My journey through the year-long Bible study continues and when I add that to daily life and any other reading I do whether continuing The Chronicles of Narnia,or whether it is the Brian Zahand’s book Beauty Will Save the World, or even a scan of the local newspaper, the internet or even broadcast programs, my brain is becoming so filled with ideas, thoughts, questions that I can hardly organize them into any coherent form.
Thus, I stepped away for a few days and visited a friend, checked in with my brother and sister-in-law, and did a little rug hooking. Therefore, I have the laundry going—it is Monday, you know—and have cleaned up the emails, searched for some information I wanted to locate on line, and cleaned the bathroom. Mondays are like this for me now.
Which brings me back to the title of the blog. Here it is Monday and I have so much in my brain that this may just be a set of unrelated blurbs in order to clear out my jumbled brain and hopefully be able to move forward in a more cohesive manner.
The reading plan finished the book of Ecclesiastes last week and there is one theme that just strikes me as key to a quality life: our life is a gift from God and we need to enjoy it. Even if that means being thankful for the jobs we do because that job, too, is a gift from God.
How often do we forget that the experience we have in this earthly life is a gift from God? What we do with our lives is our decision, and often it seems life is out of our control. Still, we must look for, or should I say acknowledge, the joy in this life.
Granted the weather here in the United States seems to defy our personal experiences over the past several decades, and we are tired of the storms that just cycle through from one side of the country to the next. Yet, the experiences of the meteorological highs and lows provide unique backgrounds for our days, weeks, months, and/or years. So I discover joy even in the patterns of weather.
I have read Revelations before; it is not new material. Yet, reading this mysterious book within the structured reading plan is creating new understanding, new values, and even new surprises.
Maybe using the Wesley Study Biblecontributes to some of the new understanding of Revelations, and that is good. I am now wondering why the book of prophecy frightens readers or why some individuals and/or denominations chose to read it literally.
Another possibility is that while reading The Chronicles of Narnia, I am finding references to elements of Revelationsthat connect these two writings, too. The descriptions of the characters and the events, too, reflect pieces of this book—and others in the Bible, also. (I hesitate to include any specifics for fear of spoiling someone’s first read of the chronicles.)
3. Cautions for reading alone
I am a certified teacher, I have completed the United Methodist course of study for being a certified licensed local pastor and I have a journalism degree. Reading and studying on my own is not uncomfortable, but I miss the conversation with others as I have had in various coursework.
I find myself wanting to discuss the readings in order to assure myself—and those with whom I share my conclusions—that my thinking is sound. Whenever I have an opportunity to share with others, I find validation; but what if I do misread and misinform?
Therefore, a caution: Whenever reading scripture, make sure you have references and/or study notes to guide in your understanding. I have researched how to understand ancient literature. I have googled various characters, locations and cultural issues to find answers to questions that pop up in my reading.
John Wesley demanded that his followers be included in bands or classes to hold each other accountable. They read scripture together, worshiped, and prayed as a group. The method prevented misunderstandings and overly literal reading of materials written hundreds, even thousands of years before one’s time.
Because I was not at home, I did not have the weekly worship service that I am accustomed with attending. Instead, I did everything I could do to listen in to the live broadcast of the service as I began the drive across the state.
Sadly, I could not get the broadcast to work either through the church’s own app nor through my Facebook connection. My worship had to take a different format.
Therefore, I drove across the state with the accompaniment of the Christian music broadcast for stations across the state. The upbeat praise music is filled with messages of hope and joy, and I felt renewal. Add to the music, I got to experience the beauty of spring.
You see, I took Hwy 94 along the Missouri River. The woods were filled with white dogwoods and redbuds contrasted against the new green foliage of all the native trees.
I stopped at Portland to check on the river. I noticed how high the water was, how the flooding water has eaten away at the bank, and how the water was rushing around an island near the other side of the river (and I never noticed this island before as I have stopped here many times).
The worship was not formal, but the worship of music and nature filled my heart. And I was reminded of the message in Ecclesiasts again:
“There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God.” –Ecclesiastes. 2:24-16 (NRSV)
And a few chapters later, this theme is repeated:
“Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long approved what you do. . . . Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. . .” –Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (NRSV)
Please join me in prayer:
Dear loving Father,
Thank you for the joy of living this earthly life.
Thank you for creating a world filled with beauty.
Thank you for the gift of a mind that reads
and learns from words of others.
May we be good stewards of this world.
May we be wordsmiths honestly sharing
May we find ways to share the joy of loving you.
In your name, the Lord our God,