Guest Blogger: Christine

Christine is a dear friend of mine.  She has some great words about bible study!!

A Journey into BSF

Last September, I joined BSF – Bible Study Fellowship.  BSF is a nine month bible study (Sept-May) that meets weekly to dive into God’s word.   I have heard of BSF from some women in my church, and a few of my friends who I considered to be “hard core” Christians – the bible scholarly type.  In other words, not me.   I was afraid that I would be embarrassed because I didn’t have enough bible verses memorized, or  that if I did join – I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work.  The list goes on and on… I had a ton of reasons for NOT joining.    A good friend of mine encouraged me to come and just “check it out”.  No judgment if I decided it wasn’t my thing.  So I went.  And it has literally changed my view of God.

Last year we studied the book of Isaiah.  We spent 9 months walking through every verse of this amazing book of the old testament.   In a nutshell, I learned about God’s faithfulness to his people.   I learned about His purity, and about His unfailing love.  What stood out the most to me was the uncompromising message of judgment and grace, and how it must be proclaimed!    Studying the book of Isaiah through BSF taught me more about God’s character than any other bible study I had ever done. 

I love the 4-step approach that BSF takes to studying the bible.   It is systematic, and thorough.  It challenges you to go deeper, and gives you the tools to understand what you are reading. 

Step one:  Study on your own.  Each week at BSF, the small group leader gives you a handout with questions for that week.  The questions will lead you through a section of the bible – usually 1-3 chapters.   The questions are divided into 6 days, and each day should take 20-30 minutes.   I did what I could with the time I had each week – and found myself feeling blessed with however I got the work done.    I decided I couldn’t be legalistic about how, when or where I studied.  The fact that I had a bible open, and I was spending time with God was what mattered. 

Step two:  Discuss.  After spending the week studying on your own, it’s time to come to class and share your findings.  I loved this part!  I was free to share when I felt led to share, and could stay quiet when I needed to just listen.  Some questions are specific to the bible passage, other questions asked how we have applied a particular truth to our own lives.  Love it.

Step three: Listen.  After the discussion group, we would gather as a big group to listen to a lecture on the same passage.   This is where I felt I really got a firm hold on what the bible was teaching. 

Step four: Read.  At the end of the lecture, you receive a set of notes to read on the passage of scripture.  This last step cemented in what I learned. 

I found myself absolutely delighting in God’s word.  I felt drawn to my study each week.  I know that the Holy Spirit gently nudged me to open my heart and my mind to BSF. 

This year’s study is on the book of Acts.  I know this study will be rich and full of promise.  If you’d like to join a group, I want to encourage you to check out the website this week.   Groups start the week after Labor day – go to www.bsfinternational.com , and click on “find a class”.   

I am feeling that familiar “nudge”, that yearning to learn more about my God.  I can’t wait to get started.   Want to join me?

Finding My Life In Africa – and the book that led me there – Give Away

Written By Brynn Schmidt the Director of Operations for E4 Project

I was standing in the middle of the Mathare Valley slums in Nairobi, Kenya looking around and seeing for the first time the view of the world that the people have in the slums, compared to my worldview.  I realized that I wanted to share in their worldview and that this would help me always care for the poor, needy and oppressed around me.  God created everyone around the world in His image and I knew that every person in this overpopulated slum was just as important to God as I was.  I knew that I had to show God that I cared about each and every one of them, the same way that He cared about me – not just while I was in Africa, but every day for the rest of my life.

I was amazed at what had led me to this point – that I was across the world serving in Africa, and I know that one of the reasons that I was there was because I had read the book, The Hole in Our Gospel.

I was given this book a few months before our decision to take our family to Africa (including our two boys, ages 11 and 8 at the time).  I knew God was calling us to Gabon and Kenya to put action to our financial support of different ministries that we had been involved with for years.   I wanted to go, but also deal with a lot of anxiety and fear of flying, and could not handle the thought of all the flights that this trip would include.  With the help of a lot of prayer support and several books (including Hole in Our Gospel, In A Pit with a Lion On a Snowy Day and the devotional Jesus Calling), I was able to make the trip.

“Being a follower of Jesus Christ requires much more than just having a personal relationship and transforming relationship with God.  It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world” – Richard Stearns

This is one of the quotes that stuck in my head as I determined that I could get to Africa.  It was a life-changing time for me (and our whole family) and my faith grew so much as I got to know people in Africa and see things from their view.  My heart is forever transformed and I no longer have the fear of traveling around the world when God calls me.  I plan to go to India next in January to work with an organization in Chennai that we have supported for years.  The thing that I fear most of all now, is that I would miss God’s calling on my life and not go to the places in the world where He wants me to go.

One more quote from the book that I think is important for us all to think about and consider is this –  “This overwhelmed me, and tears started to flow.  Forgive me, Lord, forgive me. I didn’t know.  But I did know. I knew about poverty and suffering in the world. I was aware that children die daily from starvation and lack of clean water.  I also knew about AIDS and the orphans it leaves behind, but I kept these things outside of my insulating bubble and looked the other way.”   – Richard Stearns.

When you read books or articles or hear about missions trips, do you ever feel this way?  I do, and it is what finally led me on the journey of a lifetime last summer.  I hope that this book will lead you in some way towards taking care of others around the world.  Christ calls us to this and it is part of our life when we enter into a true relationship with Jesus.  Many verses in the bible speak to this  – here are a few of my favorites:

“Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8

“Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan & plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  James 1:22-27

I encourage all of you to read Richard Stearn’s book, The Hole In Our Gospel. There is also a great daily journal that goes along with it – Jen and Amy are giving away a copy of both of these.   It was life changing for me and I believe that when read, accompanied by prayer, it will change your life as well.

Written by Brynn Schmidt, Director of Operations for E4 Project (http://www.e4project.org)


GIVE AWAY

We are giving away The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns; President, World Vision U.S. and  The Hole In Our Gospel Six-Week Quest Daily Action Journal that goes with it.  This was generously donated by Brynn Schmidt the Director of Operations for E4 Project.  Here is how you enter:

1. Leave a comment on any of your favorite recent posts.

2. Become a new follower on Google Friend Connect, Like Us on Facebook or Subscribe Via Email to follow our blog.

3. Leave a comment on the E4 Project Blog.

We will draw for the give away on Friday, June 24th!

Depression: The Ugly Monster

Written by, Jessica a great friend and a guest blogger.

Life has been rocky so far in 2011.  My name is Jessica and I am a friend to both Jen and Amy.  I am generally spunky, fun, energetic, and for the most part happy.  But, I also battle depression.  I am fourth in the line of generational depression which started in my early twenties.  But this year, it may be the worst ever.  And I kept wondering, “God, why now?”  It took a while but he has revealed some answers.
A little about depression.  For me, it is a strange place where I feel both mentally and physically sick.  Heavy hearted, dullness/pain in my chest, headaches, the feeling of sadness, hopelessness and despair.  And sometimes there is no apparent cause which makes it even worst.  Lots of crying.  Extreme exhaustion.  Feelings that God has abandon me.  My BFF describes it as if she is talking to a drunk/buzzed person – not completely out of it, but not rational.  I feel terrible for putting my inner circle through the emotional roller coaster which I am sure is tiring and scary.
In 2011, my doctor prescribed a slight medication change and the effect was drastic.  I almost immediately felt terribly sad and hopeless.  I have tons to be grateful for: job, home, great friends and family, most importantly, JESUS!  Life is good.  And I felt like it was the end of the world.  The doc changed the meds again and a month later, things started to get better.
In those four weeks, God had some things to address with me and the result I like to call, “the fruit in the desert.”
1. Prayer-o-rama!  I started to prayer much more!   Like an hour in the evening while I could not fall asleep.  And an hour in the morning while I could not get out of my bed.  I begged for the meds to work, for mercy, for the doctor’s wisdom, for the protection of my mind, for the healing of my mind!  I could feel most importantly that God was close.  I find it interesting when my bible study corresponds perfectly to my life.  This was the case in this season of life and it was a wonderful encouragement!  See Isaiah 38:1-4.  Bottom-line: Gods answers prayers!

Take every thought captive – see 2 Cor 10:5 – the evil one has a field day with the mind of a depressed person.  Defenses are down, Hope is absent. His lies sink in as if they are truth.  I need to be incredibly diligent to call out those lies and remember to cling to the truth of Christ.
3.  Whose in control anyway?  Wow, I always thought I gave my life to God and that He was in control.  Well, He was letting me know that I had not done that, that I was holding on for dear life to control this journey.  And, it was getting me no where!  It was as if I were on the losing end of a tug-of-war with God, pulling, grunting, gasping, exhausted.  I came to realization that God’s plan was best, that where I end up in this life is where I am supposed to be, that he is God Almighty, Creator of the universe, what do I have to worry about?  In a word: Content.  Living only for today.  Finally getting some rest (physically, emotionally, spiritually).
4.  The Three P’s – People, prayer and pills – I cannot take credit for this one.  They are the words of my Pastor Jim Burgen.  I had to let some people into my tiny circle.  I confessed my struggle to the ladies that I lead bible study with.  It was humbling and refreshing.  There was now 35 more ladies praying for me.  I leaned on my inner circle and I kept working with my doctor.  What most people don’t realize is that depression is a medical problem, not just a psychological problem.  I believe that God allowed great minds to invent a means of relief.  Take it.  You are not weak.  You are actually rather strong for confronting the battle.  It can allow you to be your best.
God has been faithful!  The journey is not over, I am operating at only 70%.  But He is there. He listens.  He protects.  He is in control.  And most of all He loves me and you.  Hang in there if you share my battle.  Keep on keeping on.
What’s your story and how has God seen you through?

Guest Blogger : Christmas Letters to a Child

 Amy

 Hey Everyone!  I just wanted to say thanks for reading our blog.  I am honored to be able to share with you writing from other women who have wisdom to pass on.  This next post is from a friend of mine named Dale Skram.  She is a mother of 4 daughters and has much wisdom and experience to share!  She will be a guest contributer to GraceFULLhome from time to time.                
                              Christmas Letters to a Child  
                                 By Dale Skram            1/6/11
Many years ago when I was having babies my hormones led me to do a really great thing.  It was Christmas morning and I was moved to tears by the thought that next year my children would dump the contents of their stockings and there would be nothing from me because I would be gone, dead while giving birth to their little brother or sister.  I have no idea where this progesterone-induced craziness came from, but I lived with this fear for a long time.  So, I decided to write each of them a letter and put it in their stocking before the decorations were put away, so that next Christmas, if I succumbed to some horrible death, they would have something special from me. 
I have written these letters for more than ten years now, and although some years I haven’t gotten around to writing until June, I have managed to pull it off.  I write an individual letter to each one of my children and include the things that I love about them:  their new hairstyle, their sassy attitude, their heart for God, whatever.  I talk to them about the person they are that year and what is important to them.  I try to include their victories over chronic problems like fear, unforgiveness, lying,  or stealing.  I also mention those issues that we are working on with them like disrespect, kindness, tying their shoes, or keeping their room clean.  When I get the stockings out the following year, I take out the letters, read them and put them in their scrapbooks.  Actually they end up in the pile of papers that one day in the next decade will go into their scrapbooks.  Some have already made it in. 
There are so many things that I have done as I mom that I regret and wish I could do over.  But this is not one of them.  This is a personal victory for me as a mother because if there is one thing that want my daughters to know (whether I am here or gone to be with God) it is that they were seen and known and loved. 

From a Guest Contributer…

Amy
This next post is from my mother-in-law, Liz Hayes.  She has been a great supporter of our blog and often comments on our posts.  She shares a recent story of hers below…some of us are frequenters of this club and some just occasionally, but isn’t it nice to know we’re not alone?

From Liz:

Liz Hayes Idiot Club
I so enjoy all the sharing that is done on this blog.  I realize that most of the women involved are dealing with all the stresses of young children – and are probably looking forward to the quieter years ahead.  I am here to tell you that life is a trade-off!
Monday night we returned from a wonderful Christmas visit to Colorado.  Actually caught all the flights we were planning on – too good to be true.  On Tuesday morning I tried to use the dust buster and it was dead; then couldn’t get the charger to register that it was charging.  I solicited the assistance of my husband who told me that the GFI outlet had popped, he re-set it and all was well.  That evening, while visiting friends, I asked him if that outlet was on the same circuit as the refrigerator and chest freezer in the garage.  When we returned home we discovered that this was indeed the case.  Although they had now been up and running for 12 hours, the food was still soft, and since we didn’t know when the circuit popped felt we could not take a chance on the food.  Wednesday morning I unloaded all that lovely food – over $500 worth – and took it to the dump!  The above is just an introduction to why I am an idiot!
After cleaning out the freezer on Wednesday I finished “un-Christmasing” the house and putting all the decorations back in the attic.  Thursday started with a resolve to exercise and get the house cleaned.  I did the cardio dance routine that my youngest granddaughter Maddie assured me would hurt my back and then started in with the vacuum cleaner – the dust bunnies had become trip hazards!  The day progressed – vacuuming finished, I now put the sticky racks and zip lock bags in the large laundry room sink to soak (a squirt of soap and hot water on full blast.)  Stay with me now!  The dryer buzzed – full of all the holiday linens – folded them and took them to the attic stairs to be carried up on the next trip.  While there, I noticed the new picture I had given Vin for Christmas and decided to hang it on the wall.  I went to the garage (passing the laundry room) to get my girlie hammer, tape measure and hook.  Came back inside (again passing the laundry room), measured twice, dropped the nail, measured again and finally hung the picture to my satisfaction.  I returned the tools to the garage (passing the laundry room en route) and re-entered the house.  At this point I noticed some water on the laundry room floor and wondered why the washer was leaking.  STILL did not think about the water I had turned on I don’t know how long ago!  Fortunately I knew there was a pile of garage towels on the shelf, I grabbed them , ran inside to find that the water had breached the laundry room and was now in the back hall headed for the garage.  I FINALLY realized that the water was not coming from the washer but from the overflowing sink where some IDIOT had turned the water on some time ago!  I now turned off the water and had to put my hand into the sink of HOT water in order to pull the plug so that I could wring out the sopping wet towels into the sink.  I now have a very clean tile floor in the laundry room along with clean area rugs in both the laundry room and the back hall.  The back hall rug is still drying in the garage.
I made a cup of tea, sat down, and thought that at that moment a poopy diaper and a runny nose would be like heaven.  Every phase of life has its “days” – I think it is best to just be able to laugh at yourself, I feel certain that God had a good laugh yesterday.   So, this is my open invitation to become charter members of the LIZ HAYES IDIOT CLUB – all you have to do is put the plug in any sink, turn the water on full blast and then become oblivious for at least 30 minutes!  It’s free and you can sign up today!
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