Five years ago my church went through the Bible in a year. It was called “Eat This Book” The goal was to get through the text in a year. It was a very ambitious project. This year the challenge is called “Love this Book,” and the goal is just that – to fall in love with the Bible. What does that look like? How will we know if we are on the right path? What will the life of a Christ-follower look like in June, in September, or at the end of the year after going through this series? I’m asking all of these questions in my newest project on the blog – it’s my LTB vlog!
I’ll probably update this page throughout the year – for now here is my one disclaimer. My purpose is to document what it looks like to go through a year-long reading plan. I am not a Bible teacher. I am not a professional “vlogger.” I’m just hoping that seeing someone else spend a week reading, writing and reflecting will encourage others to participate.
I use YouVersion for reading the Bible. It’s always with me and as I’ve been memorizing Romans 12, I’ve enjoyed turning small chunks of the passage into pictures for my camera roll.
I’ve said this in my life group over the last eight weeks or so: I’m not a “memorize Scripture” kind of guy. Katie has usually been better at memorizing than me. Her mom did it all the time. It’s never been a practice of mine but when my pastor highly recommends a spiritual discipline, I listen. This time I obeyed.
It all started with one verse. Going into it I felt stretched. Thirteen verses is a lot! There were two significant set backs. This section seemed like a natural break and I remember it being a challenge to memorize.
Then when I went to South Dakota for my pheasant hunting trip , I really thought I’d have more time to be alone and make some great progress on the passage. Instead I probably regressed a little bit.
Two weeks later, I’m posting this image of the entire passage because I feel confident that more times than not I have it committed to memory. I am not done, but I am on the final lap.
This week as I’m going to ask you to trust me and this keyboard. I’m going to write out what I’ve memorized thus far and even though you can see the image below, It wasnt’ there as I was writing these verses from memory:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourself. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, always serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Serve the Lord’s people who are in need. Always be hospitable. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.
How did I do? Are you taking the challenge? I am finding tremendous value in memorizeing and reciting each morning on my commute to work.
At Blackhawk, our lead pastor is a big fan of memorizing Scripture. One time he memorized the entire book of James! Last year we memorized a section of First Corinthians. This fall we are going through Romans (editor’s note: YES!) and the challenge is to memorize Romans 12:9–21. I’ve taken the challenge and I’ve been posting the series each week as I add a verse or two in my progression. Here’s where I’m at so far:
This fall marks the third year of our book study for Men’s Community at Blackhawk Fitchburg. We have read books about how to be a better man, how to grow in our faith, and how to navigate the faith-work relationship. This summer I was talking with a couple of the guys and we were kicking around the idea of reading a book on race. From the beginning we knew it would be a very different approach but with the race relation issues in our country I knew that it was an issue where we needed more discussion.
We decided on Beyond Racial Gridlock by George Yancey. One of the first ground rules was that we would offer each other grace each morning. We are a group of 12–15 white guys in Madison, Wisconsin talking about race relations. Additionally we are meeting at Barriques in Fitchburg, so it’s a public venue and when the room goes quite right as someone is saying something sensitive, it’s very possible to misinterpret what is being overheard or at the least it can get awkward.
It’s important to note that not only is this topic sensitive, but the book itself is very academic, certainly the most challenging we’ve ever read. But I could not be more encouraged by the first two weeks of our book study. Conversation has been authentic. Comments and questions are thought-provoking for the group and reflective for the individual. It has filled my soul in ways I was not prepared as I read each week and discuss with these men.
I need to remind myself that the challenge was to do something physical for 30-whatever. Mine was run 30 days straight, and I added the blog reading and reflection. I will keep it going but I fell off the later part this weekend. I still got the miles in Prune which I’ll record today. But reading and reflecting, I’m behind.
January 22, 2016
God, help us celebrate small victories. Last Friday I started this little journey and I appreciate the reflection. Help Sam and Jenny celebrate the small victories, the small battles so that they can win the war.
January 23, 2016
God, the weather today was beautiful and it makes me think of those spring runs. The warmer air, the memories of the seasons bring joy to my heart. I pray that little victories and small blessings from you will spur me on to better runs and spur Sam on to continue his fight and muster up perseverance every single day.
January 24, 2016
God, it’s time to move past the first season of this challenge. The routine has worked, I’ve ran every day but 2 miles isn’t enough any more. Give us all strength to see when we need to take our efforts to the next level. Give us the vision and ability to push our limits grow stronger each season.
Day 7 of 30
As I was saying yesterday, people in this world are hurting. One of the friends I mentioned was saying he drives past houses on his way home and knows each one has a story and probably a struggle; maybe others know about it, but most likely not to the full extent. I said to my friend that I’m going to be as active as possible in his and the other situations. In the past I would’ve said I’d pray, but the reality is if I prayed once it was quick and less sincere than I’d like to admit, and there wouldn’t be much (if any) follow up. Not anymore.
Katie and I watched a cheesy movie on New Year’s Eve: War Room. One of the main characters is an old Christian lady who inverted a closet into a prayer room where she can go to battle with the Lord, fighting the evil in this world. Lots of cheesy parts to the movie but that approach to prayer really struck a nerve with me.
I told my friend that I would pray for him and that he would be included in my prayer journal. While I am all digital and as paperless as I can be, I will always keep a notebook close. The front part is for day-to-day thoughts and planning; the back is for my prayers. I’ve never kept a prayer journal but from all the success stories I’ve heard, the time is now to get mine established. Sam’s in there. So are the other two friends.
2+ miles through Oregon. Weather felt great, didn’t want to stop but today (Thursday) was my Friday since I have the kids most of the tomorrow.
My challenge to run for 30 days straight is becoming just that, a challenge. I had the kids longer than usual today and I hadn’t planned well, but I made it work. Out on my run, I appreciate the few minutes I have to hunk about Sam and his battle. If not for #30forSam I would not be thinking about him each day; that’s just reality. In addition to Sam’s story, I had two other friends with very difficult situations share their story with me; literally both were heart-wrenching. People in this world are hurting.
Tomorrow I’m going to write a little more about my approach this year to these stories. Thanks for reading. I encourage you to pray with me. And let me know if you want to do a 2-mile run with me sometime.
2 miles up and down Thomson lane while kids do homework and chores (might be on to something here…)
from the blog
Jenny has great perspective and wisdom in this post from 1/3/16:
I’ve also been trying to teach myself that this cancer and GVH thing doesn’t follow calendar years, or take breaks for Christmas, or ease up when winter break ends and it’s time to go back to work. It just is. Day by day, little by little, it will get easier but progress takes time. I haven’t quite mastered this serene peace of mind yet, but I am working on it and that will have to be good enough
God, give us our daily bread. That which we need to make it through our day, give us that. All of this is from you, we take nothing of it with us when we leave this earth. You are the provider off all good things and I find strength in You.
Day 4 of 30
Today I was back at work and so I was able to do my run on the Curve machine in more normal running conditions. Long day at work (writing this after 10pm) means short blog post.
2+ miles on the curve
from the blog
I read many different parts of the blog today and realized I need to digest more Sam’s story. I was trying to catch up in chronological order and pull my readers with me; I need to fast forward and even pivot my narrative. I’m thankful for Sam and Jenny’s story.
This week we talked about two chapters, including topics of the Holy Spirit and having a relationship with Jesus. Our table ended up spending more time on the Holy Spirit. We discussed the different upbringings we had with church and how that compares to now, as we all attend Blackhawk. We talked about how the author is really putting a divide between being a follower and being a fan. There’s some concern.
As for me, I really lean into this book. I know it’s not perfect and whenever you support something like a book it feels necessary to give 101 disclaimers like “it may not be for everyone…” or “I mostly agree, except…” I want to stay away from this; I’m not a pastor, I’m not a theologian. I’m a married father of three trying to be a better Christian. I take my faith journey very seriously. I want to learn, I want to grow, I want to serve. I want to lead other people to salvation through Jesus. For me, this blog is about living a healthy and disciplined lifestyle. That tag line was written with my profession in mind. I want to help people understand the effect of exercise on their body. But a disciplined lifestyle applies to the spiritual life as well. Here’s my one disclaimer: we are saved by grace. Now, moving on. What are you doing? How are you moving the ball forward? How are you growing? What are you communicating? Can anyone tell that you follow Jesus?
We are filled with the Holy Spirit; we have power. I know I don’t claim that power. But it’s there.
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you (NLT). Romans 8:11
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight (Acts 1: 8 – 9).
Idleman makes a great point here. He noted how we often say, “When I get to Heaven, I want to ask David about all the battles…” or whoever you want to talk to. But instead, maybe David will ask us, “So what was it like to have the Holy Spirit?” What a great question! I’ve never thought of it that way. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philipians 4:13), and I have the power of the Holy Spirit inside me (Acts 1:8). Do I want to claim that? Do I want to study that work in me? Yes, I do.
I don’t have answers, I have questions. I am so thankdful for this small group of guys that meet every Wednseday to talk about the Christian life and admit that we don’t fully get it but we’re on a path with some ambition to get better each day.