March 4, 2012

Blogging a Bible Study

Today I am home from church sick with a chest-cold and B is also sick with a cold/fever.  We've done the OJ, toast and a game of monopoly so far...
Now he's under 3 blankets on the couch with a Star Wars video and I'm having coffee in front of the computer and trying to figure out a way to make this morning count for something worthwhile.
So I decided that I'll start a few posts from the new study I'm doing with a great bunch of ladies at our church.  We meet every other Monday and are going to work through Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts together.  I stumbled across a reader's guide for the book that has some questions that I'm trying to go through each time we meet.  So far I've been a flop at actually getting all the way through all the notes I take and scriptures that God has shown me in the process, so perhaps putting them here in my corner of cyber-space will make up for that failing in group.

So to begin.... Chapter 1  "an emptier, fuller life"

Page 13: But these aren't things you need to say anyways.  Like all beliefs, you simply live them.
Page 14: I look in the mirror, and if I'm fearlessly blunt  - what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I've got - this simply isn't enough.
Page 15: Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives.  We hunger for something more, something other. 
Page 16: If I'm ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no.
These are just a few of the lines I high-lighted in the first pages of the chapter... words that struck a chord deep in me and I could identify.  Shamefully... but true.  I first read Ann's book when it came out early in 2011, and since that time God has taught me much and I am beyond grateful to feel that there is some small measure of progress.  If that is not too bold to admit - but I don't say that with any pride, only with humble thanksgiving that He has counted me worth the time and effort to change my heart, my mind, my life.

Readers Guide Question:  "Quote from above pg 16"  What do you think Ann means by this?  Has this ever been true for you?  If you feel comfortable doing so, describe the experience.
My notes:  I think Ann means she has lived as if God is not a good God - that he lets us down or leaves us to twist in the winds of sorrow & pain.  Even aside from the times in my life when I was living far from my faith - 'back-slidden' to use the churchy words for it - I admit that there have been times when I have struggled with holding to God's goodness in the face of difficulty.  Miscarriage, infant death, then divorce, custody struggles, serious medical issues for my oldest child and then ongoing educational struggles for him.  But on the other side of all those things... I can see how faithful God was even when I was holding Him at arms length.  I was living as if He had taken a vacation from watching over me - but I was the one moving away from Him.
How often are we willing to be so "ruthless" with ourselves?  Honesty is HARD at times ... especially when we feel we are questioning God or even act like we are pounding our fists against His chest in our frustration ... or arrogance?   Behaving like children?  Yet the grace pours - our hearts (our storms) can be calmed by the One who calmed the waves - if we make that choice - to let Him... to SEE Him.

Page 17: "His secret purpose framed from the very beginning [is] to bring us to our full glory." (1 Corinthians 2:7 NEB)
Page 21:"Just that maybe... maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds."  snip "Maybe... I guess... it's accepting there are things we simply don't understand.  But He does."

Readers Guide Question: During their forty years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites survived on a daily diet of manna (Exodus 16).  It is a baffling substance whose name literally means, "What is it?" - but they eat it, are nourished by it, and even seem to like the taste of it (p. 22).  The author makes a connection between manna and the troubling mysteries of our own lives.  How do you respond to the idea that our questions and the things we don't yet understand may actually be sources of spiritual nourishment?  What do you think it might mean, in practical terms, to "eat the mystery."?
My notes: Ephesians 1:6-10 seemed to speak loudly here for me.  Right now - we are only seeing glimpses - we see grace - we have moments when we 'almost' grasp something that pulls us to Christ or perhaps we just cling desperate because we feel like we are blinded by a situation or circumstance - yet we know there are promises in scripture (Romans 8 - right?) that tell us we are safe in Christ.  So in Ephesians 1, verses 9-10 say: "making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."  This is the mystery - how all this ... the brokenness of the whole world - of hearts & homes - the wounded - and the beautiful... the glorious creation, the laughter, the love - all of it, the grace of a moment and a lifetime.  We cling simply because we must at times - what is the alternative really?  Do we believe we have any more/better control if we reject Christ?  Then it really would be empty beyond redemption and hope... In Christ we have the hope and assurance that at some point - perhaps only in heaven - we will KNOW the mystery.

I'm going to stop here for now... this is way longer than I thought it'd be!  Breaking it up should make for a bit easier reading, and typing!