Saturday, February 6, 2016

When Should is a four letter word

I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Leviticus.  I know, awe inspiring and comforting place to rest my soul, right?

I used to scan over it quickly in the early days of my Bible reading.  The Levitical laws don't apply to the post resurrection Christian, no need to spend a lot of time here....let's hurry up and get to Numbers.... Oh wait, that's kind of boring too, hmmm, when does it get exciting?

I'm amazed (and kinda shudder with the thought, "you're such a nerd!) when I realize I don't think that way anymore, because truthfully, Leviticus is pretty exciting.  But it's only exciting looking through the lens of - "I don't have to worry about doing any of this anymore!"

I don't have to keep a herd of sheep or goats or even a flock of pigeons on standby for every thought, word and action I knowingly or unknowingly did or didn't or might do.

The only reason I don't is because of one person - JESUS!  If it weren't for him, those required sacrifices and cleanses may still be a requirement, not just for Jews, but maybe even for the Gentiles like me.

It's really hard to grasp all Jesus has set us free from, but a good reminder is to just look at Leviticus to catch a big eye-full of freedom.

The tangible things, those things we are no longer required to do because Jesus was the perfect substitute for our sins, are a fairly easily understood grasp of what His sacrifice means not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles like me who get to tag along and be grafted into his promise and reward.

Imagine for a second if the Levitical laws were still in place?  (You have to read Leviticus to get the point of this, so take a few minutes and just scan the headlines in the book - Go ahead, I'll wait and I'll look too.)

The grain offering

The burnt offering

Eating Fat and Blood Forbidden

Clean and Unclean food

Purification after childbirth

Regulations about Infections Skin Disease

Pick any or all of them and say to yourself:  This no longer applies to me.  I no longer am required to fulfill any of these things.

Next, ask yourself this:  But what if I did?

What if Jesus' sacrifice was not enough?  What if God turned his head at the beatings, the torture, the flogging, the mocking, the nailing to the cross, the hanging there in pain, the dying naked and alone.....what if none of that mattered?  What if none of that counted?

Sometimes I still live like it didn't matter.  I still live under my own quasi Levitical, I mean New Testament Christian, "guidelines."  I agree wholeheartedly with my mouth, Jesus did it all, yet in my thoughts and actions and even my beliefs, the law slips out.

I should read my Bible everyday.

I should be kinder.

I should not swear or think bad thoughts.

I should not get mad at idiots.

I should be more patient with idiots.

I should follow the demands and regulations of a religious denomination.

I should condemn those who do not see Jesus' Words in the exact same way the Holy Spirit has shown me.

I should.

I should.

I really, really, really should.

Here's the deal Weak believer, strong believer, waffling believer, hope on a string believer:

Whenever you put the word SHOULD in front of any of your thoughts, practices, or judgments in regards to anything required of you because you are a believer in are putting yourself and the person, thing or behavior under Levitical law.

Jesus freed us from everything!

Should you go to church every Sunday?  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.

Is going to church every Sunday a requirement for keeping my salvation?

Last I checked, Romans 10:9-13 is still included in the Bible.

Should I give 10% of my income to the church?  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.

Should I baptize my baby?  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.

Should I..............?  Fill in the blank.  The answer should always be, and I really mean, I hope the answer always is:  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.  Because if the (un)holy should is leading you, it may be harder to hear what the Holy Spirit wants you to do.  Jesus took care of the shoulds for us.  That curse word should can now be permanently deleted from your spiritual vocabulary.

Anything that you are placing on yourself or another person and saying that it is a requirement for salvation or a fear that it may hinder your salvation beyond simple belief and trust in the work of Jesus Christ is......a work.

If you're still not sure, it's time to see if Ephesians 2:8-10 applies.

Good works are just that....Good.  If you feel (and I hate to use that word but I'm going to) if you feel good doing the work God created in advance for you to do, then by all means, do the work.  But don't do it if you have the icky feeling, or the thought "what will happen to me if I don't do this work?"  When we do God's good works with the slightest hint of fear of punishment or losing our salvation or just being unsure if we're really saved, that's not God.

That work is not from God.

There is nothing anyone can do, practice, avoid, pretend to agree with, or disagree with that is going to save you or keep you saved except believing in the One and Only Son of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

You cannot do, practice, stop doing, start doing, resume doing anything to keep you out of heaven or send you to heaven - except believe in Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.

That's it.

We are no longer under the Levitical law nor are we under any self-imposed or religious imposed practice to assure us of our salvation.

Jesus' work has done it all.

Anything else that follows the word S H O U L D . . . . should go to H E double toothpicks.

You can practice them, but don't depend on them for your salvation.  If you have joy practicing them, by all means practice them with joy.  But if you don't have joy and peace, then step back for a minute or two and ask yourself:  Am I doing, saying, believing this out of fear or uncertainty or am I full of joy when I am doing, saying or believing this?

If you want to read your Bible everyday, read your Bible everyday.  But don't read it out of fear or in keeping with an imagined taskmaster.

Do you like going to church every Sunday?  By all means go.  But if you are going because you "SHOULD" go because that's what "good" Christians do, then maybe you need to examine your motives.

What do you believe is the requirement for salvation?  Faith alone or faith and a whole bunch of my self imposed or my denomination's practices?  It can't be both.  You can practice the others, but if you are saying "SHOULD" to any of them, then there's a bit of a problem.  You, my dear Friend, are not experiencing true Freedom in Christ.

I know this, because I lived it and still battle it.

I still have the curse word "SHOULD" floating in my thoughts and it sneaks out through my mouth and judgments from time to time.

That little word should, used first by God Himself in the Levitical law, is no longer my boss.  That little word needs to be thrown off its weak and rotted throne.  Should has done a whole lot of damage to Followers of Jesus.  If you are concerned about the state of Christianity in America as I am, then look no further than what is practiced because of SHOULD after belief in Jesus Christ.

It's either Him and His work alone or it's not.

This is a tough concept, I know.  The consequences of looking at this personally is scary, I know.  I've done it.

But I've tasted the freedom that comes from taking "SHOULD" out of my spiritual vocabulary and I want you to taste it too.  Believe me, life with Jesus becomes a whole lot more joyful when you taste and see that He and He alone is good.  You don't have to add a bunch of other stuff to get the full flavor of His work.  Sometimes too much of other spices is not always good in a dish.  Sometimes just a little salt will do.

Your assignment is this:

1.  Pray for God to show you what I'm stumbling all over my words here trying to tell you.

2.  Do number one again.

3.  Probably should do number one again.

4.  If three times doesn't help, try this:  Look and think about all the times you think and say should in relation to your personal spiritual walk with Jesus.

5.  Look and listen for all the times you say should in regards to other's walk with Jesus.

6.  When you recognize something, hold it up to the light of Jesus, like an antique dealer looking for real China.  If you can see light coming through, it's Jesus.  If it's fake China, with no transparency when held up to the probably has been over kiln cooked in the Should oven.

7.  The tough part will be what to do with the shoulds when you find find them.  The easy part is recognizing them.  (Spoiler alert - you're in for a humbling shock, but don't despair, hope is right there to pick you up!) The harder part will be throwing the shoulds out.  As always, the first place you should put anything you don't know is from God or not is at the foot of the Cross.  (Only then is this should a should you should practice!)  Set it down, pick up your Bible and see what the cross has to say about it.  Jesus will let you know where to go from there.  I promise He will.

That should (see how often that word slips out) be enough to get you started and thinking outside of the box someone long ago said we should sit in.



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Just a Face in the Crowd

I've got a rough draft of all but seven of my days for the April blogging challenge.  They are rough, believe me, but they're started!  I'm working on it ahead of time because I will be busy babysitting my granddaughter for the whole month of April and I know I probably won't have a lot of time for writing.  I hope I won't anyway!

As I'm roughing out my theme and researching my topics I have come across a lot of names.  Lots and lots of names.  My posts that are about someone are mostly about some major Bible characters.  At least 12 of them will be anyway.  As I have researched the major players, I find other names attached to him or her.  Often I find myself having to dig deeper to find as much information as I can that may help me understand the major character better all because of one name.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of hidden treasure found.  For the most part, what I am finding is that except for being mentioned as a "son of someone" most names have a one time appearance in the Bible.  Their name debuts but there is nothing to fill in the  "whatever became of.....?" blanks.

Which, to be honest, I don't think is very fair of God.  To the person, or to me, the reader.  I mean, if you're going to mention a name, someone connected to a major character of the Bible, wouldn't it be fair to us to know a little bit more about them then that they were someone's son?  I mean really, God, I want to know more.  Don't you?

Maybe you don't.

But.....then I get to thinking, and that is always a dangerous thing, if God wanted us to know more about someone he would have told us more.  And really, to be fair, there would be a LOT of people to add detail to, making the Bible even longer to read.  It's hard enough for most of us to read through it in a year, imagine if every name had a chapter?  So, I kinda understand why we don't know more and that's ok.  I guess I'll save my questions for heaven.

But here's the thing about all these named, yet anonymous people of history:

Even though we don't know anything beyond their name, as we look through this wide angle view of history, we do know they were a part of something much bigger than we can only imagine.

For example, the nameless believers of Pentecost Sunday.  We don't know the names of the 3000 that came to faith the day the Holy Spirit poured out on the crowd while listening to Peter, but we do know and can relate to the magnitude of what 3000 people might look like.  I would guess they probably equalled a small section at the Super Bowl, maybe like those sitting in the end zone.

At any rate, no matter what 3000 humans together look like, they were people.  They all had kidneys and hearts and muscle and skin and bones and a vascular system.  Everyone of them, nameless as they were, were human beings.  I would imagine a good portion of them had mothers and fathers and a few siblings too.  Nameless to most, especially us in 2016, but not faceless and anonymous to those who were closest to them.

I look at my family genealogy records and am in awe of the multitude of names that are included in just one branch of my family tree.  Just because I didn't know them personally, doesn't mean their life did not impact mine.  I have pictures of some, but not most.  There are records that have their names on them, their ages, their address, but I'll never know what color their eyes were or if they had a loud laugh like I do or were shy and reserved.  I can't read the emotions some of them felt as they buried a child, that records I read say, died as an infant.

But just because I can't touch them or hear them or see them or walk with them doesn't mean they were just a face in the crowd or a name on a ship's manifest or in the pages of an ancient book such as the Bible.

You, me....we.....we're a part of history right now.  Two hundred years from now only a few names will be recorded in history as the leader of the times we're in.  That doest mean we don't matter for our time in history because behind every leader is us.  Our names and faces will someday disappear like a vapor, but our purpose in history will live on.

We may not lead millions or thousands or even hundreds, but we're all a leader of someone.  A mother leads her children.  A father leads his family.  A child leads his or her siblings.  A student can lead a classmate, and a teacher can lead students.  To some degree, all of us are leaders whether we see ourselves as one or not.  Someone is always watching what we say, what we do, where we go, and how we do life.  We may never have our names written in the pages of history in great detail,  but it certainly doesn't mean that you and I aren't a part of what will one day be called history by our grandchildren.

You are more than a face in the crowd.  You are more than a space in a room or at your desk.  You are more.  You are needed.  You have purpose.  There is a plan written just for your life.  Look up and ask to see it!  You are far from faceless or nameless to God.  He knows your name and the very days of your life were planned by him before any of them came to be.

You are loved, Friend.  Very, very loved.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Speaking from my heart, flawed as it is

I get wound up from time to time, a battle wages between emotion and logic; fear and wisdom; hope and despair.  I don't like to use this blog to air my scattered thoughts, but rather to remind my scattered thoughts Who is in ultimate control.

This is why I blog.

I used to journal, writing and sorting out the emotions et al that needed to find a way to come out and find its place in my personality, my belief systems and my quirks.  Then one just seemed to come out better typed and a blog was born.  I guess it really started with getting that hair up my butt and training for a 1/2 marathon.  At any rate, I do less pen to paper journaling now to sort things out, and more sorting here, on Living in the Inbetween.

As you know, if you come here regularly, I took a break from social media that lasted about a week.  As much as I wanted to bury my head in the sand and avoid those things that spin me up, I was compelled to jump back into the action.  I make snide remarks on Facebook, from time to time, when I read something I think is absolutely ridiculous.  (So far from the good Christian some of you think I should/would/could be, I know).  I'm working on developing a better filter.....someday maybe.

But these are my thoughts and you can do what you wish with them.  Ignore, argue, stir in your pot and see how they settle....whatever you choose to do is your right to do.  I just need to get these thoughts of MINE sorted out, the best way I know how.

I have family members on both of my parents' sides who have done genealogy research of our ancestors.  I'm a nerd this way, and get excited reading through the copies of the genealogy reports that have been done.  Some of you may find this very boring and irrelevant to your life, but for some reason, it is very fascinating to me.

In 1997, a formal genealogy on my mother's side was traced back as far as 1883 starting with the passenger list from the ship my Roots sailed on from Germany.  On my father's side, the Roots of my American heritage were planted in 1771, in New York, five years before the Revolutionary War.

I think about those two dates a lot.

I think about those souls who risked it all to come to America.  A lot.

I think about what they gave up to come to America.  A lot.

I think about what they didn't have as they traveled across the ocean.  A lot.

No cell phone, no weather forecast, no promise of getting here alive.  No promise of any job waiting for them.  No promise of healthcare.  No promise of having a big house, new horses, clean clothes, a warm bed.

Yet they came anyway.

Why?  What was so bad about where they were that they risked everything for something unseen?

As a follower of Jesus, I'm not afraid of socialism or communism or capitalism or conservatism or liberalism.  I am a little bit nervous about what effects any and all of those can have on a soul, but as a follower of Jesus who knows the world I live in is not my home, I'm ok with whatever happens to the United States in November's election.  The sun will still rise and babies will still cry.

But as a descendant of people who risked everything to leave behind what seems to be trying to be born here, I'm worried.  I'm wondering how it has gone this far, this fast?  Have we all been sleeping?  Have we all just been apathetic towards politics and corrupt politicians that we don't even remember our history lessons?  Have we been so consumed with reality tv and fighting for rights that have already been won that we have left our government be run by career politicians so we don't need to be bothered?

Yes, the founders rebelled against their government and those same founders used pages of the Bible as a basis for the establishment of a free land.  This is how America was founded, on rebellion and using religion to plead your case.

Very flawed start and God saw it all and for some reason has blessed us despite our flaws.

People came here.  Men, women, small children...our grandparents.  You and I are descendants of people who risked EVERYTHING to come here.  Yet, some of us seem to be hell bent on making America the type of place our descendants escaped.

Flawed founders established a flawed country, no doubt.  But despite its flaws, people still come here.

Where will we go when we become like the nations our grandparents escaped and left behind?

Where will you go?

As flawed as America is, I still like being able to travel when and where I want with no fear of being checked for papers.

As flawed as America is, I still think it's pretty nice to be able to decide which doctor I can see without worrying about losing that doctor because an un-American system is taking over.

As flawed as America is, I still think it's awesome that I can talk about my faith in public, on the internet, face to face, without ever worrying about having to go underground and speak in code, worrying if I'll be killed for believing or doing so.

As flawed as America is, I still find our justice system still strives for fairness.

As flawed as America is, I still rejoice that I can write these things today without fear of being arrested or sent to a concentration camp.

As flawed as America is, I have hope that there are still enough of us who remember and appreciate who got us here, who fought their way here, who risked everything..... for us.

This election is crucial to the fabric of what America started on.

It's not the John Hancock's or the George Washington's or the Thomas Paine's or any of the other big names of our history that tell the true story.

It's Henry, Jesse's parents, Wilhelm, Johann, Fritz and millions of others who made my country for me.  We can't lose sight of where America started and why America started.  I pray we don't anyway. If God wills that we do, His will be done.  But for right now, today, I have to speak what I believe, from the depths of my heart, while I still can.... without fear of punishment.



Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Little Bird Told Me

Did you hear the one about.....?  Did you hear what so and so said?  I heard she....No, I heard he....Have you heard anything?  What have you heard?  I heard they said....then I heard they said.....

Lots of hearing going on and talking about what is being heard, but who knows what's really being said that's true?  A lot of people can hear one person say something and a lot of people can hear what that one person said in a lot of different ways.

I find that is true in my own life.  I hear a snippet, either by voice or a quick glance at the newsfeed and my mouth is off and running about what I "heard."  It must be true if I heard it or read it online, right?  I certainly didn't hear it the wrong way.  Right?  I couldn't  hear things through my own filter, could I?  Might we all be hearing things through our own filters of circumstance, experience, age, and present moment?

In any case, sometimes what we hear is relative to what we want to hear.  Or don't want to hear.

Sometimes, and I'm only confessing my own guilt to this, but sometimes it's easier to hear what I want to hear rather than really hear what is being said.  It's hard to take time to really listen to all that's being said and listen objectively.  I have that problem, maybe you don't.  Maybe you can hear through an objective filter, but when I'm in need or passionate or prideful in my own ideals, I hear what I want to hear.

It's only later, when a little time has passed and the heat of the moment has fleeted away like they always do, like a vapor in the wind, that I can sit back and re"hear" what I didn't hear right the first time, through my clogged up filters.

Maturity helps me do that.  I don't get as spun up as quickly as I once did.  But when I do, I think, at least I hope I do anyway, I try to practice more objective hearing over filtered hearing.  It takes time to listen that way.  So much more time than I really want to give or have to invest.

But sometimes when we hear about something or someone, and depending on our need, we seek out what we heard about it.  We google the new sure fire diet promising to let you eat as much as you want whenever you want.  We fill in that browser search bar with the latest of whatever it is we "heard" so we can find out for ourselves if it's true.  And if it's on Facebook or Twitter, certainly it must be true!

Long before there was instant access to the latest discussion, the only way you heard about anything was by someone telling you via spoken words to actual physical ears.

Can you imagine?  The only way you would ever hear that someone had done something or said something was by playing the telephone game, before there were even telephones!  News traveled by word of mouth only. (Now there were written messages, but only those who could read would be able to decipher what was written, so that cut the population of "hearers" to small numbers quickly).

But there was this woman, and this is what happened to this woman who met Jesus.  This woman, "had been subject to bleeding for twelve years."  If this were you, that means since 2004 you would be dealing with a bleeding problem.  To bring the men in, let's just say whatever pain or issue you may be suffering right now, imagine that you have dealt with it every day since 2004.

Since 2004, we have elected two Presidents.  Since 2004, I personally, have watched all three of my children graduate high school, college, get married and have held two grandchildren.

In all this time, 12 years, these are the changes I have experienced.

So this woman, whom the Bible says "had been subject to bleeding for twelve years..had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse."

Twelve years, living her life as life changed around her, had this thing, this bleeding going on right along with her.  But what made it even more difficult for her was that she lived in a culture which made it even more painful and difficult. Because of her culture, because of the laws she lived under, she was banned from entering her place of worship.  She couldn't be touched.  She couldn't be hugged.  She couldn't hold her children, if she had any.  Anything she touched was considered unclean.  Anything that touched her, her clothes, or her bedding were considered unclean.

This is what the law said, "If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.  Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period.  Whoever touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening."  (Leviticus 15:27)

She had years of a discharge beyond her period, not just days.....years.

In her Jewish culture, the Jewish people were still living under those laws.  So if you can imagine, imagine what that meant for her in her home, with her family, her husband, children, parents, friends.

Take a minute and imagine what it would be like to be untouchable since 2004.

But then.....

"When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak...."

Now, this wasn't a private encounter.  It was crowded.  People pressed around Jesus, so there was a lot of touching going on.  A lot of people were being touched by an unclean woman and didn't realize it.

But this woman, "touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed."

She knew the risk she was taking.  By touching the man she had heard about she was making him unclean.  But she touched him anyway, because "she had heard about Jesus."

She knew she was doing the opposite of what she was supposed to be doing.  She shouldn't have been out in that crowd so close to those who would be considered unclean if they knew who was touching them.

But she had heard about Jesus.

She didn't read about him on the internet or look him up in People magazine.  She heard about him.

I wonder, what did she hear that made her risk so much?

So, I ask you....

What have you heard about Jesus?  Have you heard about Him?  If someone were to be listening to you talk about Jesus, what would they hear about Jesus through what they heard you say?  Crickets?  Anger?  Hope?

I don't know how all this went down.  I don't know if anyone knew who she was or the suffering she had been enduring for twelve years.  All I know is that, "Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering."

She heard about Jesus.  She went to the source to find out if what she heard was true and she found out that whatever she had heard about him worked for her.

So what have you heard about Jesus?

Here is what I heard about him and found out for myself is true:

He heals.  He restores.  He comforts.  He renews.  He frees.  He loves.  He forgives.  He laughs.  He cries.  He hurts with me.  He is strong when I am weak.  He strengthens me when I'm too weak to walk.  He blesses me when I doubt.  He gives me hope when I feel hopeless.  He makes a way when the way is dark.

Those are just a few of things I've heard about him and found out for myself are true.

What have you heard about Jesus?  Isn't it time you found out for yourself if they're true.  Who knows, your twelve years may soon be a memory.

Go ahead, touch him.

Reach out and touch him, just use the tip of one finger if you're afraid, but reach out.

Touch him.



Mark 5:21-34

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge

Welcome to Living in the In-Between and the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge! My name is Ronda and I'm so glad you're here.  I hope you come back to visit often.   I'm looking forward to meeting you and reading your April posts. This is my fourth year and every year I enjoy it more and more.  If you're visiting for the first time, you will find that I am the queen of run on sentences and commas.  I try, really I try to listen to the voice of my high school Advanced Composition teacher, but I guess I like being queen!  I hope it doesn't distract you from reading.

My main aim from the very beginning of writing this blog was to spark a desire in the reader to read the Word of God.  If curiosity, pain, or even anger because of my words got you to open God's Word, my goal would be met.  Since 1994, when I started reading the Bible seriously, I have been blown away by how much I am like soooooo many of the people who reside in its pages.  Not the good guys either but the wicked, the evil, the proud, the arrogant, the fearful, the untrusting.

We can find our dopplegangers in God's Word.  But the only way you will find yours is to open it.  My purpose for this years blogging challenge is to help you find yours.  I really believe that is part of my purpose in writing a blog.  I believe God has given me that desire to pass along to you, dear Reader, a curiosity that breeds admiration, that breeds, eventually, I hope, a love for God and His word all through learning about a bunch of bucket head people. We know about them on the fringes, through the Sunday School stories growing up, but I'm telling you....what I have discovered is probably never going to be written in a children's curriculum!  

My prayer as I discover and share my discoveries here, is that I can give you a little bit more than the basic lesson of a Sunday School story.  I'm going to try, Lord willing, He'll make it happen. I pray that you see God in a way you hadn't seen him before.  I pray you see yourself as He sees you, because you came here and learned about some really messed up people trying to manipulate God's plan, but God still loved them and blessed them despite their best efforts to mess things up.

So let me tell you how God's been doing what I'm trying to describe.

It's been quiet in my brain for a couple months.  The words have been sleeping I guess.  I look at my computer, look up at Him, look in His Word... and there's nothing.

NOTHING!  The quiet has been deafening, but it's been a good quiet.  I like it when God quiets my mind and my soul.  Sometimes the words come so fast I can hardly rest, so when it is quiet, it's nice.

Side bar:  I used to get a little anxious about that quietness - thoughts like:  Oh no, is God mad at me?  Is something wrong?  Have I offended Him?  A funny thing happens when you dig in God's word seeking assurance, looking for comes.

Permission to rest comes.  It's a very cool thing.

When I rest on the truth that there is nothing I can do to earn my salvation or keep my salvation, or mess up my salvation, a prison door opens and I can, as Wisconsin's son, Aaron, says, "R E L A X."  I highly recommend this practice.

Anyway, back to my story.

This year's A to Z Blogging Challenge will be my fourth year.  After last year's challenge produced a book, I wasn't sure what I would do in 2016 or even if I would participate in 2016.  Up until January 1st of this new year, I hadn't really given much thought to it, and certainly gave much less prayer to it.  By this time last year, I had nearly the whole challenge written, as I was making plans to getting it published, but this year...

This year?  Not so much.  And, to be honest, I was ok with that.  I was actually a little relieved.  But then I got a little anxious because I thought (silly thing to do, I know) well then, what will I do God?  What's next?  I'm sure I don't have to tell you where those thoughts tried to take me until I lassoed them in and told them to STOP and SHUT UP!

So....I went back to the basics.

I had done Bible reading plans in the past, but in the last few years whenever I attempted to start, because I have this issue with words taking over, I would get stuck on one word and before I knew it the snow would be melting and I was still stuck on the assignment for January 5th!  So, I gave up trying to stick to a "Read Your Bible in a Year Plan."  (Don't get me wrong, there were several years I stuck to the plans, but then I got a little too nosey for my own good and had to dig deeper.  So very thankful for all the vehicles God used as shovels - women's Bible studies, Bible Study Fellowship just to name a couple you might check into for yourself.  But I must warn you, you'll never look at the Bible the same once you dig below the surface of the Sunday School story).

But I digress.

This year, because there wasn't anything going on in my brain (be nice!), I started a Bible reading plan on January 1st.  I choose a 90 day plan.  It's a lot of reading, I know, but there wasn't anything else going on so I'm committed to finishing it in 90 days, well, maybe 100 days, or a year.  Because...

I have already come into a familiar problem.

The word juices started flowing.  And they aren't  just single words either, but phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and circumstances started jumping off the page as if I was reading them for the first time.

Even though the brain was starting to get back into gear, I still wasn't planning on participating in the challenge. (And God laughed and laughed and laughed).  But as I started chiseling away at my 90 day goal, questions started to enter my mind.  New questions.  New insights.  Things I had not seen before even though I had read and studied what I was reading on several occasions.

The word gears really started to turn while reading about the soap opera Jacob, Leah and Rachel found themselves in.  I heard myself say, "Let me get this straight," in regards to trying to sort out which Mom gave birth to which kid, which baby momma slept with baby daddy Jacob.

I had to pull out my notebook and start sorting out on paper what I was reading in the HOLY bible.  (The shenanigans these folks were participating in were far from HOLY, let me tell you).

So those first notes became more notes and pretty soon a picture was forming in my mind, words were coming to life, and before I knew it, as in the past three years, I was writing the alphabet down the side of a page from my journal and filling in the spaces.  It was easy for twelve of the letters (hint, hint), a little more challenging for some others, but God has already taken care of that and I even have my Q and X word!

So my theme for for the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge will be called (drum roll please):

The Testings and (dis)Trusting of the Twelve Tribes of Israel

It's going to be fun.  It's going to be heart wrenching.  It's going to be on the edge of your seat exciting.  (Well...maybe all those.  Who knows?  Oh wait, God knows.  He'll give you what He wants you to get out of what He's shown me that will somehow get translated to you in an entirely different way then I imagined but....whatever He wants.  I'm just the word wrestler).

So buckle your seat belts, come back each day in April, except Sundays, starting April 1st.  I hope we learn together how a Holy God uses unholy people and circumstances, and certainly unholy behaviors, to bring about His perfect plan of salvation while comforting you with the assurance that no matter what you've done or will do, you are His and He loves you.  I've found a whole group of bucket heads to compare yourself to.   If you think you've done some bad stuff, believe me, you ain't seen nothing yet!  You'll meet your new friends in April.

So fix your hair.  Or not.

Put on your Sunday best.  Or not.  Believe me, you'll see some straw stuck to some hair and some wrinkled clothes when you come here in April.

I'll be introducing you to some of the bucket heads of the Bible.  Those who are good, bad, selfish, generous, depressed, joyful.... all rolled into a bunch of people just like me and you.  The time period is certainly different, the culture definitely is foreign to most of us, but the humanness and hunger we all have is surprisingly similar.

Because the alphabet is alphabetized the posts may be confusing, so I'll have a brief cheat sheet of  who's who if you will, towards the end of March. Hopefully that will help you keep people and events straight and you can go back to it when you read posts that are in alphabetical order but not chronological order.   

See you in April!