2017 Bible Reading Plan

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Sometimes I wish God would rip open the heavens and speak actual words I can actually hear. Preferably in English since I don’t know Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic. And not in King’s English, please, with the thees and thous and shalts and arts. Just normal midwest plain talk.

I should stop wishing, because every time I tear open my Bible, He speaks. Thousands of words on the pages of scripture are waiting for me to perk up my ears and pay attention. Real conversation with the God of the universe can take place, with a little effort and dedication.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Here’s the new reading plan that will take us through 2017. It’s a little different than in years past and may not appeal to everyone, but it’s a place to start. I plan to post a reflection at the end of each week that goes along with the passage we’ve been digging into on Monday – Friday.

Click on “2017 Bible Reading Plan” at the top of the page for more information. Let me know if you’re in!

(Nice little bookmarks with the 2017 Reading Plan are available in the church narthex. Or I’d be happy to send you one! Email me at dinah.overlien@gmail.com)

2016

Shhh

November has been noisy.

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So many, many words flung here and there.

So many, many opinions, weighty statements, impassioned posts.

I felt myself drowning in the sea of words,

so I stopped using them for a while.

Why add to the noise?

Shhhhhh.

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It’s Advent.

Be still.

And know.

That I.

Am God.

Remember?

He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Don’t forget!

The government will be upon His shoulders.

Reminder:

Prepare Him room.

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Let’s scooch over a little bit, away from the focus on ourselves.

Let’s toss out some of the clutter in our minds and hearts.

Let’s turn the volume down and lift our eyes up.

Make some room for Jesus.

He’s on His way.

He couldn’t come at a better time.

Lover of Books

“Rereading books,

we said with immense agreement,

was the mark of the real lover of books.”

I came across this quote while I was rereading “A Severe Mercy” (by Sheldon Vanauken), which makes me a real lover of books, evidently.

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For the past thirteen years, I have kept a list of all the books that I have read. In 2013, I read twelve books. That was the year I got my iphone. In 2015, I read 55 books. That was the year I got over my iphone.

This quote got me wondering. Of the hundreds of titles on my list, how many had been worthy of a second read? Surprisingly, there was a handful.

  1. “Gift From the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  2. “When the Soul Listens” by Jan Johnson
  3. “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan
  4. “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren
  5. “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis
  6. “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean
  7. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  8. “Peace Like a River” by Lief Enger
  9. “Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken
  10. “The Holy Bible” by God

I really don’t like to watch movies I’ve already seen.

I don’t care to listen to the same album over and over.

But sometimes a book comes ’round again,

and I just have to open the pages.

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Two Books

In June, I wrote about my son-in-law’s Christmas gift to me — reading four books together in 2016. The first two books were a resounding success so we each made another pick.

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My second choice was “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. It’s a story about a fly-fishing, Presbyterian minister and his two sons. If you’ve seen the movie, you will picture Brad Pitt standing in the river, casting his line, on every page. But that’s ok. Because the writing is so captivating, even Brad Pitt takes a back seat.

Maclean’s phrases are picturesque: “The storm came on a wild horse and rode over us.” “Then the air disappeared from view.” “We were so dry that we could feel in our ears that we were trying to swallow.”

Some more of my favorite excerpts:

“You can love completely without complete understanding.”

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things — trout as well as eternal salvation — come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

“As for my father, I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God’s rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty.”

“It was here that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books.”

My son-in-law, Dan, admitted it was tough at first to wade through all the fly-fishing lingo, but when he finished the book, he sent me this text: “Wow. That book deserves another read-through. Man, that last paragraph. The best ending words I have ever read.”

That’s saying something.

Dan’s second choice was “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken. I’m just a couple chapters in so the jury is still out. Dan and I will talk it over at Thanksgiving.

Persistence

See all those books?

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Those are books that I have bought and read and highlighted about the craft of writing. There’s another stack that size of more books I have checked out of the library on the same topic. You’d think, after reading all these books, I’d be making progress. But I find that there’s always more to learn. Or re-learn.

It’s also easier to read books on writing than to actually write.

That’s why I couldn’t resist this latest title.

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 When it comes down to it, every book on the stack says the same thing —

BIC

(Butt In Chair).

In other words, I just have to do it —

I have to be consistent and persistent.

I have to get my hiney in the chair routinely and habitually.

Persistence is a key in more than my writing life.

I could use a book entitled,

“A Christian’s Guide to Persistence:

How to Create a Lasting and Productive Spiritual Life”.

When starting a new Bible reading plan in January, I’m all gung-ho and ready to dig in. But by March, I start lagging a bit. When beginning a new Bible study class in September, there’s excitement in the air and lots of anticipation. In May, I’m wondering where all that dedication went.

Persistence is hard, whether it’s in spiritual disciplines or writing.

Or anything else.

But I have the answer.

BIC

“I will not neglect Your Word.” Psalm 119:16

 

Incubation

I have learned a valuable lesson.

Here it is:

It takes me three weeks to learn valuable lessons.

I read a bad book on writing. A person probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to a badly written book on writing. There was one redeeming sentence, though, and I took it to heart.

“If you want to be a writer

you need to write one thousand words,

every day,

Monday through Friday,

for the rest of your life.”

Three weeks ago I set out to obey this commandment. I wrote whatever came into my early morning fog-brain. I whined. I complained. I rambled. I typed out numbers and dates to add to my word count. (Two thousand and sixteen — that’s four words.) I stopped at exactly 1000 words every morning for two weeks. I wanted to quit when I read back the blather and twaddle that I found on those pages. Terrible stuff. But I kept going.

After the third week, two things happened.

First, I came to my senses and realized I could make my own rules and set my own goals. I don’t have to follow someone else’s idea of what is required to become a writer. Especially someone who wrote a bad book on writing.  I tweaked the word count and assigned a topic. Monday through Friday, for the rest of my life.

Second, I had a divine moment of clarity. All that drivel I had been spewing for three weeks finally cleared the way for deeper understanding, renewed purpose, and clearer vision. Once the gunk was gone, creativity had a chance to flow.

It was a hard climb, but worth the trouble. Slightly out of breath, I feel like I’m on the edge of a huge scenic overlook and am just now getting a view of a sweeping panorama that I didn’t know was coming. (Cue the soundtrack.) I have been slogging up an incline with nothing in my sights, just plodding along in the underbrush, unaware of how far the climb will be. Then, one day, there is space and sky and vista. (Crescendo violins.)

Incubation time is more necessary than I realized.

Three weeks.

I need to let an idea sit for three weeks and see what hatches.

I need to stick with a discipline for twenty one days to see what develops.

That’s a valuable lesson.

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Wednesday Words: The Closer

I am reading “The Closer” to PB. It is the story of Mariano Rivera, the New York Yankee pitcher who is MLB’s all time saves and ERA leader. For those not familiar with baseball lingo, that means he is the greatest relief pitcher of all time. If you’re still in the dark, Rivera was the guy who came out to the mound in the ninth inning to get the last three outs in a close game. His role was to finish off the game and keep the lead, hence the name, “The Closer”.

This book has given PB and I some things to think about:

1. Rivera was poor kid from Panama, who played baseball on the beach with a glove made out of an old milk carton. His humble start in life kept him appreciative every step of the way.

2. I don’t hate the Yankees anymore. Although the book tells about their many World Series victories, he talks as much about the many play-off games they lost. The insider look at the clubhouse and the dynamics between the players revealed that most of them were very close friends and not money-hungry narcissists. I said most.

3. When Mariano signed with the Yankees, he didn’t speak any English and didn’t realize his signature meant he would be getting on a plane and flying to America. He was terrified of flying and always held his Bible on his lap when in the air.

4. All throughout the book, he gave God the glory for everything that took place. His faith was strong, but not flashy.

5. When asked to give some advise to a young pitcher who was struggling with his mental approach to closing, he said,

“The job is hard enough without overcomplicating it. You don’t want a lot of noise playing in your head. You don’t want doubts. You just have to think about making every single pitch the best pitch it can be. Don’t worry about getting beat. It is going to happen. It happens to everybody, but the best thing you can do for yourself is have a short memory. You can’t take what happened yesterday out to the mound today.”

PB and I think that’s good advise for life.

Lord, help me not overcomplicate things. Drown out the noise that plays in this world that fills me with doubts. Help me to just do the best I possibly can with what You’ve given me. Some days I’ll feel like a loser. That happens to everybody. Give me the grace to let it go and move on so I don’t take yesterday’s failures out to the mound today. Amen.

 

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