Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How Do You Actually DO This?

IMG_5449Last week’s post – Are we taking the “RunPee” approach to the Bible? – generated some interesting feedback both in the comments and in person.
The basic gist of it was this….it’s all well and good to say we need to read and embrace all of Scripture, but we don’t want to just go through the motions.
How do you actually DO this?
To answer that question, I’m going to give you a brief rundown of what I do to help me through the more challenging parts of Scripture. It’s not the only way, but it works for me.
1. Pray about it. I know that sounds like the Sunday School answer, but it’s the most important and very first step. If you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit lives in you. He is more than willing to open your mind and eyes to the nuggets tucked away in random Old Testament passages. Ask Him!
2. Don’t panic. When you read three chapters in Leviticus and have absolutely NO IDEA what you just read…That is OK! Some days you’ll close your Bible and say, “Well, God, um, that was, um, well, I have no idea what that was!” Don’t let days like that make you feel like you’re missing something. Again, the Holy Spirit will show you what He wants you to see. Keep showing up and giving Him the chance!
3. Bible in Five videos. These videos, produced by Blackhawk Church (the people who developed the Eat This Book program we are doing this year) are fabulous. They help you get the big picture of the entire book, which makes it easier to see how it all fits, especially when you have a day where nothing makes sense!
4. Study Bible. I prefer to read out of a Bible with minimal notes, but I’ve recently pulled out our massive ESV Study Bible as backup! I usually read out of my Bible, but keep the study Bible nearby so I can check the notes when something is confusing. You can get a “personal size” ESV Study Bible from Amazon for $15. It contains all the notes in the regular ESV Study Bible and then moves some of the longer articles on-line where you get free access.  I haven’t purchased the personal size yet, but it’s just a matter of time. :-)
5. Patience. Depending on your background, some of this stuff may not only be dry, it may be brand new. Think of it like building a house. You are laying the foundation right now. It’s not flashy. It can be downright boring. But you’ve got to have the foundation before you get to see the masterpiece the architect has designed.
I hope that helps! I’d love for you to share your favorite Bible study tips in the comments!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Best Books for Baby Showers and Newborns

IMG_5432If you’ve followed Out of the Boat for any length of time, you know that I have a serious addiction…to books!

It began when I was quite young, was encouraged by my family, and as an adult, I’ve never attempted to get over it.

It gets me in trouble occasionally…say when I stay up until 1AM reading a book I’ve read several times before. I mean, who does that?! I. Already. Know. How. It. Ends.


I think one of the best times to start a young human off on the path to a lifelong love of books is while they are still in the womb.

Don’t give an outfit they are going to wear for three hours and then puke on. Why not give a book!

Give books that are fun. Give books that have significance. Give books they won’t be able to touch until they’re ten. Give books they can chew on as soon as they can figure out how to get it into their mouths.

I love my books and I take care of them, but it doesn’t bother me for a baby to destroy a book. They will learn later not to rip, or eat, the pages. For now, I just want them to appreciate the feel of a book in their hands, the way the pages turn, or the mystery of those lines and squiggles that someday they will learn are words.

I know, I know….babies born today will be reading books on iPads in Kindergarten. Whatever. Unless you plan on handing over your Kindle to your newborn, I say start with a real book. One they can slobber on and chuck across the room.

So, here are my top picks for baby showers and newborns.

IMG_5426 1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago. Hands down the BEST children’s Bible out there. The subtitle is “Every Story Whispers His Name” and it does! I find myself in tears as I read the Old Testament stories and see how they point to Jesus. Every baby needs their own copy. (Every adult does, too, just sayin’).

2. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. This is a classic, but it’s also a beautiful story of unconditional love and relentlessly pursuing grace.

3. I Love You Because You’re You by Liza Baker, illustrated by David McPhail. All three of my children love this book and it’s another one that gives us a glimpse into the way our Father loves us.

4. Dr. Suess books. You can’t go wrong here. Such fun words and random combinations. Dr. Suess was my first favorite author and I still love reading him to my kids today.

5. Board books. We love the board books by Dr. Suess, Al Perkins, and others. These are just the right size for tiny hands, they can’t tear the pages. While they may lose a few cardboard corners to tiny teeth, these books will stand up to a lot of wear and tear. With that said, I think we are on our fourth copy of Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb!

6. The “That’s Not My….” series by Usborne Books. (Ours were written by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells). We own a bunch of these. Fun, silly, with lots of great colors and textures for babies to explore. My older two still enjoy them.

7. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. We just got this and it has become a household favorite. A fun story with animal sounds, trucks, friendship, and a nice reminder that every person, no matter how small, has a big contribution to make.

8. Eric Carle books. Vibrant, fun, with lots of great repeats young children can follow. Brown Bear, Brown Bear was the first book Emma memorized and then “read” to us. Come to think of it, I think our copy was loved to death. I’ll have to get another one.

Those are my top picks for babies. I have so many more to share, but I’m saving them for the toddlers and preschoolers list…stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are We Taking the "RunPee" Approach to the Bible?

How many times have you been sitting in a theater—jumbo Coke and large popcorn forgotten—trying to concentrate on the movie while another part of your brain is analyzing each scene for an opportunity make a mad dash to the restroom.
Well, there's an app for that. It's called RunPee and it can make your movie going experience far more enjoyable.
I'm not making this up!

You can check to see when the best times are to “run pee” during the movie—then, when you have to make a dash, you know you aren’t missing anything important. The good folks at RunPee have determined which minutes you can miss without impeding your understanding of the story, and just to be sure, they provide a handy summary of what happens during your time away.

You slide back into your seat, take a sip of Coke, and pick up right where you left off.

While this works great for movies, I see a lot of believers taking the "RunPee" approach to the Bible. There are sections that just don’t seem to be moving the narrative forward. You’ve got Leviticus and the repetition of laws and detailed instructions on sacrifices. Sacrifices, I might add, that are no longer necessary because of Jesus, so we can totally skip that part.


Then Numbers starts off with a few chapters only an accountant could love. List after list of people with difficult to pronounce names and lots of, well, numbers.

And can we go ahead and talk about the genealogies. Hellllo? This guy begat this guy who begat this guy…Can you say snoozefest?

Of course, most believers I know would never say such a thing. We toe the party line...“If God put it in the Bible then it’s important.”

The deep down truth is that we don’t believe it. Those verses are fine for skimming (or skipping when you fall behind on your Read through the Bible in a Year plan).

So you slide into your recliner, take a sip of coffee, and pick up in Joshua or Matthew 2.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to pretend that my soul is stirred when I read about purification rituals or the procedure for sacrificing a bird, but this is the Bible we’re talking about, not the latest Hollywood attempt at entertainment. I’m not reading it because I want to feel good or get a laugh (although I frequently do).

I’m reading it because I want to know the One who wrote it. I want to understand the Story I’m living in.

All those numbers and rituals and genealogies? They make my reading of the New Testament richer and my appreciation for grace deeper.
I see my Jesus in a way I’ve never seen Him before, and my Jesus is so amazing that I don’t want to miss even one second of His story.

So tell me…how do YOU feel about Leviticus, Numbers, genealogies, or other difficult to digest parts of Scripture? Have you always skipped over them? If you’ve slogged through, have you seen things you’ve missed before? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Write Undaunted!

Every now and then I come to a place where I need to step away from books about writing and spend some time with books about living.

The crazy thing is that once I owned up to the fact that “I AM A WRITER” I found that just about everything I read has a writing application. Sometimes a big one.

This happened last week when I inhaled Undaunted by Christine Caine.

If you aren’t familiar with her, Christine Caine is the founder of The A21 Campaign which stands for Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century and works to save people from human trafficking.

I picked up Undaunted because it came recommended by people I admire, some of whom you might have heard of like Ann Voskamp and Max Lucado. Those are strong endorsers, but it was the subtitle—Daring To Do What God Calls You to Do—that really got my attention . . . because no one has ever referred to me as “daring.”

You can read the rest of this post over at The Write Conversation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When God Doesn't Clear the Obstacles

One of my favorite things about reading through the Bible is finding verses that I’ve never noticed before.

A few weeks ago, I found a little nugget tucked away in Exodus.

The Israelites are camped out at Mt. Sinai and God is promising them that when they go into Canaan, they will be victorious. There’s all sorts of awesome promises about angels going before them to guard the way and how God would be the enemy of their enemies. There’s even a really interesting one where God promises to send hornets into the land to drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites.

Then, God drops in this little aside.

“I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.” (Exodus 23:29-30)

Honestly, it seems pretty obvious to me why He did this. With what we know about the Israelites abysmal short term memory, if He’d cleared out the Promised Land in one fell swoop, they would have forgotten before they got half a mile in. Then they would have complained about wild beasts and overgrown fields while calculating how many days it would take to get back to Egypt.

I can see this so clearly when it comes to the ancient Hebrews, but I don’t like it so much when God applies this same principle to my own life.

I want God to give me a nice yellow brick road. A straight, obstacle free path leading from where I am to where He wants me to be.

Instead, He shows me my own Promised Land, promises He will never leave me or forsake me, and teaches me to trust Him in and through each obstacle—the ones He chooses to clear aside and the ones He chooses to allow me to endure.

All the while, I’m growing, learning, changing, and preparing to possess the land.

When I get there, I’ll appreciate every square inch of it, because I will have seen—and will remember—how God cleared the way.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Currents :: 03-03-13

Books: Recently read Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson and Undaunted by Christine Caine. Both were excellent and I highly recommend them. Stay tuned for my reviews.

Writing: Thinking about entering my first 1500 words in the Frasier contest. Terrified.

Scripture: Our church is going through a Bible reading program called Eat This Book. (You can read about it here). Each day we read 2-4 chapters and then a Psalm. I’m thinking about having t-shirts printed that say “I Survived Leviticus”! Seems like there should be some sort of Christian merit badge for such an accomplishment (I’m kidding. Sort of). Of course, we went right into Numbers, and so far, Numbers is worse. So many, well, numbers.

Food: I’m avoiding wheat, refined sugar, and most dairy products for at least the next 30 days. I feel better…except for the part where I think I could tackle someone for a Reese’s cup.

Music: Completely hooked on Spotify. Have you tried it? Right now, I’m listening to the score from Pride and Prejudice. Love!

TV: Recording The Bible series on the History Channel. I’ve heard great things. Looking forward to watching!

Wonders AND Weirdness: While I’m thrilled to be past it, I have to say that in a weird way, I enjoyed Leviticus. There’s so much imagery, so much Law, so many ways to mess up. Which leaves me in fresh wonder when I contemplate Grace!

May your week be filled with wonders and weirdness!

Grace and peace,