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12 Projects for 2013

For several years now, I’ve been starting off the year with projects instead of resolutions. I don’t always complete my projects, but I enjoy starting them and working toward a goal. And I don’t feel guilty if I don’t finish. If I do finish, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Win-win. So, here are my twelve projects for 2013:

1. 100 Days in the Book of Isaiah. I’m really looking forward to this study along with my church family.

2. Reading Through West Africa. The countries of West Africa (according to my scheme) are Benin, Biafra (part of Nigeria), Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. That’s fourteen nations, if I include Biafra, and I would very much like to read at least one book from or about each country. If you have suggestions, please comment.

3. I’m working on a project with my church for a community/tutoring/library media center. This TED talk by author Dave Eggers was inspirational, although it’s not exactly what I have in mind. I am working more on a library and study center for homeschoolers and of course, it would be open to kids who are in public or private schools, too. A lot of my work will be in relation to the library, gathering excellent books and adding to the library and helping homeschool and other families to use the library to enrich their studies. I am also inspired by this library and others like it.

4. I want to concentrate on reading all the books on my TBR list this year –at least all of them that I can beg, borrow (from the library) or somehow purchase. I’ve already requested several of the books on my list from the library.

5. My Classics Club list is a sort of addendum to my TBR list, and I’d also like to read many of the books on that list. In 2012 I read Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, and Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, three out of fifty-three, not a good average if I’m to be done with all of them by 2017.

6. I have house-keeping project that I’m almost embarrassed to mention here. I’ve started small–cleaning and sorting piles in a corner of my bedroom. I’d really like to continue cleaning, purging, and organizing around the perimeter of my bedroom and then the living room until eventually I get around the entire house. A project so ridiculously mundane and yet so needed.

7. I continue to work through this list of new-to-me recipes and through several cookbooks and other recipe sources for dishes I want to try this year. I would like to make one new dish per week, and maybe I can manage to “review” the meals and food I make here at Semicolon. If you have any extra-special recipes you think I should try, please leave a comment.

8. Praying for Strangers (and Friends) Project. I was quite impressed by my reading of River Jordan’s prayer project book, Praying for Strangers. I still can’t walk up to strangers and tell them that I’m praying for them or ask them for prayer requests. But in 2013 I hope to ask God to give me one person each day to focus on and to pray for. Maybe I’ll be praying for you one day this year. I have been much more consistent in praying for specific people this past year, and I hope to continue the practice.

9. U.S. Presidents Reading Project. I got David McCullough’s biography of Truman for Christmas in 2011, and I plan to read that chunkster during my Lenten blog break since I didn’t read it last year. I don’t know if I’ll read any other presidential biographies this year, but if I finish Truman I’ll be doing well.

10. The 40-Trash Bag Challenge. Starting tomorrow. My life needs this project.

11. 100 Movies of Summer. When we’re not traveling, which will be most of the summer, we might watch a few old classic but new-to-us movies. I’ll need to make a new list, since we’ve watched many of the ones on the list I linked to, but I hope to find a few gems this summer.

12. I got this Bible for Christmas (mine is red), and I’ve already begun transferring my notes from my old Bible into this new one and taking new notes. I just jot down whatever the Holy Spirit brings to mind with the intention of giving the Bible to one of my children someday.

Twelve Portions of the Bible to Study in 2012

1. I’m involved in a Beth Moore Bible study at church: David, a Man After God’s Own Heart. So, we’re studying in First and Second Samuel. We’re going to be discussing the rather distressing story of Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom at Bible study on Wednesday, and I’m hoping to gain some insight into the parenting and letting go of adult children, although I can assure you that if I had a son like Amnon, I would be completely devastated and paralyzed for life. The story, if you want to read it, is in II Samuel 13-15.

2. Also at church, my pastor is preaching through the book of Revelation. So, I’m studying that, even though it’s my least favorite part of the Bible.

3. At our Women’s Retreat in April we’ll be doing a topical study on loving and living the law of the Lord, the Word of God. I’m looking forward to that study.

4. I’ll be reading through the New Testament during Lent, perhaps using this plan. I plan to read from the new paraphrase/translation, The Voice, from Thomas Nelson Publishers, to see what I think of it as I read.

5. After Easter, I want to do a study of the books of Judges and of Acts, to compare and see what I might need to be doing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in times like these. I think we’re living in Judges and in Acts, both at the same time, but I need to do some study to flesh that analogy out.

6. I hope to spend the summer in one of the major prophets, probably either Isaiah or Jeremiah.

7. Beginning in August, I will probably listen to Beth Moore’s study of the gospels, Jesus, the One and Only.

8. Z-baby and I are doing this 2012 Bible Reading Challenge, courtesy of Redeemed Reader. At least, we’re trying. We’re still only on Week 1.

9. On August 5, 2012 my pastor will begin a fall series in 1st Peter. So, that would be a good place to be concentrating.

10. I would like to memorize a psalm this year, but I haven’t decided which one.

11. I’d also be interested in memorizing some portion of the Sermon on the Mount, maybe in the fall along with my study of the life of Christ.

12. Finally, I want to go over the Old Testament prophecies that speak to the coming of Jesus as Messiah and Lord during Advent with my urchins.

Too ambitious? Not enough? I may not do all of the above, but I know enough about myself to know that if I don’t have some sort of plans and a variety of ideas, I will do nothing at all.

What the Bible Is All About by Henrietta Mears

40 Inspirational Classics for Lent

I’m doing my best to read through the entire Bible during 2011. I want to make this “read through” a yearly habit. But sometimes I get to some book of the Bible, and I just don’t get it. What is this part of Scripture about? Why is it in here? What does it mean?

That’s where Henrietta Mears’ little book about the books of the Bible is a great help. In the book, Ms. Mears takes each book of the Bible in order and explains the main themes of the book, a summary of its contents, the characters, the historical background, the type of literature, key teachings, and the book’s relationship to the life and mission of Jesus.

“The work for which she is best known, What the Bible is All About, a survey of the Old and New Testaments, was a revision of one year of her high school Sunday school lessons taken from her teaching notes. At four million copies this is one of the most popular study books on the Bible ever printed; it has been revised twice and produced in a number of editions. In this work, Mears clearly communicates the Scripture and shows one of the chief reasons her students’ favorite name for her was ‘Teacher.’”

Ms. Mears was the Christian Education director for Hollywood Presbyterian Church, and in her position she influenced many young people who went on to bring the message of Christ to the world. Some of her students and disciples included Billy Graham, Bill and Vonette Bright, founders of Campus Crusade for Christ, Richard Halverson, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life.

Read more about Henrietta Mears:
Christianity Today: Henrietta Mears, she loved outrageous hats and teaching Sunday School.
Historical Renewal: Henrietta Mears
Henrietta Mears by Cherie Miller.
Henrietta Cornelia Mears by Richard J. Leyda.

And The Word . . . Dwelt Among Us

The Kimyal people of Papua, Indonesia receive the Bible in their own language:

What a celebration. Do we even begin to know what precious truth God has entrusted to us? “To whom much is given, of him much shall be required.” We in the West are abundantly blessed. God forgive us for the misuse and waste we have perpetrated with the blessing He has given us.

And won’t heaven be grand as we all worship the Lamb together, from every nation and tribe?

Projects, New and Old: January 2011

My Bible Reading Project is going pretty well. I’ve read through Genesis, on track to finish Mark this weekend, and several of the Psalms. I also read Galatians, mostly aloud to the urchins, but I can’t say I was very successful in explaining the distinction between keeping the Law for the law’s sake and keeping it out of gratitude for what Christ has done. The urchins stared at me blankly for the most part as I engaged in this lesson in theology for their benefit. Ah, well, push on.

I want to take my old Bible and do this project with it: Blank Bible Project. I can see how this would be really useful—and a way of passing down a legacy to at least one of my children. More detailed instructions on making a blank Bible.

I read Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle for the Faith N Fiction Roundtable, and I found Ms. L’Engle’s work as satisfying and thoughtful as ever. Come here, or to one of the other participants’ blogs, in February for more discussion of the book and its implications.

Poetry Project: The poems are posting on Fridays for Poetry Friday, and I’m enjoying them, even though we are in the Romantic period right now. I think I’m becoming an anti-Romantic poetry reader.

Newbery Project: I read and reviewed the Newbery Award winner, Moon Over Manifest, this month. I liked it a lot.

Operation Clean House is going nowhere. I haven’t even attempted to put together an Exercise and Diet Project. If anyone know of a way to exercise without actual physical labor being involved, please let me know.

In February, I really want to do more posts for Texas Tuesday and Read Aloud Thursday (to link to Amy’s blog, Hope Is the Word). I also would like to continue my Africa Reading Project, which has gotten off to a good start this year with several posts in January.

Semicolon Bible Study and Reading Plan for 2011

I posted the other day about 52 Ways to Read and Study the Bible in 2011, and Nina asked what my plan was for 2011.

Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan from Discipleship Journal (NavPress) I plan to see if Engineer Husband or any of my children would like to join me in reading through the Bible according to this plan this year.

I also hope to do an in-depth study of at least one book of the Bible each month:

January: Galatians

February: Proverbs

March: Matthew

April: Matthew

May: Proverbs

June: Jonah

July: Hosea

August: I Corinthians

September: Job

October: John

November: John

December: John

O.K. I’d rather set my goals high and miss than set no goals and achieve . . . nothing. I’m hoping to set aside about an hour a day for Bible study and reading this year.

What I Learned from Psalms 23 and 24

These are the chestnut psalms. Everyone knows at least a little of Psalm 23, and most people have heard or memorized phrases from Psalm 24.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Many of you have probably heard this musical version of the psalm, too, but I hadn’t. Karate Kid shared it with me. It’s by John Foreman of the group Switchfoot.

1The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
3Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.
7Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
8Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
9Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
10Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

And here’s a Messianic Jewish version of Psalm 24:

What I Learned: God’s Word is forever the same, and yet it can be interpreted and re-interpreted for a new generation and in many cultural genres. And still in any place and in any time, from everlasting to everlasting, He is the Shepherd, and He is the King of Glory.

What I Learned from Psalm 19

As we read this psalm together this morning, I thought, “Ah, I know this one. I’ve sung it and read it and written notes in my Bible about it. How comfortingly familiar!”

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

And yet, there is always more to be gleaned from God’s Word. First of all, we are without excuse before the glory and righteousness of the Lord. The fool says in his heart: “There is no God.” “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Second, I should love God’s commandments, His standards, because they revive me, make me wise, give joy and light, give warning of danger, bring rewards to those who keep them. I need to remember and remind my children that keeping God’s law is meant to give us joy and to bring Him glory. His burden is light because His commands are altogether righteous.

Finally, I can try to please God, but always realizing that I can’t even see most of the ways in which I fail to meet His standard. I am poor and blind and full of self. God is my Rock and my Redeemer, and the only way I can begin to live a life of joy and obedience is for the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher and my Revealer of Truth.

What I learned: God is Creator, Law-Giver, and Heart-Changer.

What I Learned from Psalm 18

At least three book titles of books that I have read and enjoyed come from this psalm: Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth Speare, and Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.

Many Waters is a retelling of the story of Noah from the Bible. Ms. L’Engle takes quite a few liberties with the Biblical text, weaving it into her own story of time travel and a young girl’s coming of age in a time of cataclysmic change. Although the book quotes Song of Solomon several times in reference to the theme of the story, I think Psalm 18:16 is applicable, too.

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. If a man were to give all his wealth for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Solomon 8:7.

“He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.” Psalm 18:16.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth Speare won the Newbery Award in 1962. The story takes place in first century Palestine in the time of Christ. Her title comes from verse 34 of Psalm 18, and the young people in the novel use the Bronze Bow as a symbol and sign for their friendship and their united hatred for the Romans who occupy the land.

God is my strong refuge, and has made my way safe.
He made my feet like hinds’ feet, and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze
. Psalm 18:32-34.

“It couldn’t really be bronze,” said Daniel, puzzled. “THe Strongest man could not bend a bow of bronze.”
“Perhaps just the tips were metal,” Joel suggested.
“No,” Thacia spoke. “I think it was really bronze. I think David meant a bow that a man couldn’t bend–that when God strengthns us we can do something that seems impossible.”

Later, in the book Daniel is called upon to give up his soul-killing bitterness against the Romans and accept the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Daniel finds this task just about as impossible as bending a bronze bow. He wonders, “Was it possible that only love could bend the bow of bronze?”

Hind’s Feet on High Places is a more allegorical story, in the style of Pilgrim’s Progress, of a girl, Much-Afraid, who goes on a journey to reach the high places of the Shepherd. Sorrow and Suffering are her guides, and at the end of the book Much-Afraid receives a new name, Grace-and-Glory.

“The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” Habakkuk 3:19

He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. Psalm 18:33.

Psalm 18 has also been the inspiration for several songs and choruses. My pastor posted one on youtube and on his blog, Wide Open Spaces by a group called Clear. The song uses mostly these verses from the psalm:

He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:9-19

Then, there’s this song which uses two verses from Psalm 18:

I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. Psalm 18:3.

The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. Psalm 18:46.

What I learned: God is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my shield, my salvation, my stronghold. He pulls me out of the deep waters, delivers me from my enemies, enlightens me in my darkness, rewards me, strengthens me, arms me, makes my way perfect, lifts me up, shows mercy to me. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

What I Learned from Psalm 16

1 Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.
2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

3 As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

4 The sorrows of those will increase
who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Verse 2 in particular, but also the entire psalm, remind me of my life verses: Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69

I’ve thought some times of chucking the whole Christianity thing, usually when I was hormonal or disillusioned with someone who claims the name of Christ. (“Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.” – C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity) But I never thought about it for long. Who else has the “words of life”? Where else can anyone take refuge? Where else in this world apart from in Christ is there any lasting good thing? What other philosophy or religious dogma is so gloriously improbable (impossible) and at the same so sensible and satisfying?

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. I like the boundary lines in my life in Christ, and I’m set to inherit eternal life filled with joy in His presence. Where else can I find anything or anyone that promises life in the presence of my Creator and mercy in the presence of my Judge?

Puddleglum in The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis: “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” –C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry?