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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Like a Belgian Draft Horse--How I Read the Bible - or - "Do Not Despise the Day of Small Beginnings"

Last January, I charged into a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan like a souped up race horse breaking onto the track. It wasn’t the first time I had attempted the goal, but this time, I was determined to complete it.

Imagine how deflated I was to have to start again in April. Let’s just say that this time I trudged out of the gate like a Belgian draft horse pulling a Levitical plow. It has been slow going, but I keep telling myself, “Slow and steady wins the race,” or at least wins a sharp Sunday school lapel pin for managing to “stick to it!”

Why has this reading plan been so difficult? After all, I read a user-friendly version. I grew up hearing Bible stories and memorizing verses. I was a literature major, so I obviously enjoy reading. If you asked what book I’d take to a desert island, I'd reply, “The Bible.” And I’ve received much guidance and comfort throughout my life from this book.

I do what I can to remind myself, placing my Bible on my nightstand, slipping it into my purse to read in waiting rooms, packing it on trips, sticking it in my tote bag, plopping it into my car—it’s always with me. Yet, I often find myself walking by it on the coffee table. Somehow, I always seem to have one more laundry load or phone call or three more hours on the Internet before I can pick it up.

Unfortunately, my reading has been more of an exercise in discipline than an experience in learning and worshiping. And while there’s nothing wrong with practicing diligence, my heart has not been fully engaged. It’s like the difference between reading a textbook account of an event as opposed to reading the personal letter of an eyewitness.

Although I was frustrated last April, I’m glad I didn’t quit. Now I’m in the race with two goals: to finish my year-long project, yes, but also to be transformed, which makes all the difference.

If you’ve recently set goals, don’t be discouraged over false starts and distractions. Remember how the re-building of the Lord’s temple was stalled time and again.

Zerubbabel, Jerusalem's governor, met lots of opposition as he began the project, but God sent Zechariah with encouragement: “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6).

When setbacks come, don’t let them rob you of your confidence. When you fall, don’t berate yourself for having leapt. Remember that failures have potential to make you more dependent on Christ, our ultimate strength and only real measure of success.

Zechariah 4:10: Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”


Questions:

If God does not despise (scorn, disdain) small beginnings, is it legitimate for us, his workmen, to do so?

When you find yourself despising yourself and your efforts, what can you do/say to combat those accusations?

Have you invited God to join you in achieving your goals this year?

Have you invited God into your failures and mistakes this year? Do you think this is a negative way of thinking? Why/Why not?



Please visit Linda Crow at her personal blog:









Horse photo credit: Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene

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16 Comments:

Blogger Homesteader in Training said...

Wonderful post. It's so true how we can beat ourselves up over "not" doing something but NOT giving up is the answer. Think of all the things that "start" small, a baby, an acorn, an ocean wave, but in the end they achieve what God had intended for them to be. Such hope in HIM!
Blessings.
Kim

January 14, 2009 at 5:44 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Linda this is a great post. I am often very hard on myself for any and all percieved failures or incompletions. Yet the questions you posed made me do the cartoon eye popping out of my head thing. Sometimes my view of God is that of a harsh taskmaster as opposed to a loving father.

Thanks!!!

January 14, 2009 at 5:53 AM  
Blogger Courtney said...

I'm with ya - I'm reading through the Bible this year and I can't believe it's the 14th and I'm already behind! Lovely - the good news is that I chose a reading plan that only gives you 25 days of reading so you can miss a few days and still have a chance at the end of the month to make it up! I need a plan with some grace! I found it on John Piper's site but if a reader wants it go to

http://womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com/2009/01/bible-reading-plans.html

Thanks for your encouragement today!
Courtney

January 14, 2009 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger Smilingsal said...

Thanks for sharing. I needed the encouragement.

January 14, 2009 at 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was often feeling shamed and like a failure when I would fall behind in my reading. What I did last year (and it worked for probably 360 of the 365 days, praise God) was that I made my bible reading the very first thing I did each morning. The computer did not get turned on during the day until my reading was done. It worked.

This year, I'm not using the same Bible in a year (I did the Chronological Bible for 3 years) but am reading from The Message. I find it a bit harder in some ways to not have a specific start and stop place..but the computer nor television gets turned on until my reading is done.

I hope my experience helps someone else.
Teresa

January 14, 2009 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Melanie @ This Ain't New York said...

What an excellent analogy and great encouragement. Thanks, Linda!

January 14, 2009 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

Sometimes the discipline of it is what we need to be transformed, as opposed to the experience we can get from it. I find that the discipline of "sticking with it" will stick with me longer than the emotional "high" I can get from other things I may do to experience Him.

Stick with it, girl; you are being transformed. It's just harder to see when it's spread over time. :-)

January 14, 2009 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Heather of the EO said...

I'm good at being hard on myself. But that always keeps me in the same slumps. I don't feel good, so I don't feel like reading my bible, or doing that study, or praying...

I've found that the pressure to have a certain amount of quiet time or to read the Bible in a certain way always leaves me feeling like I don't measure up.

I want to read it because I can't stay away, because it's living water, because it's like air, not because I SHOULD. And then I just want to take small pieced and really let them settle on my heart and mind, becoming a part of me, rather than rushing through just to get it done.

So far I kind of stink at doing either, but it comforts me that God understands my dry times and doesn't see time the way I do. He knows He has my heart and that I'll keep trying. Slow but sure :)

January 14, 2009 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Laurie Ann said...

Wonderful devotion, Linda. Thanks for reminding us not to beat ourselves up when we don't achieve our goals. At least we did try! I tried and failed many times to read the Bible through. I finally did it with the Read the Bible Through in 90 Days. I am an avid reader and needed big chunks of the Bible to read to hold my attention. Now I'm using a smaller plan and not planning on reading it all the way through this year, but I am reading every day at least. I find when I don't that I'm thirsty for His Word. Again, great post!

January 14, 2009 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Shannon Jacobyansky said...

A good post, but what if you are haviing trouble figuring out just what your goal or purpose should be accordding to God's plan for your life?

January 14, 2009 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Oh no! I read this after I've begun my Bible in a year journey. lol Like you I am going full speed ahead. I have prayed about sticking to this because I know how I am about that. So far, so good. And I am enjoying it so much. My goal: Too learn more about His Word but it may morph into just saying that I did it! I've even thought far ahead and wondered...then what? Another goal? :)
Thank you for this post. It is encouraging to me.

January 14, 2009 at 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Patricia@TypingOne-Handed said...

I am always starting over. I even bought a read through the Bible in a year Bible!. But in order to not be so discouraged, I just start from today...I'll make up yesterday's reading when I get to it again NEXT year. (I'm with you on all the distractions!!! Two things I need focus and quiet to do: read my Bible and write.)

Great devotion, Linda!

January 15, 2009 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Alexia said...

What a great devotional. I always have great plans of how I want to get up early to spend time with God or activities that I want to start to establish a Godly heritage with my kids and when things don't go exactly as planned I get discouraged and just quit.

One thing I've been making a conscious effort to do this year is to pick myself up and keep going! I keep reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day and I can start all over again.

The most important thing is that I keep trying!

Thanks for the encouragement!

January 15, 2009 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Super encouragement here.

Keep at it! God holds a blessing at the end of the trail.

;-)

Blessings,
Linda

HEART OF A READY WRITER – Reading Through the Bible in 2009

January 15, 2009 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Sweet Magnolia said...

Linda ..I didn't get a chance to read until today ..Thank You for sharing these wonderful words of encouragement ..I sure needed them ...I have been the one discouraged by a meager small beginning start ..and Today ..My mind is changed !! Thank You

January 15, 2009 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

I enjoyed this, thank you.

January 15, 2009 at 6:16 PM  

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