July 5, 2014

Bible Reading Plan

I woke up in the middle of the night, around 3:45 am, and I couldn't go back to sleep. It didn't help that Ike was being rotten. He has this very nasty habit of pulling all my papers out of the cubbie holes on my desk. He will also pull off my sticky notes. I can tell when he gets on my desk, and I can hear him pulling on the papers. I shooshed him off three times before he was sanctioned out of the bedroom.

The problem, of course, is that I have two cats. One is rotten, and the other is semi-rotten. They play the villian and the victim at times. So last night, I sent Ike out of the bedroom. Winston was under the bed (probably) until he realized that Ike was outside the door. Then Winston cried by the door until (1) I either let Ike back in or (2) I put them both out. I did the latter, well, I attempted to do the latter.

I don't remember if I actually fell back to sleep or not because it didn't seem like it was long after that time that I had Winston back at the door scratching to be let in. Sometimes I think it is harder to ignore a cat scratching at the door then it is to ignore a baby crying at night. Anyway, Winston came in and promptly went back under the bed (good boy that he is, well, he was a good boy last night). Ike didn't get back in until around 6 and by then I was pretty much awake.

All this is to say that during my sleepless 2.5 hours, I had a good conversation with the Lord. It happens that way with me. I get very frustrated when I can't sleep, and while I really don't like it, the Lord always uses it for my good.

In my conversation with the Lord last night, I was asking Him about starting a Bible reading plan again. I haven't been consistently reading my Bible for a while. I don't mean not reading it at all because that is not the case. I read every day -- I haven't been reading systematically or chronologically for a while.

Systematic Reading

Over the course of my Christian walk, I have followed a number of reading plans. I have also studied the Bible formally. I did Precept Bible Studies for a number of years, and I have done Beth Moore studies, Anne Graham Lotz, etc. I have also read a number of devotional books, some with my son for our home school program, and some just for myself.

In 2006, however, I started reading systematically or chronologically through the Bible. I was at a very low point in my life, spiritually-speaking. I was active in ministry, teaching Sunday School and leading Awana, but I was struggling with personal issues, stress, and physical pain. I didn't realize that I was at a crossroad in my Christian growth until a friend from my home school group passed away suddenly. Her death came as a great shock to our group. She was a young mother and she died giving birth to her 6th child. I knew her informally -- she lived in another state -- so I met her online. Her spirit and her love for her family and friends was what drew me to her. She was so giving of her time, and she loved the Lord with her whole heart. I was crushed when she died. For a time, I lost my course -- I struggled to understand how God could choose to take this beautiful young mother home, and leave a grieving husband and 6 children under the age of 11. How could God do this? Why would He do this?

As a result of her passing, I had the opportunity to start praying for another Mom in our home school group. She was pregnant with her second child (third actually). Her oldest was 10. She had lost another baby, stillborn, a long time ago, and for many years, was unable to get pregnant. She also suffered terrible fear about getting pregnant, so while overjoyed with the news that she was going to have a child, she was also racked with fear that the same thing would happen -- her child would not be born alive.

She asked for a group of ten women to pray for her every day through her third trimester. I was not a prayer warrior then at all. I prayed often, but I didn't serve on the prayer chain at church or volunteer to pray for others. This wasn't my gift or area of ministry. Yet, for some reason I felt called to pray for this mom. So I volunteered.

At first, I just prayed for her health and the health of her unborn child. Then I decided that I would read every day and follow a ritual I created that included prayer time and praise time. I started a reading plan that set out so many chapters or sections each day, but I found the process cumbersome to follow. I finally decided that I would make my own plan, which I did successfully:
  1. One chapter from the Old Testament
  2. One chapter from the New Testament
  3. One Psalm
  4. One chapter from Proverbs
At first it was really hard getting used to reading this much every morning, and once I added in praise time, my "bible study" and prayer time worked out to be about 40-50 minutes. Still, I thought the process was simplified and that it would be easy for me to keep it up.

I did keep it up, right on through this Mom's delivery of a very healthy baby girl. I found that I grew through the experience exponentially so much so that I read that Bible (NIV) all the way through. When I finished, I found another Bible and I started with a different version (NKJV). Then, in the third year, I read the Amplified. In three years, I had read my Bible through from beginning to end three times. I had also read Psalms through 7.5 times, and Proverbs, a total of 36 times.

I didn't know then that serious difficulty and suffering lay ahead of me.

In 2007, my husband suffered a widow maker heart attack. The doctors said he was lucky to be alive. It turned out it was a precursor heart attack, but it was located in the place where the "widow maker" occurs. He had surgery to open the blocked artery. He suffered from uncontrolled hypertension, and struggled to be medicated. He was sick for 6 months and unable to work full-time. I was working from home and home schooling -- needless to say -- it was a very difficult time for us.

In 2009, my husband suffered a brain hemorrhage or brain bleed. It was due to his uncontrolled hypertension, and this time, instead of a heart attack, he had a stroke. Again, I was told that he was lucky to be alive. Actually, I recall the doctors saying he shouldn't be alive. He suffered some residual paralysis along with some memory issues. By this time, I was used to him being unable to work.

By August of that year, I had learned the hard truth about my marriage and I found myself facing an even bigger crisis than heart attack and stroke: I found out my husband didn't want to be married to me anymore.

All of this is just to say that what started out as the Lord motivating me to pray for another person led me to the path of reading His word on a daily basis. I spent three years of intensive reading BEFORE my life hit the skids and I had to deal with a crumbling marriage. God knew that I needed to grow, and I needed to deepen my faith before I had to face some really difficult and very dark days.

I look back on these events and I thank the Lord for His great care of me, not only during and after the crisis, but before the crisis occurred.

I am not sure why I feel this need to start reading the Bible this way again. Perhaps the Lord has a plan for me, to use me again in some way. Perhaps it is because of my own need to grow in my faith, and to be made strong because of the challenges that lay ahead for me. I don't know, I just know that I have been thinking about doing this for a while now, for about two-three months. School is incredibly difficult for me, and I spend so much time reading books for school. I worry about my teaching load this fall, and my courses at Regent. I think there is a reason why I want to do this (well, I should do this regardless of how I think or feel) now.

After last night's conversation, I have decided to start reading again. I am trusting the Lord to provide to me whatever practice, patience, or perseverance I need to accomplish this task. The Lord knows the plans He has for me, and I am open to experiencing whatever He has in mind this day. I know He will cover me, and I will grow through this process just as I did back in 2006-09. I look forward to seeing the awesome work He brings forth through my willingness to read His word each day.

Dear Lord -

Thank you for your blessed Word. I love your Word, and I love reading your Word. I know that I haven't been reading chronologically for a long time, and in truth, I have much preferred reading topical and devotional studies these past couple years. However, now I feel that this is what you want me to do so I am willing and agreeable to do it. I pray for your grace and for your provision so that I can focus and accomplish this task. May you receive all praise and honor this day! In Jesus' name, I pray this now, Amen. So be it, thy will be done! Selah! (pause and calmly think about it!!)

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