Deep and Wide: A Dilemma

 The other day I finished reading Genesis and I was so sad to come to the end of the book because I had enjoyed it so much! It's always been a fun book to read, but this time I read slower and did more studying than usual. J gave me an ESV Study Bible for Christmas this year and that's what I'm using for this read-through. I have to say, the study notes are good! I've been pairing those notes with the Tony Evans Bible Commentary that I picked up last year at the Priority Conference, also at the recommendation of a friend, and his insights have often made me sit back and say wow! They're really helping me go deeper and I love that.

So I came to Exodus still sorely disappointed that Genesis was done, and a little reluctant to start Exodus, which really surprised me because of all the Bible personalities, Moses has always been my favorite. I think my reluctance stemmed from this dilemma I've been chewing on...

Because I've been doing my read-through more slowly this time, I've been spending more time in the study notes and commentaries, and there's a place for that. But those notes and commentaries are NOT Scripture and I want...I need to find a balance between reading through and digging in. A friend calls this going deep and wide, like the children's song. We need to go deep in God's Word, studying. But we also need to go wide, reading larger portions to give us and keep us anchored in the big picture of the Bible.

The digging I'm doing has been oh-so rich. I've learned so much (Jacob was such an eye-opener for me this time and I spent days and days with him) but I really miss reading the large chunks of Scripture (going wide). I need those larger chunks. My favorite read-through of the Bible so far was in 2020. I read cover to cover in nine months, despite my work-load almost doubling and work-related stress sky-rocketing. That fast read of the Bible kept me grounded and anchored and focused and able to handle all that was going on at work. It was wonderful!

So this dilemma is big and real to me and it's played into my reluctance to see Genesis end and Exodus start because I need to go wide, but there are also a few reasons I need to go deep in Exodus. So I delayed a day or two, still savoring Genesis and deliberating how to proceed.

I still don't know what to do about my dilemma but I do know I need to go deep in parts of Exodus. I've spent the week evaluating my morning routine (typically when I read and study) and found something I had added to my mornings that I need to move to a different time.

Have you encountered the deep or wide dilemma? How did you handle it? Have you found a sweet spot?

What about evaluating your routines to keep or create (more) time in God's Word? It's the perfect time to pause and ponder and tweak or even start new. 


I'd love to have you join me as I dig into Exodus and share the things that have jumped out at me! As you can see, the pictures probably won't tie into what I'm learning, but they're all about what's happening in my world, outside my window, or something in my camera roll that jumped out at me, and this is my way of stopping and savoring the moments.

A Time for Spring

Spring is here! 

The trees are blossoming and budding and it's beautiful. Spring brings changes as things below the ground begin to surface and grow and bloom. And not just in nature...

God's been growing me and it's felt like spring inside me too. 

Today I'm posting at the PriorityNow Blog and I'd love to have you join me there! The post isn't about Spring, but it's a lesson God has recently taught me. ;)

Worth Waiting

Recently I read through the book of 1 Samuel and it once again captured my attention. One of the things that stood out to me was God’s responses.

Hannah’s story in chapter 1 seems to set the course for the whole book. In chapter 1 she’s pouring out her heart to God, asking Him for a child and God heard her and gave her Samuel. But not all of God’s responses are what the people wanted to hear…

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day--in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them." 1 Samuel 8:4-9 NASB

Over and over in 1 Samuel we see God hearing and responding to His people—collectively like this passage and individually as we see David repeatedly inquiring of God and receiving answers. God has not changed and in thousands of years between God speaking to Samuel here and us. He still hears His people and He still answers. The Creator of the universe, the One True God who is Holy and just hears us when we pray. Too often I think we forget this or think that He doesn’t hear us because we don’t get an immediate sense that He’s answered. Sometimes we act like spoiled children and demand what we want, what we think best, and sometimes God gives us exactly what we want, knowing it wasn’t His best. It seems that’s what is happening here.

Were they wrong in asking for a king? I don’t think so, because way back in the days of Moses God talked about when they would have a king (Deut. 17:14-20) and even before that, Abraham was promised that kings would be his descendants, but I DO think their motivation for wanting one wasn’t what it should’ve been. Israel was asking for a king to lead them out in battle, like all the nations around them had (1 Samuel 8:19-20). Status quo and security mashed together and led them down a path too early and for the wrong reason. Unbeknownst to Israel the king God had in mind was in training, but they couldn’t wait. They wanted what they wanted and they wanted it right then. So God allowed them to have exactly what they wanted. Saul. A man who looked like a fine king but who didn’t live up to his potential. Throughout the book of 1 Samuel we see that what Israel got wasn’t what they planned on—someone to lead them against their enemies—but it was exactly what Samuel warned them about.

This has me wondering. What have I been asking God for? What’s the motivation behind my asking? Status quo? Security? Greed? Comfort? Maybe there’s nothing wrong with what I’ve been asking for, but maybe it’s not the right time for it. Have I been impatient, refusing to wait and repeatedly asking (pestering!) for something?

My granddaughter was here a little while ago and really wanted an apple off the tree in our yard. She remembered eating them last year and was excited about them again. When she asked me for one I told her no because they weren’t ready yet. After asking a couple more times and getting the same answer she found an apple in her reach when I was inside the house. I came out just in time to see her face when she bit into the apple. Instead of the expected sweetness it was sour and inedible. Yikes! What a reminder.

God hears us when we pray and ask for things and sometimes His answer is Wait. Waiting isn’t fun, but it’s better in the long run.

Father God, please shape and mold my desires so they align with Yours. Help me patiently wait for the things You have planned. You know best and I want Your best because it's so much better than anything I could ever dream up. Thank You for hearing me and caring enough to say No or Wait when it's needed.

The Awkwardness

This morning our pastor started a new series on ReEngaging Relationships and he talked about how it can be awkward to resume meeting in our small groups and churches. How we can become comfortable with social distancing. I have to admit. I can relate. I’m such an introvert that I’m very comfortable, too comfortable, being by myself. It’s easier to fade away when I’m by myself. It’s easier to slip into disobedience and apathy by myself. By myself it’s easier to think that what I should be doing doesn’t really matter. But it does.

You see, I’ve been in this position before. Many times. I’ve felt that God has called me to things, given me specific things to do and I’ve not done them. I’ve chickened out. The awkwardness of restarting, of walking back in to a place I used to be all the time has pushed me away. I’ve been here, gone through all the emotions, and all the other times I’ve ended up walking away. Because of the awkwardness I’ve felt, because of the fear, the knowing that I’m not enough, knowing that I’ve failed repeatedly. So, I wrestled with God this morning. I want to obey. I want pick up this thing He’s set before me. But I’m a chicken and this awkwardness is…beyond awkward. It’s uncomfortable.

After wrestling I took my first baby step at reentry. Moments later, actually, right after that last paragraph, Pastor Michael finished his sermon and my ear picked up on his closing prayer (I had already listened to the service once and was tuning in again) and I turned up the volume on the TV so I could join in on the worship, one more time today. But Pastor Michael nor God were not finished with me yet. This is what I heard that had me laughing and sobbing at the same time…

As we respond to God’s Word, I challenge you… It’s worth it. What God desires to do in you is profound—better than you can imagine. Better than it’s ever been. We’re not going back. We’re going forward. And I challenge you to refuse to slide into a place of apathy. I challenge you to refuse to slide into a place that feels like comfort, but actually it’s unhealthy. Let us commit, even while we’re social distancing, to continue to engage, to fight through the awkward as we worship together and as we work hard to find ways where together we follow Him. Together we experience all that God has for us. May YOU receive His challenge, His comfort and that truth of the Gospel today. (Pastor Michael Nave, Cornerstone Church, Marion, IL July 12, 2020.)

Did God hear me when I was crying out to Him in my journal this morning? YES. Does He hear you when you cry out to Him? YES. What is it that you’re putting off because it feels awkward? Is it attending church? Going to your small group or Bible study? Is it doing what He’s called you to do?

I challenge you… It’s worth it. What God desires to do in you is profound—better than you can imagine. Better than it’s ever been. We’re not going back. We’re going forward.

More than Surrender

The other day as I was walking I thought I was doing so well—using my walk as a prayer time. It sounds so simple but I have to be honest with you, for me it’s not. It takes focus and discipline. My natural tendency is to let my mind wander or better yet, moan and groan. So, I was feeling rather proud of myself for praying. I should’ve known better.

Like so many people, I like to use the acronym ACTS to keep me on track as I pray.

So as I was walking I started my prayer time with adoration—worship. Worship is an awesome thing. Taking my eyes off all the things I tend to watch and hold onto, and intentionally turning my eyes to God and His greatness and thanking Him and praising Him for who He is. It’s refreshing. It’s like hitting the reset button for me. That usually leads me to surrendering myself to Him.

Surrendering to God is good and it’s necessary to live a vibrant Christian life, but I tend to want to stop at the surrendering. I want to curl up like a cat and stay there at the feet of Jesus. I want to lay down in surrender…and then spend the day dreamily watching the clouds go by. Isn’t that what surrender is? Laying one’s self down? I can do that…

The thought had just barely flashed inside my head when I felt God’s nudge.

What about reporting for duty?

Really, Lord?
That takes work. A lot of work. And risk! I could get hurt, I could get shot down…even just being shot at is bad enough. I just want to lay here at the foot of Your throne and admire all You’ve done and sing Your praises. Can’t I do that?

I felt like I was in one of the Chronicles of Narnia movies when one of the children is standing before Aslan and the great lion says “hmmmmmmm.” I felt my shoulders fall and my chin drop.

Okay, Lord. I know You’re right. You didn’t save me to just to curl up and purr Your praises like a cat. You saved me to serve You. So here I am, Lord, reporting for duty.

Put on the full armor of God…

Really, Lord? Can’t I just sweep the floor and wash the dishes? Putting on the armor means battle and I’d really rather be a handmaid in Your house.

Put on the full armor of God. So that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Eph. 6:11-13

Mentally I started putting on each piece of the armor.
The belt of truth.
The breastplate of righteousness—not my righteousness, Jesus’ righteousness.
The shoes of preparation of the Gospel of peace.
The shield of faith to put out the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The helmet of salvation.
The sword of the Spirit.

Okay, Lord. Here I am. Reporting for duty. Ready to work.

A sober peace settled over me even as an anticipation and watchful readiness of what He had for me to do that day filled me.

It’s more than just surrendering to God, it’s reporting for duty.

7 Tips to Help You Get Started Fasting

To be honest, when I decided to fast I expected to fail. I’ve often had problems with my blood sugar falling and getting the shakes bad enough that I made sure I was sitting down. Combine that with the major headaches I’d get and it seemed like a recipe for disaster. But I saw what fasting was doing in my friends’ lives and I wanted what they had. (If you missed the post on the reasons and benefits of fasting I found, you can read it here.)

Not surprisingly, God has taught me many things as I’ve begun fasting—things I never would’ve guessed. Here are some practical things about fasting that I learned the hard way.

Tips to help you begin fasting

  • Plan for it! Choose a day when it’s okay if you aren’t laser focused, in case the fasting makes your thinking a little fuzzy. Don’t choose a day when you know your stress level will be high. (Ask me how I learned that one. Yikes!)
  • Prepare for fasting by deciding the night before that you WILL fast. Don’t leave it up to your feelings because feelings are liars. It also helps to clear your work area of any snacks or candy that might be laying around so it’s not staring you in the face. Just sayin'.  
  • Give yourself time to build up to even a one day fast. Start small by planning on fasting through breakfast to begin with. Then gradually work up to longer periods of time. Celebrate every hour you fast and it will help you go longer.
  • Do not condemn yourself if you don’t make it as long as you planned or hoped. One time I knew I had to eat, so I did. Guilt came crashing down on me, followed quickly with negative thoughts about myself. It was awful. I felt like a massive failure, not just at fasting, but in every area of my life. God brought to mind that Satan is the father of lies, the great deceiver, and I realized the feelings were a mental battle. As soon as I could I got to my knees, confessed and laid it all out before God. I recounted everything I could about who I am in Christ and how much God loves me. Slowly but surely the feelings of failure and self-condemnation lifted and I turned my prayers from myself to everyone I wanted to pray for. I may not have made it fasting, but I determined to pray as if I had. The feelings of failing turned to joy and triumph as I spent time praying for those I had been fasting for.
  • Drink water. Lots of water! When the rumbling starts, pray and drink water. (Just realize this will make for more frequent restroom stops—yet another reason to plan well for the day you fast. ::wink::)
  • Have a response ready in case someone offers you something to eat. You want to be able to graciously decline without offending and without announcing that you’re fasting. Matthew 6:18 says “…so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
  • Have a plan in place for what you want to eat when you break your fast—otherwise you may overeat, or worse, go crazy with the first thing that your hand lands on, like the time I was unprepared and ate a candy bar, or three. Ouch! It not only upset my stomach horribly but made me aggravated with myself for doing something I normally wouldn’t dream of doing.

While you may see immediate answers to your prayers, don’t be discouraged. Keep at it and make fasting a part of your life. It's one of those investments that has a great return.

Why Should We Fast?

A while ago I was asked to speak on prayer and fasting, and I have to admit, I was surprised. I’m not one that is usually associated with that in my church so I really wondered why they chose me. I almost said no, but God whispered Yes in my heart. As I prayed over the topic He gave me a message on prayer and I wish I could tell you immediately started fasting, but I didn’t. That took almost a year.

During that year, God brought fasting to my attention many times and I began noticing things. After months and even years of maintaining the status quo, things were changing. It wasn’t overnight, but looking back I could connect the dots.

The change began to happen when people began fasting.

Results of Fasting:

  • My friends gained confidence in their prayers and prayer life—a confidence that only comes through prayer, lots of prayer.
  • Their prayers took on an authority that hadn’t been there before. (Hearing them pray is one of the perks of being in a small group with some of them and of being in Sunday School with others.)
  • Their peace and joy deepened even though parts of their lives grew tougher.
  • Answered prayers and progress made in some persistent areas.
  • Direction given, leading to times of growth individually and collectively.

When I finally connected their growth to their consistent fasting I wanted in. They were obtaining things that I’ve been seeking for five or more years. That led me to paying attention to what the Bible has to say about fasting.

Biblical Reasons We Should Fast:

  • The Bible assumes that you will fast. Matthew 6:16 says “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
  • In Jesus’ time, fasting was part of Jewish life and was expected.
  • Jesus modeled fasting for us when He went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days (Matthew 4:2).
  • The Bible connects fasting with repenting. “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Joel 2:12-13

Throughout the Bible we see the people of God fasting:

  • David: David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and wept and lay all night on the ground… Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?” 2 Samuel 12:16, 21-23
  • Esther and Mordecai: In each and every province where the command and decree of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing; and many lay on sackcloth and ashes. Esther 4:3; He sent letters to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, namely, words of peace and truth, to establish these days of Purim at their appointed times, just as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had established for them, and just as they had established for themselves and for their descendants with instructions for their times of fasting and their lamentations. Esther 9:30-31
  • Daniel: So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:3
  • Anna: …she (Anna) never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. Luke 2:37
  • Church leadership: While they (the Antioch church’s prophets and teachers) were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2
  • Paul and Barnabas: When they (Paul and Barnabas) had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Acts 14:23

When I looked at everything together I knew it was time I tried fasting. I didn’t commit to a regular time of fasting, I just wanted to try it a couple of times. But when I did that I found that I wanted to add fasting to my life. I wanted more of what I was sensing and learning.

What I learned from fasting:

  • I CAN go without food without having a major crash. It’s not always easy but the best things in life are not the easy things!
  • Food doesn’t have the grip on my life that it once did—and it’s really cool.
  • Hunger drives me to prayer—if I intentionally choose to quit thinking about food and commit to praying instead.
  • Having the right perspective about fasting is crucial. Fasting is something I get to do to draw closer to God and thank Him ahead of time for the opportunity. Going into fasting with anticipation changed my outcome. Dreading a fast puts me into a negative mind set which can easily lead praying less and griping more. I get to fast and it’s a special time I get to spend with God.
  • I pray more fervently when I fast.
  • My prayer life became more consistent and deeper.

Since I began regularly fasting I’ve received the direction I’ve been seeking for five years, and I’m growing in my relationship with God. I wish I had started fasting years ago!

Coming up next are some practical tips for fasting. Hope to see you!
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