Category Archives: Bible Study

Bible Journaling

On shelves and baskets in our home are journals and notebooks of all sizes. I have poured out my heart to the Lord on those pages. I have written down silly thoughts, shared my sorrows, and recorded both struggles and victories. I have chronicled the days, interceded for loved ones, taken notes from God’s Word, and filled pages with pieces of ME.

Current basket on the shelf in the living room.

Prayer journals, Union U devotional, the Psalms in verse, and more.

In my search for an intentional, meaningful, GROWING 2015, I have been drawn to the idea of journaling my Bible or journaling through my Bible study. Several days a week the younger two children and I sit down with our Thankful Journals and write down 10 things for which we are thankful. Our voices lifted to the ONE through whom all blessings flow, we go around and share our praises.

Bible, journal and pens.  Potential for new learning.

Bible, journal and pens. Potential for new learning.

I am NOT artistic or creative or crafty. When I put a pencil to paper, ready to illustrate an image or thought, the picture slips away before it reaches the page. At best it resembles something a preschooler would scribble. Embellishments, swirls, elaborate or simple fonts, they elude me. The distance between the picture in my head and the paper beneath my fingers is so vast it’s almost comical.

Yesterday I was writing out a memory verse. “I’ll illustrate it to help remember the phrases,” I thought. But the ear I drew (for ‘heard’) and feet (for ‘walking’) looked more like pieces of a bizarre puzzle than parts of a body. I realized, once again, that drawing would NOT be a helpful tool for me in this endeavor.

A collection of prayers, thoughts, and daily remembrances.

A shelf of journals – random collection of prayers, thoughts, and daily remembrances.

And yet, I find myself drawn to a fresh stack of marking pens (ones that won’t bleed through the sheer pages of my Bible) and a package of colored pencils. I search Pinterest for Bible Journaling ideas. I smile at this amazing woman’s journal and study the posts of another blogger’s foray into artistic Bible journaling. I even discovered an incredible FB group for Bible Journaling.

Through it all, I realize Jesus cares about my FAITH. He cares about my OBEDIENCE. He doesn’t care if I can draw or give life to the pictures in my head. He wants me to dive into His Word. To study it, love it, memorize it, enjoy it, be convicted by it, treasure it, LIVE IT!

A heart that seeks HIM - in b&w and color.

A heart that seeks HIM – in b&w and color.

And so here we are, in a fresh year; with the chance to begin again. To try new things. To return to old, faithful treasured habits. To revive an apathetic and lazy heart. In the newness of 2015, I have decided to SOAK up the Word of God. Using my ESV study Bible, an enormous blank journal, mugs full of marking pencils and pens, and following my ESV read through the Bible plan, I will:

Study SCRIPTURE - OBSERVE the Word – APPLY truth – and KNEEL in prayer.

My journal will have color and life, it will be pretty and joyful, it will be fresh and REAL. It will be messy and full of brokenness, transparency and truth. It will be a humble offering to the ONE who creates beauty in all things.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Ps 19:14

Project 365 – Day 6

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Pistachio Poltroonery

For many years, I’ve been teaching Sunday School with one of my best friends, a man named Tung (pronounced a little like ‘tome’, for those Westerners who can’t manage the Vietnamese ‘ng’ sound). We make a great team: Tung is a gracious, articulate and intelligent man, while I, um, well, I might have to think about that for a minute. I suppose at least I provide comic relief and serve as a whipping boy for his sense of humor.

Tung and his beloved family ...

Tung and his beloved family …

In the last couple of years, we’ve expanded our class to include kids as young as fourth or fifth grade, which adds a certain amount of challenge. While some adults can handle 80 minutes of inductive study of a chapter of the Bible, most kids are looking for a little more interaction. So we add movie clips, skits, crossword puzzles, quizzes — whatever it takes to make it more interesting and endurable for the younger set. Truth be told, the grown-ups like it, too.

Recently we’ve been studying the book of 2 Samuel, and (as often happens) it was my turn when a difficult chapter rolled around. For some reason, this seems to happen a lot — I get all the circumcision chapters, the genealogies, the gruesome stories of child sacrifice, anything that might be R-rated, or at least PG-13. It always seems to be Tung’s turn to teach when the chapters are chock-filled with deep spiritual truths; I haven’t yet figured out how he does it. Maybe he actually reads ahead?

Anyway, chapter six rolled around, in which David, recently made king of all Israel, decides to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital of Jerusalem. There is a huge celebration, but along the way, one of the men improperly tending the Ark touches it, out of fear that it will fall off the cart, and is struck dead by God. Talk about a ruined party! It is a strange and difficult story, especially if you don’t have a high appreciation for the Holiness of God.

Not the actual Ark of the Covenant ...

Not the actual Ark of the Covenant …

I was trying to decide how to bring this lesson home, and it happened that the day of the class fell on Tung’s 40th birthday. Soon, my fertile brain was a-scheming, and a plan was born.

I introduced the passage in the usual way, by having the class members read verses aloud. I had them answer some of the questions that dealt with the early part of the chapter, and we watched several video clips about ruined parties — like the birthday scene for Leo Marvin in What About Bob.
Then I paused. I made a short speech about it being Tung’s birthday, and how he had served the church so well as an elder, small group leader, Sunday School teacher, etc. I unveiled a fancy cake I had bought for the occasion, and asked him to come up to cut it. On the table, I had a bowl of unshelled pistachios, by pre-arrangement.

Not everyone can wear reindeer antlers with distinction ...

Not everyone can wear reindeer antlers with distinction …

Standing in front of the class, about to cut the cake, Tung suddenly stopped. He angrily pointed at the pistachios.

“Pistachios? Seriously?” Tung nearly shouted.

I made embarrassed and apologetic noises, backing away slightly.

“I can’t believe you would offer pistachios at my party when you know I hate them,” Tung snarled. Then he picked up the bowl and savagely flipped all the pistachios into my face. They rained down around my feet as silence fell on the classroom like the blade of a guillotine.

No pistachios were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

No pistachios were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Then he spun on his heel and walked out of the room without looking at anyone. I stared after him, speechless for a full five seconds, then I bent down and began to pick up the pistachios, face red.

“Tung is under a lot of stress right now with his job as a principal,” I mumbled. “I should have remembered that he didn’t like pistachios.” I blinked my eyes as though fighting back tears.

No one moved. People furtively glanced at one another, unable to believe that my effort to honor Tung had gone so badly wrong. After what seemed like several minutes, but was really less than 30 seconds, I walked over to the door and motioned for Tung to come back in. He came back in, smiling, and we served the cake as I explained how this was a word picture, and that Tung actually liked pistachios.

In all seriousness, it must have been terrible for David, trying to honor God, to have his celebration go so wrong, even to the cost of Uzzah’s life. I’m sure he did some serious soul-searching in the months that followed.

As for me, I chortled for the rest of the day, about how effectively we had fooled the class, especially some of the younger kids, who were aghast at Tung’s conduct. I found out later that Daniel was so affronted at Tung’s treatment of me, that he was formulating plans to ‘take Mr. Tung outside’ if needed.

We are still good friends -- indeed, Tung would take a pie for me, as he did for this AWANA special event.

We are still good friends — indeed, Tung would take a pie for me, as he did for this AWANA special event.

Nobody ever said Sunday School had to be boring, but I may have overshot the mark on this one and traumatized a few of the younger kids. Hopefully the therapeutic counseling fees won’t be too expensive.

Tomorrow I’m teaching on chapter 8, in which David slaughters captive Moabites and hamstrings horses. Any ideas?

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Steps to Freedom

I slipped quietly through the front door, noticing the peaceful and settled feeling of the house. The Christmas lights welcomed me home cheerfully, blissfully unaware that the holidays have long since passed. The kitchen counters gleamed, signs that a thoughtful teen had worked hard in my absence.

Quiet lights at night

Quiet lights at night

There is nothing quite like a sleepy, hushed house to wake my night owl spirit. I love to read, write, study, even work on projects late in the evening. With teenagers in the house and a busy life full of homeschooling and ministry responsibilities, those quiet hours are often few in number and hard to find.

Tonight my mind is mulling over this week’s Bible study lesson. At first glance the study, Enhancing Your Marriage by Judy Rossi, looks to be one about marriage (um, yeah, hence the title), and indeed it covers attitudes in marriage, communication, romance, prayer, and so on. But really the heart of the book is our relationship with Christ. Nearly every lesson so far has dealt with understanding and knowing God better. It is a profoundly moving study.

This week we have been studying the Process of Change – seven steps that offer the opportunity to walk towards freedom and away from sin. It’s such a powerful collection of steps that I want to savor and absorb the teaching. I don’t want to zip through my lesson (as I’ve done, oh too many times) and walk away unchanged. I want to take my journal and pen and figuratively sit down on each step, studying, learning, listening, growing.

My heart rejoices to see my children following after the Lord.

My heart rejoices to see my children following after the Lord.

Step 1 : Recognize Your Inner Enemies as Sin

I want to be quick to recognize the darkness in my life, in my soul, in my heart. I want God’s light of truth and righteousness to so flood over my soul that I am blinded by His glory. I don’t want to hold onto any little sins – ones that I ignore, excuse or defend. This means I must be willing to say, like King David,

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

Step 2 : Deny Yourself

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” Mark 8:34

How would denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus change how I’m living? How would it change my marriage? How would it impact my parenting? My relationships with those in my life?

I am a DEEPLY selfish person. I like things my way. I like to be in charge. I like to spend my time the way I like. And I definitely like my coffee strong with cream and served often. The more my eyes are on me – the less able I am to deny myself and follow Jesus with a whole and sincere heart.

My favorite boys!

My favorite boys!

Step 3 : Confess, Repent, and Receive God’s Forgiveness

These three things are crucial and inseparable in dealing with sin. In confessing my sin, I am agreeing with God that something within me MUST CHANGE. In repenting, I am responding with godly sorrow and humility and expressing a willingness to CHANGE. In receiving His forgiveness, I am accepting His love and cleansing, and I am moving forward with Him in FREEDOM from my sin.

These three steps are so moving, so profound and impactful, that I want to pause, reflect, and just breathe in deeply. But overcoming sin (or confronting the “Canaanites” as author, Rossi, puts it) doesn’t stop here.

Step 4 : Trust God

It’s the Lord and His Holy Spirit that does a transforming work in my life. It’s not my own strength, power, or will. On my own, I bring nothing to the table, filthy rags perhaps, but no lasting change. As I walk through these steps to freedom, I trust that God will make my paths straight. I trust that He will keep me in perfect peace. I trust that He will bear good fruit in my life.

Sarah displays a beautiful trust in the Lord in her walk with Him.

Sarah displays a beautiful trust in the Lord in her walk with Him.

Step 5 : Wait for God

This is difficult. It means waiting with expectancy. Waiting with a faithful, trusting, listening heart. Waiting with the knowledge and assurance of God’s involvement – in our lives, in our transformation, in our freedom.

Step 6 : Rejoice and Pray with Thanksgiving

I love this step, even though it is often extremely difficult. I love it because over and over I have seen the amazing power of living this out. Rejoicing in sadness. Rejoicing in loss. Rejoicing in difficulty. Nothing has changed my heart and brought me greater joy than keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, no matter what the circumstance. Thanking Him amidst my tears. Listing the ways I am thankful when I am discontented and grumbling and grumpy. There NEVER FAILS to be a change in my heart when I remember to rejoice and thank the Giver of All Good Things.

I am deeply thankful to have a husband who loves the Lord, faithfully serves Him and selflessly loves our children.

I am deeply thankful to have a husband who loves the Lord, faithfully serves Him and selflessly loves our children.

Step 7 : Obey

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11

The last of these seven steps calls for our obedience. I love the picture of joy and love and obedience all swirling together in a beautiful radiance of a changed life. I don’t obey out of my own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. My obedience is born from my love for Jesus and His love for me.

After our study time, my small group met together. As we sat in the dimly lit foyer, shivering in the cooler part of the church, we walked through these seven steps together. Vulnerable and honest, we each bared a little piece of our individual struggles. We sketched a picture of what confession, forgiveness, trust, and obedience looks like in battling things like anger, despair and lack of self-control.


Like a subtle but undeniable fragrance that fills a room, a spark of HOPE lit inside of each of us. We long to be better wives and mothers. We cry for peace and ache for true joy in our lives. We want to walk in Freedom.

These seven steps offer a tangible, concrete, and scriptural way to experience God’s power and healing. Thank you, Judy Rossi, for sharing your heart and wisdom with us.


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Home Church – Family Style

This year we spent some time in the Duckabush (the valley after which our blog is named) with Tim’s family over Christmas. His brother (Mark), sister-in-law (Elizabeth) and family (children – Timothy & wife Sunny, Rebecca and Samuel) were all in town after a long road trip from Virginia/Arkansas/Tennessee. What a delightful gift to spend several days with them. One of the special treats was a morning of Family/Home Church on Sunday.

Chaplain Edgren (aka Grandpa) told us, well in advance, that he was officially handing the service over to the grandchildren. Parceling out the various roles, Joshua led our Sunday School class (Colossians 1 and 2). Moving into the actual worship service, Samuel gave the invocation/call to worship. Timothy preached the sermon (Colossians 3). Sunny led music and played her guitar for us (and piano too, but not at the same time) while the rest of the children sang. David, Daniel and Samuel read scripture. Daniel and Samuel were ushers, while Rebecca, Rachel and Sarah formed the core of the choir. Since the service was not widely publicized, and attendance was by invitation only, it was strictly a family affair.

Sunny led the rest of the group in worship practice

Practice Session for Music

Tim’s dad printed up an elegant bulletin for our morning service — there is nothing quite like having the whole family together and enjoying a home church.


Important to know the Order of Events for the service.

Tim and his dad have both been leading adult Bible classes for years. I think between them they have taught at least 60 years of Sunday School and covered most of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation with the Reformation, Marriage and Parenting thrown in the mix. How inspiring, then, to have Joshua leading our Sunday School discussion this Christmas. He makes a third generation of Bible teachers in the family. He cleverly split us into groups of two and assigned us each a portion of Colossians 1 and 2. With Timothy preaching on Colossians 3 the second hour, it is clear that teaching and preaching the Word of God will persist in our family legacy.

Let's study Colossians!

Let’s study Colossians!

It was a treat and delight to spend time with our nephew Timothy’s new wife. Sunny and Tim were married in Arkansas this summer and she is already proven as a wonderful addition to our family.

Christmas 2013 457a

What an incredible blessing to have three generations gathered together to worship the Lord – with each person participating from the youngest to the oldest.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

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