It has been a long while since I have posted anything here. I have been busy completing three years toward my B.A. in English and my senior year is underway. My current class (Creative Writing) has finally given me the space to take off the tight harness of academic writing rules, and it feels SO GOOD!! After reading my first assignment, Mom and Daddy gave it their thumbs up and suggested I make it a blog post, so here it is. It is my story and their story. It's a little longer than my usual posts, but as with everything I have ever posted here, I pray it encourages you to run "up the sunbeam to the sun" (C. S. Lewis).

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV

I sat above them on the stairs. Looking down through the window-like openings in the partition between the living room and the stairway, I listened to the basketball players, football players, baseball players, wrestlers, track athletes, both the lettermen and the also-…


I came very close to titling this post "Never Skip a Bible Verse," but I think I'll ask you to think of that as the subtitle instead.

There are verses in the Bible that we are all tempted to skip entirely, or at the very least we skim over them, considering them to be the verses to move past to get to the good stuff. I think of certain long passages of Leviticus outlining laws that seem persnickety and far removed from our 21st Century life, 
or long ago census records that list the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the numbers of people in each one, or genealogies filled with generations of names we can't pronounce (they used to be called "the begats"--anyone old enough to remember that?)

What about this one?

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
   To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
   Greetings." James 1:1 NIV

At first glance, this verse may seem merely a polite introduction, a salutation necessary to the proper beginning of a formal letter. As my pastor pointed out yesterday, maybe not.

Look at one more:

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
   To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia," 1 Peter 1:1 NIV

Do you see a theme here? These two New Testament church leaders, James in Jerusalem, and Peter in Rome, are writing to believers who are scattered throughout the world. I like the emphasis that can be more clearly seen in this translation of James 1:1:

"From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
   To all of God's people who are scattered everywhere in the world: Greetings." James 1:1 NCV

The Jewish believers were not the only ones scattered everywhere in the world. We too are scattered, dispersed throughout a broken planet that groans and strains under the weight of millennia of sins that have been compounding over all that time into the worldly system that works against us at every turn. The  letter James wrote to scattered believers in his time is also written to us, the latest generation of God's scattered people, and when you read this letter in that light, the book of James is powerfully encouraging. That is why I say, "Never skip a Bible verse!" (Not even the begats!)
During a lifetime of churchgoing, including 2 years of Bible college, I have often heard references to people feeling a little beat up after a close study of the book of James. While it is truly a book that will bring conviction, I think it is far more encouraging than it gets credit for.

James talks a good deal in this letter about suffering, trials and temptations and gives some pretty direct talk to believers about how to and how not to behave toward one another. That could be the reason the book gets a bit of a bad rap, but when you look at the words James wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in light of his framing idea of believers being scattered in a hostile world, exiled even, you get a completely different tone.

James knows that in this world, there JUST ARE trials and struggles--he doesn't sugarcoat it and say otherwise.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3 NIV

Notice he says, "whenever" and not "if." We know that this life does come with trials and temptations--that isn't news! But what is news is that trials and temptations do not have to be meaningless! That is GOOD news!

God neither causes nor abandons us in our trials and times of temptation. The trials themselves are the natural dark side of this ruined world. But God will not leave us to suffer alone, nor will He allow our trials to be wasted. Into the midst of what is dark and born of evil, God lavishes His good and perfect gifts to help us, and to redeem what otherwise would have no value. 

"God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5

With shutter clicking and whirring this morning, God's light illuminated my understanding through my so-dark-it's-almost-black purple iris (my favorite flower). This is what it looks like in the stark light of day:

THIS is what it looks like when the light is shining through it from behind:

What was so dark as to look foreboding before, is now a thing of glory I wouldn't know how to wrap in words! It is still deep and dark and saturated with pigment, but God's light transforms everything!

Whether you are facing challenges on a scale large or small, I pray that you will look for God's good and perfect gifts in the midst of them, and His illuminating work that will light up the darkest places. Be encouraged, knowing that your loving Father refuses to let your trials be meaningless!! You mean everything to Him!!

Need one more reason to hang in there???

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." James 1:12 NIV


Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"
Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1296-1316 (April 8th through April 14th)

8. 3 gifts rising up
Easter music and the sound of the pipe organ
Fever that is trying to knock out whatever is making me sick (hard eucharisteo)
Comforting steam in the shower
9. A gift hiding, held, heard
The sun, hiding behind high grey clouds
My kids who both still love to hug their momma
Hero Husband's resonant voice, the first thing I heard this morning
10. 3 gifts opened up
New class on Health and Wellness at school!
New way of accessing my textbooks!
My mind to so much knowledge and learning
11. 3 gifts budding/blooming
3 different colors/varieties of Iris--my very most favorite flower!
Orange blossoms
Apple blossoms
12. 3 gifts worn
Faith wrapped around the shoulders of Drummer Boy who was so unfairly treated at his job (and two days later, A NEW JOB!!)
The tattered recipe card that holds our family's brownie recipe
My heart in the smile She So Sweet wears today, her 16th Birthday!
13. 3 gifts bright
Sunbeams breaking through storm clouds
16 glowing candles on my baby girl's ridiculously rich and decadent birthday cake
Crazy-bright lightning, such a rare treat here!
14. 3 gifts found looking up
"Raindrops keep fallin' on my head . . . "
Pale, soft rainbow
Dramatic thunderheads in beautifully stormy skies

   Beauty in His Grip ButtonOn In Around button

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