A Change of Scenery

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately and my poor front bed has been begging for attention. It’s got several bushes that, although beautiful, were just planted helter-skelter thoughout the location; neither blossoming well nor growing as abundantly as they should. Don’t get me wrong, none of them are dying, none are not NOT blooming, none are really doing poorly.

They’re just not thriving.

And they’re not in a place where they can truly showcase their blossoms for the world to see.

I mean, I want traffic from a block away to notice them. The potential is there, but their location is not ideal.

So the other day, I did what all gardeners just luuuurrvvve to do- actually more accurately, I had my dear husband do it- I transplanted three of them to three different spots.

And all of a sudden they were NOTICED. Their blooms seemed more vibrant. They complemented the beds we put them in like they’d been there all along. And I swear two of them have doubled in size. I even had a few neighbors comment on them- asking where we’d gotten the ‘new’ bushes.

Funny how that works. Plants we’ve had since we bought the house, that no one has ever noticed, are now thriving.

And all because of a location change.

It was a good call in the gardening department for sure. But it was not without some effort. I’m sure if those bushes had voices, none of them would have been too thrilled about the transplanting process. Getting dug up, uprooted, pruned back, transplanted to a whole new location I’m sure is not the plants idea of a good time.

I can certainly empathize. Changes in scenery aren't always fun.

Last year God took something very dear to me. Rather He forcibly moved me out of something dear to me. Cutting my roots, digging up my heartstrings, transplanting me to a new place. To put it bluntly, it sucked. It hurt. It was unexpected. And I’m still working on re-establishing my new root system.

My change of scenery was not welcome and I certainly didn't like the new view.

These last few days even as I was marveling at how much better my bushes were doing, God has been gently letting me see the parallels.

I wasn’t doing poorly at my other location. I was blooming and growing. But the Master Gardener saw a need to put me in a new spot. A BETTER spot. One where I would grow better, blossom more, and glorify Him from blocks away more brightly.

And just as my bushes didn’t get a ‘say’ in their move, neither did I. Furthermore, they didn’t complain or question me as their gardener, so neither should I question or complain about where my Gardener plants and prunes me.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:4-6 ESV

Today I encourage you to know that God’s got this. He’s got you, your circumstances, your soil, your sun, your rain, your flower bed, your pruning schedule- all of it- He’s got a master plan for. It may not make sense. It may hurt or feel super uncomfortable. It may involve new locations, new people, new ministries, or new calling. He may prune away even good growth in order for you to more fully thrive. But it’ll be more than worth it.

So please don’t be discouraged. Please don’t question. Please don’t complain. Don’t wriggle or argue. My bushes didn’t do that to me so we shouldn’t either. Rather simply enjoy your new view and the wonderful, God-given change of scenery.

Overcoming Bible Study Obstacles- Guest Post

I had a fellow writer friend ask about posting her newest blog that helps with Bible study and I jumped at the opportunity. As much as I’d love to claim that I’m the kind of in-the-Word gal as much as I should be, I’d be downright lying. Being in legit quiet time with God comes HARD for me. Its not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I’m lazy, self-centered, and generally am great at finding just about anything else I can complete before spending true quiet time. Ugh. It’s a <thing> for me for sure. I was even more excited to see that this post is heavily based on a writing conference that I attended with her and was a part of. It’s like this crazy, convicting, refreshing, challenging blast from my past. So, again, I was more than happy to oblige Leah in posting her writing. Without further ado, please enjoy! ~Bethany

A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me some obstacles they faced when it came to studying the Bible.  They echoed some of the same challenges: the Bible is difficult to understand, where do you begin, and an inability to stay focused.  I understood the struggle all to well, until a couple of years ago.

In 2017, I attended conference for writers and speakers in Christian ministry.  A well-known Bible teacher organized this event and took us step by step through her time in prayer, in the Word, and writing.  Two take-aways the main speaker shared were: we had to be in God's Word if we wanted to share God's Word in our world. Also, as believers, we had to know God's Word because the world is constantly going to come against His Truth. If we don't know His Truth we will be deceived.

The speaker continued to give us the tools to create an authentic time of studying the Bible. It isn't magic. It isn't something some believers have, and others don't. In the book of John, chapter 16, Jesus shares with the disciples in His final hours. He tells them He will be going away because if He leave, the Counselor (Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth) cannot come to them. "When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in to all the truth." (John 16:13) Jesus promises that when the Holy Spirit comes to them, they would finally understand. Their eyes would be opened to all Jesus had been teaching for the last three years.

God offers us the Holy Spirit too. When we become believers, the Holy Spirit becomes a part of us. When we open God's word, the Truth comes alive in ways we have never seen to the point that we cannot wait to discover all the Spirit has to show us. The Bible was written through the help of the Holy Spirit, so we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding the scripture. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you." (John 14:26)

Another speaker at the conference addressed which scripture to read.  She recommended reading the Bible in chunks. We tend to focus on a verse or two, which is fine, but to get a bigger picture and understanding of the passage, she said we should read the entire chapter or read through an entire book over the course of several days. To gain understanding, it helps to know who the author is, what perspective he has, as well as the time frame he is writing in. I had never read the Bible this way, but I was determined when I returned home from the conference.

I prayed next time I sat down to study, asking God (through the Holy Spirit) to reveal His truth to me. I asked for understanding.  God led me to study the life of Paul. I started in the book of Acts, reading about his life, his conversion, and ministry. By reading Paul's letters in the order he wrote them, I was able to compare them with details in Acts to see what he was experiencing when each letter was written. My eyes were opened to a greater understanding of Paul and the trials he experienced throughout his ministry. 

Two years later, on May 1st, I published a study on the book of John titled, “30 Days with John: A Journey with Jesus’ Most Beloved Disciple.”  Each day’s study begins with prayer, a full reading of the passage, and then questions to take you back through the scripture to aid in understanding.  The study is concise, yet in-depth, for those who get overwhelmed by longer studies and lack the available time to complete them.  I hope the study I have written will help facilitate going deeper into God's word. We don't have to be pastors or teachers, speakers or writers to love and understand the scripture. Its here for all of us. The more we know God’s Word, the closer we become in a relationship with Him.

There are always going to be obstacles when it comes to reading scripture because the enemy doesn't want you to do it! That is a topic for an entirely different blog post. Don't allow distractions and obstacles keep you from growing closer to God. If you need more focus, pray and ask God. The more He draws you into His Word, you will find those distractions and obstacles won't be a problem for you. I hope the suggestions I have given will encourage you and give you some confidence to reading and understanding God's word.

 

Leah Lively

“30 Days with John” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (online). 

 

Born and raised in Virginia, Leah’s faith journey began in a small church in a small town.  She is a wife to one and a mom to 4 along with a sweet female boxer.  Leah is motivated by 2 Corinthians 13:11 where Paul encourages the church in Corinth to “become mature and be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”  She wants believers to grow in their faith and discover a hunger for God’s word.  Leah’s genuine and authentic style of presenting the gospel lays a foundation for readers to learn more of God’s Truths. 

 

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