Friday, August 1, 2008

Bible study brunch, and a bit more.

This summer, Tuesday's became one of my very favorite days. If you have read my July, 9th post, you already know Jon, and I have found a good church here in, Oklahoma. However, they have slowed down for Summer, and things like classes, fellowship groups and Bible studies are suspended until, Autumn. The beginning of June, my daughter and her children were here from Texas, visiting her sister that lives here, and I. While here, both of my girls' children went to Vacation Bible School. Of course every morning, Nana was there waving, hugging and kissing the sweet little eager faces of her very beautiful grandchildren as they were going into the church. In that process, I met some very wonderful women. These women had begun a Bible study that would continue through the middle of, July. After I made some inquiries, one woman took my phone number and said she would pass it on to the woman that should talk with me about this study. That afternoon a dear woman called and was happy to tell me all about it. They met on Tuesday's, and they were reading a novel authored by Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love. Ms. River's, inspiration for this novel and the basic story line was derived from the book of Hosea, in the Bible. She said I was very welcome to come that next, Tuesday. She did not need to invite me twice. I bought the book and off I went.

Now there are two things here I want to say. First, for some time now God, has had me in the "Love Camp". Yep, the "Love Camp". About two years ago I became serious enough about wanting God's plan for my life to be actualized that I began pressing in and seeking Him on just what that would be. In my time with Him, He began to speak to me about how important it is to receive His love, and how few really do. As I have continued in studying what God's love is, I have learned so much. For instance, you can not separate God, from His love because He is Love. Love is not an entity, it is, God. Love is a powerful force and not just some fluffy feeling we like to experience. The truth of the matter is, without it our faith does not work. I have learned so much about what love, God's kind of love looks like.

The passages highlighted above are probably familiar to you, they were to me. But these and so many more are no longer merely "passages" of scripture that are handy to know, they are becoming engraved on my heart. Every time I look in scripture, I see a new aspect of love. Every time I hear a sermon or teaching, hymn or praise chorus, I see a new aspect of love. I am not kidding you, I have been living in the "Love Camp", for two years. Oh, and that is another thing. I am really fond of studying the scriptures about abiding in, God. Well, that is ALL about love. No matter where I turn, God is teaching me what love is, how to recognize it, how to show it, and its value. I am seeing just how little I have really known about it. So, was any surprise that the title of the book these ladies were reading was, Redeeming Love? Of course not. Anytime I press into something anymore, I run into one of the streets in the "Love Camp". I used be a little astonished when I would bump into an opportunity to learn about, or I would receive a revelation about God’s love. Now, I not only expect it, but look for it. I have just gone ahead and built a little cottage and moved my furniture into, the "Love Camp". That is where God wants me to live, to abide, and so there I am and will stay unless He moves me on.

The second thing I want to say, is that I see no need to read material wrought with emotionally upsetting subject matter. This book revolved around such themes. I was somewhat comforted to find I was not the only woman there that held this view. The overall message of love expressed through forgiveness is portrayed, but the path to get there is so jaded with troubling matter that the overall message pales in its outcome. I think the author is good enough that she could have found a way to convey the plight of the human condition without Jesus, some other way. It was like cussing. Those words are available to use, and certainly make a point. There are other ways to say the same thing though, and without being objectionable or distasteful.

Reading this kind of material makes just about as much sense as asking a panel of male church leaders to peruse Playboy, Hustler, and a few other pornographic publications so they could see the exact condition of their male drive, their human condition, and how deeply they need a Savior. What you allow into the portals of your mind, your eyes in this case, is in, and remains there. Perhaps such an exercise would have a measure of a positive effect on those church leaders. But the seed of decay has already been planted.

My ears do not itch for drama. In fact, I avoid exposing myself to those things that are upsetting and are the peace and joy thieves of our lives. If there is no place for me in being a part of the solution, I don’t involve myself. Reading such emotionally disturbing material is not something I can bring resolve to for anyone, and it only opens the door for troubling thoughts for myself. I do not need to be rocked from some place of complacency an author assumes I as a reader am in, to see the need for and beauty of forgiveness, and how it is directly related to God’s Love. I make it a lifestyle to practice the wisdom of, Proverbs 4:23.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. NLT

It is amazing where my mind and my heart can go if I do not guard them.

Philippians 4:7b says,

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I found no peace in some of the scenes I did read in that book. It honestly did not take me long to put it down. The last thing I read in that book will ensure that I never pick it up again. I guess I am not a the means justify the end, kind of girl.

I realize Ms. Rivers, is an incredibly popular author and perhaps, though I doubt it, I may try another one of her books from the Lion Series, or Unafraid, or most likely the children’s edition of, The Shoe Box.

I did get off on a bit of a trail there. But, it was not a wandering haphazard rambling rabbit trail. I want to cause every reader of this post to stop and think about what you read, watch and listen to. Remember, "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life". And, the way we think determines how we are, how we behave, what we know and believe. Those things we allow in our minds, form our thought patterns. Begin evaluating what your mind feeds on. Judge it. And then guard your heart by protecting it from the deposit of disturbing material. You will be so happy you did, and once you begin to filter those things out that deviate from edifying or blessing you, that are in fact unsettling and truly not necessary, you will begin to experience joy and peace that you won’t let anything steal from you. I have a long way to go in my walk with the Lord, but this guarding of my heart I know a little something about, and am so glad I do.

Now to bring this to full circle. I did enjoy my time with these ladies. Though I did not immerse myself in this novel, I was able to be a part of it all because the real subject matter revolved around the redeeming love God, shows His people in, Hosea. That I had a good grip on and our conversations were so candid and enriching. Scripture was brought out and discussed from throughout the, Bible. They are a great group of women and I honestly plan to continue in Bible study with them when they begin in two weeks, even when my church starts things back up full swing in the Autumn. There are three different studies to choose from for the fall. The one I have chosen is, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, by, Joanna Weaver. My daughter told me a couple of years ago that it was a good book, so I bought it. Being a Martha, life got in the way and I never read it. Learning to be a Mary, I have dug it out, dusted it off, and very excited to get to the first meeting after our little break.

We ended our time together for a short break for Summer with a brunch. I took some Deviled Eggs, grapes and olives.

I realize this post probably comes off a little harsh and maybe preachy. But, I have grown to really care about those of you that read this blog. I care enough that I want to share those things that I have found to be valuable to me, with you. The things I would want you to share with me if they did me good. So, if this seemed to not be as fluffy and "feel good" as some other fun posts, please take it in the manner it was given, love.


nannykim said...

Well--I visited your blog because I noticed you live in OK. I lived there a long time ago (about 30 years ago). I loved the people in OK because they were so warm hearted and down to earth.

I agree with you about the love of God. It is unfathomable. I love praying the prayer in Eph 3 :14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It is amazing to think of the breadth and length and height and depth of His love.AWESOME!

I have read the book you mention. I read it a long time ago so I do not remember all the details. However, I do remember it was kind of a more modern (modern as opposed to Hosea's time) day picture of God's redeeming love. Hosea has a theme as one has put it of "covenantal unfaithfulness, movingly symbolized by Hosea's realtionship with his promiscuous wife..Closely related to this theme is that of repentance. Hosea calls wayward Israel to return to the Lord in order to reestablish the intimate realtionship she earlier had experienced with him.."

What I , therefore, got out of it, is the fact of God's great love for us even when we have fallen into sin. He seeks us out and seeks our good. I think we have little understanding of the depth of his love until we understand the depth of our sinful hearts. I love the fact that as Hebrews 7: 25 mentions Christ "always lives to make intercession for" us! He is such a great High Priest. What a comfort to have such a great Shepherd of our souls.

So , anyways, I think I understand what you were saying about the book. But I think, perhaps, that I feel the hard times in my life have been the ones that caused the greatest growth, and the greatest view of who our God is. Perhaps that is what the author was trying to picture for us.

Teresa said...

Nannykim, I just visited your blog. I will be spending more time there. You have a beautiful family, and that new grandson is so precious. I love your home. I really enjoyed the photos of it. I sort of tripped when I got to your in~laws. You'll see.

Yes, the people here in Oklahoma, are warm hearted and down to earth. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

As far as the author's intentions in that book, I do believe they were sincere, and sincerely godly intentions. The message is such an important one. It was just the method I took umbrage with.