Monday, December 5, 2011

Week 1 - Day 3 - "Letting The Bible Read Us"

 Daily Readings:  1 Corinthians 2: 6-16, Psalm 119: 1-16

Centering Prayer today was about peace.  So many things running around in my mind as I work on the Church's mission project, the Christmas Shoppe.  Lists to make, gifts to purchase, people necessary to help...all those things kind of clawing at the edges of my consciousness, so it was rather difficult to stay focused on peace, but that is what I need in my life in order to make sure that this annual effort goes well for the people in our community and for our congregation.  It was difficult to focus, but at last I managed to shut the other stuff out . . .  breathe in, breathe out . . . . peace. . . peace.   And then I finally managed to find some peace, and I was ready for today's scriptures.

  • How does the Holy Spirit help you understand the Bible?  I love this reading from 1 Corinthians!  "God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven't crossed the mind of any human being.  God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit.  The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God.  Who knows a persons's depths except their own spirit that lives in them?  In the same way, no one has know the depths of God except God's Spirit.  We haven't received the world's spirit but God's Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God.  These are the things we are talking about -- not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit -- we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people."
When we let ourselves experience the presence of the Holy Spirit we can receive wisdom that comes from the very depths of God's being.  How do I experience this extraordinary presence?  Sometimes I sense the Spirit's presence in the midst of conversation with friends, acquaintances, and sometimes, even strangers.  We will be talking about what is happening in our lives, and they will say something and all of a sudden light is illuminating a scripture passage or a sermon point that wasn't clear until that very moment.  And you know something . . . I'm not sure I've ever shared with those folks that they have helped me experience the Spirit's presence in my life.  I need to take the time to let people know how they have helped me grow!  There have been times when I'm preparing a sermon for church . . . researching a passage, reading theologians thoughts on the passage and I come across some writing that just jumps off the page and into my brain and heart, and I get so excited by this new understanding of something I've never seen or understood before.  The Holy Spirit, in its knowledge of the depths of God and me is sooo powerful!!

  • What does Psalm 119 say about how reading the Bible can transform your life?  I think, at its heart this passage is saying that to know God's heart and mind, and to accept His guidance in your life can lead to true happiness, contentment and safety; because if you really let everything the Spirit has to offer into the depths of your soul, you live your life in a new way, where temptation and fear don't have any chance of taking root.  When you let God in and try to sustain a relationship with him, you try so very hard to do what God calls you to do.  And in deepening your relationship with God, you can transform relationships with other people to reflect God's widsom.
  • Do you mostly read with you head or your heart?  Usually I approach scripture reading this way:  first, I read it with my head, just trying to understand what the writer meant.  I mostly use a study bible, so I will read the notes and footnotes to get a better understanding of historical context and the writer.  Then I go back and read the passage again, this time trying to discern what God wants me to see in the passage, so I guess I use my head and my heart.  
Sometimes I will read a passage over and over and not understand anything about what it ought to mean to me in the 21st century.  That is why I am so grateful that for the personal conversations and objective writings I wrote about earlier.  Knowing God isn't really a solitary occupation.  Other people, their perspectives, their life experiences, their spiritual experiences help enlighten me on a daily basis to God's infinite love.  God made us to live in relationships.

Lord, give me new insight as I read your holy words.  Transform every part of my life until I take on your character and grace.  Amen.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Week 1 - Day 1 - "The Bible Tells Me So"

Daily Reading:  Deuteronomy 8: 1-11, Matthew 4: 1-1, John 5: 36-47, and 2 Timothy 2:15

So this is the beginning of my newest attempt to deepen my relationship with God.  I was wondering how to start.  My new book helped.  It has a section outlining spiritual disciplines, and one suggestion was centering prayer.  It says to find a place where you can be silent, close your eyes, and then spend about 20 minutes just focusing on a word that helps you meditate and and pray.  Whenever you find your attention straying, focus on the word.   I found a egg timer, set it for twenty minutes and began. Today's word for me was hope.  Why hope?  Because this is a hard time of year for me.  I miss my parents terribly (especially today, having taken Christmas wreathes to their graves); and I want so much to be able to celebrate this Advent season and to prepare my heart to celebrate the birth of Christ.  So anyway, with every breath I took in and exhaled I thought and prayed the word - hope!  And after a while with each breath came not only that word but prayers of hope not just for myself, but others as well.  And as I let go of outside sounds and distractions, I actually felt that for a few moments I was actually in communion with God, and I truly felt better than I had all day long.  I didn't feel so lonely as I had during the past week.

Then I was ready to read today's scriptures and reflect.

  • What does God promise when we follow instructions from the Bible? - He promises to stay with us, feed us, comfort, help us, and love us.  And I know throughout time he has done that.  The bible is full of stories about people who have experienced His presence and his love, even when they disobeyed the instructions in the Bible.  Forgiveness is a part of the relationship too.
  • When has scripture come alive for you in hard situations, temptations, or trials?   How would you describe that experience? 
I remember when Daddy died.  I was 18 and angry that God had taken the person I loved most in the world.  I had prayed and prayed that God would heal him of his cancer; and my childish understanding of prayer was that whatever you asked for God would give you.  How could I believe in a God that wouldn't give me what I wanted?  At that moment it was like falling into a dark pit, and for the next six years I refused to ask for God's help, because I didn't believe he was listening to me anymore.  So I tried and tried to climb out of that dark pit of despair all by myself, but I couldn't.  I scratched and clawed at the walls of my self-made pit, and all that I accomplished was to pull more dirt and darkness down around me.  My despair actually got so bad that I packed a suitcase, emptied out my bank account, got in my car and drove away from mom's house intending to disappear and never come back because I didn't think I had anything to offer her or anybody else.

I drove for about 70 miles before I stopped at a hotel for the night.  I turned on the TV for noise and stretched out on the bed.  The station that was tuned in on the TV when I switched it on was playing a show called "Don't Ask Me, Ask God."  And at the point I turned it on, they were telling the story of someone who had suffered a loss much like mine, and they were talking about the despair that had taken over their life.  It sounded so much like my own story!  As this person concluded their story they told about someone who had reached out to them and offered love, acceptance and prayers for healing; and they told how those prayers had helped them to begin to let go of their pain and despair.  At the end of the story Pat Robertson, who was the show host,  said something like  "if you are out there right now, lost and alone, you can say this prayer:  God, I feel so alone, and I don't want to feel like this anymore.  Please send your Son to help me."  I found myself praying this prayer...over and over again, and then suddenly I felt another presence in the room with me..and I heard a voice saying "Walk with me, and I will walk with you."   And I knew that Jesus was there, and I did feel better than I had in almost six years of despair.  I was able to walk over to the phone, call my mom to tell her that I was alright, that I would be home in a couple of days.  And I spent those couple of days walking on the beach, talking to God, and beginning to accept that God had never left me, but I had walked away from him.

Sometimes now I get distracted from that knowledge, but He always finds someone or some way to let me know my life is not just mine, but his as well.

Lord, be with me now as I struggle to let go of my loss once again.  Help me to embrace this season of hope and love.  Please help me to show your face to the world through my words and deeds.  Amen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Explanation About My Journey

My name is Roberta Bettis.  I am a professing member of the United Methodist Church. Twenty five years ago I acknowledged God's presence in my life and entered into a personal relationship with Him.  Many times through the years, I have attempted to maintain the discipline of daily devotional time with Him and, quite frankly, I get distracted by all the other stuff going on in my life, and I give less and less time to that relationship.

Relationships of all kinds take work.  And I hope to use this blog as tool to develop the discipline of making time for God on a daily basis.  I will be reading daily selections from CEB (Common English Bible) Daily Devotional Bible.  This version of the bible was created to help a person get through reading the bible in one year's time.    This blog will act as my journal of thoughts and prayers over the next year.

As I thought about how to maintain this discipline, and as I talked to folks around me, I began to think that a blog would be one way to share my journey with others who might be wondering what place God has in their lives.   I invite you all to be partners in my journey.

God's Grace Be With Us All!