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One Simple Way to Engage with Scripture (& A Color-Me Download!)

Photo by Rachel Lynette French on Unsplash

 

Reading Scripture is valuable. Engaging Scripture changes a person.

I know because it changed me. A babe in Christ at the age of twenty-seven, I only knew the basic Bible stories: Jesus on the cross, Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, and The Ten Commandments, thanks to Charlton Heston.

Granted, those basic stories are some of the most beautiful, but God used Precept Ministries and Kay Chandler, the local {and amazing!} instructor, to show me how to engage Scripture for myself.

What I’m sharing today isn’t a Precept method. It’s simply an exercise I stumbled upon while singing “Blessed Assurance” in church. Words describing my own story stood up when I sat down to put pen to paper. This moment is recorded in my post, This is My Story. What’s Yours?

 

Psalm 139:23, 24 became my Blessed Assurance.

 

Two verses begin most of my mornings:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24

 

My searchlight is poorly lit, powered by emotions, a selfish heart, and limited vision.

 

So I pull out my archaic sheet of paper, grab my go-to pen, and write out these two verses in sections. Under each one, I quickly jot down words and phrases that come to mind. There’s no right or wrong way:

 

Search me, O God

as a shepherd searches for a lost sheep, search my heart // penetrate my soul with Your piercing light // in every crevice that seeks to hide my sin // for every particle of pride // for slivers of selfishness // for bits of bitterness waiting to take root in my unsuspecting heart // for sin in every form⏤search me, Father // I want to know what You see // to repent // to turn away // to walk in the freedom You’ve provided.

 

and know my heart

the one that sin soiled // and Jesus cleansed // Knower of my heart // the good // the sinful // the well-meaning but often misunderstood // You created me // You formed me // You know me better than I know myself // I trust Your findings // comfort // peace // joy // confession //

 

test me and know my anxious thoughts

worries masked as concerns // misplaced trust // worries of what people think // or might think // driving // riding // out of control // future // virus // comparisons // feeling invisible // a good wife // grammy // daughter // friend //

 

See if there is any offensive way in me,

any way // sin // pride // bitterness // unforgiveness // grudges // lack of self-discipline // quick words // negativity //

 

and lead me in the way everlasting.

an eternity // my destination // my home // lead the way, Lord // give me wisdom // discernment // choices that point to glory, not to self // help me follow well // quick obedience // loving others selflessly // embracing community //

 

Now, I prayerfully consider the words spilled onto the page, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and the hand writes.

Search my heart: I’m well aware of how easily I can deceive myself and its cost. So, whatever He finds, I want to know it. God already knows my sins and loves me still. Nothing catches Him off guard. His spotlight is welcomed⏤not because I’m confident of what He won’t find⏤but rather, of what He will.

Test me and know my anxious thoughts: I’m not a fan of asking to be tested/tried but this examination goes hand-in-hand with the search. Like the Christmas gift hidden behind the tree and tucked beneath the others, anxiety also has a way of hiding in inconspicuous places.

See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting: One last call for any hint of sin in the heart and a point in the right direction.

 

Psalm 139:23, 24 holds a key that unlocks what we truly believe about our heavenly Father.

For those willing to turn the key, the power and freedom of the gospel await.

 

Maybe the richness of this simple exercise isn’t found in the words we write down, but instead, the heart that is reflected through them.

 

Would you like to try this exercise using Psalm 139? I created a downloadable, easy-to-print (and dare I say colorable?) page. Just click here!

 

 

 

Which section of these verses do you find the easiest to pray, and/or the hardest?

 

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One Question to Ask When Decluttering Your Home

Change: It's A Good ThingDecluttering is in full-swing at the Baker’s house. Maybe it’s the excitement of the move, or the adrenaline of the unknown, or the simple fact that I can’t find squat that makes this particular decluttering effort seem more successful.

As I began sorting through clothes, paperwork, and yes, even books, I began asking myself one question:

“How will I FEEL the moment I see this item when unpacking it at the new house?”

Talk about changing one’s perspective! This one question Is freeing me both emotionally and physically. If I knew a particular item wouldn’t spark joy the moment I spotted it when unpacking in our new home, it was placed in one of three places: Goodwill, consignment, or trash. It was an immediate score. Woot Woot!

In the past, we’ve hauled the entire contents of one house to another, assuming we’d one day go through all the boxes. Not this time. We’re now going through everything before it’s packed away. Last week, I took two totes to consignment, five totes to Goodwill, and tossed 8 bags of trash. Oh, the freedom!

Yes, the process of ridding ourselves of clothes that have worn out their welcome and tossing papers with scribbles from long ago is freeing, but it still boggles the mind as to how we got here.

At one point during last week’s mission it occurred to me that much of the clutter was due to procrastination on our part. It always seemed easier to find a spot for something, say, next week. Until then, any flat surface would do. Especially if it’s a book. Or a notebook. Or fountain pens. Okay, I digress. But you get the point.

During this frenzied season of decluttering and preparing for a move, I find that the one question I ask myself while deciding what to pack, or what to toss or share, brings rest to this old soul and a renewed determination to do things differently this time around.

So how do you go about the process of decluttering? Do you have a particular question or mantra that helps you stay focused?

 

Staying in the Step with the Spirit Via Pure Motivations

by Cathy Baker

{ Day 29 }

It didn’t take long
for me to realize that we writers can quickly become fascinated with numbers. The
number of books sold, or hits on a particular blog, article, or Facebook
post. Let’s face it. All of these things, in some way, validate the fact our work is being read, and hopefully finding its way to the hearts of those God intended. But, if we’re not careful, over-focusing on numbers can not only choke out our joy but it can take our motivation captive. 

That’s a lot of liking!

For some reason, I thought I’d escaped the clinching chains of counting numbers until this summer when I
found myself face to face with discouragement. To make my point, I must be painfully honest. Sigh. You see, discouragement slithered
its way in the back door when I began noticing a drop-off in blog comments,
leading me to question if the time required to create my posts was a wise use of God’s time.

Around
that same time, a handful of people, some I’ve never met, began emailing me after reading
particular posts. Their emails often resulted (and still do) in a deep
abiding gratefulness no words can describe. (You know who you are! Thank
you!) 

Here’s
the thing. Their comments showed up in a private inbox, for no one else
to see. In other words, the comment count on my blog didn’t change but God used these private messages to not only encourage me but to also teach me a game-changing lesson I’ll take with me to eternity.

In the midst of my deepest discouragement, I sensed God asking, If your motivation is to glorify Me alone, does it matter if comments show up on your blog or in your inbox?  
 
Truth snapped my soul
like a taut rubber band awakening me from my spiritual slumber. Ah, now I remember why I often begin my time in prayer with Psalm 139:23, 24: Rarely, if ever, can I trust my own motives. God must be the motive searcher of all things for He alone knows me—really knows me. He alone sees past my good intentions and zeroes in on specks of pride searching for places to take root in my heart. 

Yes, comments and emails still delight and encourage this old soul but now they’re simply a gift, not a measuring stick for validating my time.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23, 24

Staying in Step with the Spirit: God alone is our Validator. When He is invited to search our hearts and to test our anxious thoughts, we are humbling ourselves before Him… and a humble heart is one close to its Maker. 

Heavenly Father, search our hearts and test us. You alone know our true thoughts and deepest motivation concerning all things. Purify us and lead us in the way everlasting as we humble ourselves before you.


Your turn! Have you ever looked to anything but God for validation along the way? 










Staying in Step with the Spirit Via Piped Icing

by Cathy Baker

{ Day 21 } 

Lovely, isn’t it? 

Everything about my birthday cake exceeded my expectations, minus one thing. Do you see it in the picture? 

 

McFarlan’s Bakery, Hendersonville NC

When we picked up the cake at McFarlan’s Bakery (which is awesome!) they peeled back the box top, especially proud of the beautifully fall-themed design they’d created for me. 

We were all delighted until Brian said,”It’s beautiful…except her name isn’t Cindy.”

We all laughed but they felt terrible about the mistaken name and wanted to fix it. I insisted I knew my name and it was perfectly fine. (I also thought of this post idea so I wasn’t about to ruin it by having them correct it!) 

I had a flashback to my childhood when both
grandmothers would sometimes do what felt like a roll call when trying to get my
attention. They called out at least three other names of people in our family before getting to mine. (Oh, how I miss this!)

In the big scheme of things, though, aren’t you thankful God doesn’t mistake us for anyone else? When He calls our name, He gets it right the first time for He is keenly aware of every detail concerning our lives:

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3


O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You
know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from
afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with
all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.  Psalm 139



Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to
the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are
all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many
sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31



Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. Isaiah 43:1

Birthday getaway in Saluda, NC

Our God never skips a beat. We’ll never catch Him calling us by another sheep’s name or confusing our strengths/weaknesses with a sibling-in-Christ. It’s almost as if each of us is His “only” child.

The LORD formed us, chose us, redeemed us, and He calls us by name

Staying in Step with the Spirit: We draw near to God with a grateful heart, confident in His knowledge of us, and His love for us. How could such knowledge escape our praise? 

Heavenly Father, everything within us bows at Your name. We praise You for choosing to be a Father we can draw near to, not one that shuns us when we fall. Thank You for being such an intimate heavenly Father.

{ Day 15 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Paper Bookmark
{ Day 16 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Fresh Start
{ Day 17 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via Spontaneous Service
{ Day 18 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via God’s Creation, Wk. 3
{ Sunday } 

Not A Morning Person? Evening Notes Are For You!

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron has been my constant companion over the past few months. It’s a perfect fit for my purse while waiting for friends or appointments. Practically every page is dog-eared, underlined, or asterisked. Several weeks ago, I shared this post on Morning Pages as a result.

Today, I’m sharing a tool called Evening Notes. After all, not every one is a morning person, right? 

It goes something like this: Ten minutes before you fall asleep, jot down a few simple sentences about your day. Julia uses this as her example: 

“Today was productive but uphill. I seemed to be fighting a depression but I took good actions anyhow. I’m really stewing over my friendship with Michael. I wonder what better can be done on the project at work…”

From these sentences, extract a single question to consider before falling asleep. Julia chose What can I do about the project at work? 


Simply pose the question and don’t worry about the answer. Thanks to our brilliantly and divinely designed minds (thank You, God) many of our answers begin to emerge at some point.

I’ve experienced similar circumstances when doing something “mindless” like walking, taking a shower, or taking my dog out for a potty break. Ideas and answers to questions long forgotten find their way to the surface when least expected. No doubt, a different part of the brain is at work here and it’s awe-inspiring when it happens.  

Julia Cameron encourages those who try this tool to be alert, to notice and tabulate small, positive changes or answers.

Practicing both Morning Pages and Evening Notes is optimal but on those mornings when even a third cup of liquid caffeine refuses to rally a creative bone, it’s nice to know we have an evening option. 

How about you? Are you a morning person? Do you tend to write more in the mornings or evenings? 

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).
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