. Most of my friends had goals for their lives. Many of them have dreamed of being married and having kids or attaining a certain career. I never had any of those.) I just floated along in my canoe, letting the waters take me wherever they wanted. For most my life, I have just been along for the ride.
I took the path(s) of least resistance that seemed to make the most sense at the time. I went to college because that is just what you did. I studied technical theatre because I enjoyed it and my parents drilled into my head as a kid that I should find a job doing something I enjoy. And, I have moved from job to job as an adult ever since then trying to find my place and contentment. (I refer you back to my post “Job Journey”)
At any rate, all of this to say that bit by bit, slowly over the years, I have been changing and growing. All of this is just to point out, that sometimes, things take time. Sometimes they take a LONG time. However, I am making forward progress. Little by little, I am growing into the person I want to be.
In the meantime, I am trying my best to be ok with this slow pace. If you know me at all, then you know that I am maybe the most impatient person in the world. I am the opposite of Job.
And, maybe you are like me. Maybe you feel like it is taking a really long time to get to where you are going, to become who you want to be. And, I am here to tell you, that is ok! God’s timing is perfect. Let Him take care of that part. Just make sure you keep doing your part. Keep moving forward. By keeping God first, you and I both will get to where we are going.
Are you watching the Olympics right now? I am a huge, huge, huge fan of the Olympics! Every evening my eyes are glued to my TV as the events from PyeongChang are shared with the world. I get so excited every two years when the world comes together to compete in these games. (I realize that the Olympics are every four years, but having both the winter and summer Olympics, we get to experience them every two years.) And, I love them both equally. There is just something so magical about the Olympics.
Now, when I say that I am huge fan, I do NOT mean that I know every sport or every athlete or even get to see everything or understand it all. I am not a fan in that sense. The reason I am a huge fan is two-fold: 1) I am a sports fan. (I enjoy sports of all types in general.) and 2) The Olympics are about the only time and place that I know of, where the world comes together as one.
Let me say that last part again. The world comes together as one. If you check out www.olympic.org, you can see the list of countries that have National Olympic Committees. I just counted them and there are currently 206 countries who actively participate in the Olympics! This blows my mind! Reading through this list, I am more than a little embarrassed to say that there are a lot places that I have never even heard of. (**As I hide my head in shame.**) These countries either have athletes currently competing, that will compete in the future or who have had competed in the past.
If you do watch these games, or any Olympics, you will witness some of the most extraordinary, yet simple acts of human kindness and love. To me, this is the very heart of what the Olympics are about. Sure, there are exceptional competitors whose talents and skills are astonishing, who are the best of the best at what they do. That is why they are here in the first place. Sure, all of these sports that are played are just a game. But, if you take a closer look, you will see that there is so much more to the Olympics than meets the eye.
Being a good sport, team player, and showing compassion for others take front and center stage at the Olympics. But, what is even better than that, is that most of these athletes help each other and lift each other up, no matter what country they are from or what “team” they are playing for. It doesn't matter what your nationality is. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. At its most basic level, it is simply people caring for, rallying around, and helping other people, period. Read this wonderful article by Brandi Awad and you will see exactly what I am talking about. Perhaps this is where the term “Olympic Spirit” comes from. (Also, if you are as tender-hearted as I am, grab a tissue before you read this article and watch the video links in it.)
Even if you don’t see any grand gestures like the ones highlighted in Brandi Awad’s article, you can still see athletes hugging and congratulating each other at each event. It is evident that these athletes genuinely care about each other and are just happy to be on this world stage.
This is why I love the Olympics so and get so excited about them! It is always a refreshing and much needed break to be able to observe good things happening around us. Right now, the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics are that breath of fresh air we can all use. The closing ceremony takes place this Sunday, so there is still time to get in on the action. I urge you to watch, if you haven’t. You will be glad you did!
Also, just as a funny aside, I have to share this little story from Chicago. A TV station there used a graphic for the Olympics that had P.F. Chang’s on it instead of PyeongChang. My husband, who may be the biggest fan of P.F Chang’s on the planet, thought that was pretty funny. I thought so too. Humor is also always much needed in our world today. And, I will happily take it where I can get it! :D
The weather here in the south has been pretty cold as of late. We have actually had real snow twice in the last two months. I think that may be a record. (Honestly.) We usually only get ice here, and ice sucks. I mean, you can’t play in it, and it wreaks havoc on the roads. It is kind of pretty to look at, but not worth it with all the down trees and power lines it causes. Snow—the real stuff—is so much better.
That being said, I am tired of cold weather. Ok, I have never liked cold weather, so even after about a week of it, I am tired of it. Hey, I was born and raised in the south, what can I say? This is also why I will never be able to live anywhere but the south. (Or, at least anywhere that is not warm at least 75 percent of the year.) My body doesn’t do well in the cold. I digress.
Anyway, God blessed us this past weekend. We had beautiful weather. It got to 69 degrees on Sunday. It was a perfect day!
And, the kids in my neighborhood took advantage of it. (As did I.) In the evening, as I gathered Clancey for our walk, I could hear some of the kids playing baseball in the backyard of a neighbor’s house down the street. I could hear the thwack of the ball being caught in a leather mit. I could hear the bonk of the ball being hit off a wooden bat. I could hear the kids all yelling and having a good time. As Clancey and I were headed down the street I was thinking about how much I wanted to be a kid again and be out there with them. It was at that moment that I heard one of the kids say, “keep your eye on the ball.”
As we walked on down the street, I kept repeating that over and over in my head, “keep your eye on the ball, keep your eye on the ball.” I started wondering if I was keeping my eye on the ball. Then, my next thought was, as an adult, what does that even look like or mean? Immediately I realized that, to me, it means keeping my eyes on God. And, try as I might—and I have been trying mighty hard lately—I have not been doing the best job of that.
I try to write at least one blog post a week. I read two devotionals each day. I try to read some of my Bible every day. And, lately I have been reading up on how to pray better. (I really want to work on my prayer life. It is fast becoming a priority in my life.) There are great Christian blogs that I follow and read each week. I listen to a great contemporary Christian radio station going to and from work each day. I participate in a women's reading group where we read books by Christian authors and we meet every other week to discuss said books and pray and just visit with each other. I am honestly working to make God a priority in my life. And, I do truly know that He should be my ONLY priority. (I know that when we make God our top priority, everything else falls into place. God is cool like that. It is like magic!) Even with all this, I still feel my eyes drifting from the ball.
You do this too, I am sure. Why? Because we are humans. We are sinful by nature and often seek the desires of our flesh. And, the devil knows all of this. And, he uses it against us as much as he possibly can. And, sadly, sometimes it doesn’t take much. I know that he easily gets into my head and there are times when I have real trouble getting him out. Sometimes I find myself sinking pretty low and I can feel the devil just punching away at me. And, once you slip into the devil’s pit, it can be awfully hard to climb back up out of it.
I have realized that the devil knows when we are working extra hard to keep our eyes on God and he just jumps at the chance to work overtime on forcing our eyes elsewhere. That is when it becomes up to us to stay calm and keep our eye on the ball. It is just one of those things we need to remember each and every day. It is important in baseball and it is vital in our lives. (Especially our spiritual lives.)
I truly believe that we can get to a point in our lives where looking to God and keeping our eye on the ball can become second nature. I am striving to get there. But, again, because of my sinful nature, I want it right now. I have zero patience. But, I am working on that part of it too.
In the meantime, let’s help each other out. Let’s be kind to each other. Let’s be forgiving of each other. Let’s show each other grace, the way God does for us. In other words, let’s remind each other to keep our eye on the ball.
If I were to ask you what your necessities are, what would you say? This being the 21st century, you might say something along the lines of the internet, your mobile phone, and your tablet. Or maybe you are a little more old school and think about power and indoor plumbing, like me! (I can’t imagine not having heat in the winter or having to go outside to an outhouse to use the bathroom in any kind of weather, but definitely not in the heat of summer, but I digress.)
So, let’s get down to brass tacks here, let’s talk about the basic necessities for life. What is it we all need to live? Food, water, shelter, and clothing. Those are the four basic things that are integral to our survival. I would also like to add in love to this equation as well.
Now, let me twist things up a little here. I have been thinking a lot lately about how maybe the most essential thing in life is God. Would you not agree? I think if you are a Christ-follower, you certainly will agree. In this post, I would like to share with you how God is our food, water, shelter, and clothing.
John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Bread is considered a basic dietary item. It is a staple food. Bread is such a basic food item that it has become synonymous for food in general. We even use the phrase “breaking bread together” to indicate the sharing of a meal with others.
While food is important, we all know that man cannot live on bread alone. Water is vital to our existence—even more imperative than food. In the above verse from John, Jesus says that we shall not hunger or thirst. In John 7:38 he drives the point home, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Also, in the book of John, Jesus cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” As a Christian, Jesus should be the well we drink from daily. He is our living water.
Let’s move on to shelter. The dictionary tells us that there are many words that are a synonym for shelter. Well, in the Bible you will find many instances where learn that the Lord is our “shelter”. Psalm 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Then, Deuteronomy 33:27 tells us, “The eternal God is a dwelling place…”. And, Isaiah 25:4 tells us, “For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat, for the breath of the ruthless is like a rain storm against a wall.” In this case, “You” is referring to God. So, as you can see from just these three verses, the Lord is our shelter.
Finally, let’s look at clothing. If you are a Christian you are “clothed in Chris”. The clothing imagery used in the Bible reflects the transformation that takes place within us when we form a true relationship with Jesus Christ. In our union with God, we “put on Christ”, like we put on our clothing. The apostle Paul tells us that “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Therefore, Christ is our clothing.
Now, I want to circle back around to something I mentioned above—love. While looking at love in the “essential” sense, it doesn’t actually fit the requirements. However, I believe that if you truly want to not only live your life, but grow strong and bloom, you need love. And, there is no one who loves us more than God. God loved us so much He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. (See John 3:16) And, not only does God love us, but God is love. Love is the fundamental essence of His nature and character—it is simply what He is.
I pray that you will allow God to be the food, water, shelter and clothing in your life. He really is all you need.
I am a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.