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The No-Plan Bible Study

By | Katie Landers | No Comments

I really liked things planned. I like to know what the day holds and check tasks off my list as they get done. I like to know exactly what time we are leaving and when we plan to get back.

 

I get a little anxious (okay, a lot anxious) when there are things to be done and no plan to get them done. No plan is just enough to drive me crazy.

So here’s the funny thing. I started a study on the book of Ruth. Much to the dismay of my plan oriented self, I didn’t buy a single book on Ruth or subscribe to a single online Bible study about Ruth. It’s just me, my study Bibles, a few colored pens and my journal. And no plan.

Not a single one.

Growing up my family owned a very large Bible. It had a white cover, gold embossed wording on the front along with gold tipped edges on each page. In my little girl eyes, that Bible and others like it were only for priests, pastors and other smart ministry types (and those who could actually hoist it up and place it on a pulpit. It really was that huge!). It was not for the likes of me, that’s for sure.

Sitting down and reading through the book of Ruth with no Bible study to guide me is kinda like reading my families’ huge Bible–intimidating, scary and a little bit out of my comfort zone.

Why is it that the Bible seems so out of reach to the rest of us? We know it’s a book written for all of us so why are waiting for someone else to tell us all about it? 

The answers to those questions are many, I’m sure, but after a few days of wondering if I am doing this Bible study thing correctly, I’ve started to get into a groove. There’s really no one and only way to study the Bible, just the way that fits you best. I need to write. I have my journal and pens ready and I write, word for word, the text I am reading. Then I write down my thoughts or questions about what I just read or look up the same verses in another version. If I have unanswered questions, I use the study notes in my Bible or look up questions on-line (I am still in the process of discovering reliable on-line sources!).

The nice thing about this no plan way of studying is you get to veer of course when you want to. Just the other day I got stuck in the land of Moab, that city to the east of Jerusalem, right across the Jordan River. I wanted to know more about Moab. Why would Noami’s husband (Ruth’s mother-in-law) pack up and move there, of all places? What happened in the past between the Israelites and the Moabites? What happens after Ruth in Moab?

It’s been an interesting rabbit trail that has led into other books and events of the Bible. When we veer of course, we see God’s big plan a little bit clearer and fall a bit more in love with studying the Bible, learning the intricacies and connectedness of God’s book.

Maybe I could do this Bible study thing with no plan after all.

I think lots of us could.

If you want to give it a try, I’ve written a small prayer to give you the courage over at my website, katielanders.blogspot.com

Loving my Neighbor

By | Katie Landers | No Comments

The other day my husband came outside to see the neighbor kid putting stickers on his truck, not exactly what he expected to see. A little backstory here, I can’t even eat gummy worms in my husband’s truck, it is that precious. My children and all the neighborhood kids know not to mess with this truck. Apparently this little bumpkin didn’t get the memo.

He’s got it now.

My husband and I have been grappling a lot over this very topic: neighbors. Not neighbors as in the community-at-large neighbors. But the very living, breathing, honest-to-goodness neighbors living right next door, fence-to-fence, backyard-to-backyard, right across the way neighbors.

‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ we read and preach. Sounds easy – I just gave money to the local homeless shelter. Doesn’t that count?

Sure does. But not if I’m judging the people living right next door.

Every day I look out my kitchen window to see the beat-up hood of my neighbor’s old truck leaning against the side of his house. I spend a lot of time elbow deep in dishes at this kitchen window and truck hoods don’t really add to the aesthetics of my view.

But soap suds and car parts make for good reminders — instead of judging my neighbors and turning away from them, God is pressing deeply into my heart: These are the people I am calling you to love. 

Could it be that the people I so desperately want to turn away from are the exact people God wants me to turn towards?

When Jesus was talking all those years ago about loving your neighbor as yourself, could it be He wasn’t talking about far off people living safely across town, out of sight, not close to mind? Could it be He was talking about the person living way too close for my own comfort?

I’m sure He was because the Jesus I know isn’t a man of comforts.

And I got a feeling it’s the same for you. The very people you want to turn from, are the very same ones God wants you to turn towards.

I don’t know who they are for you but I am guessing they look different, talk different and dress different than you. They don’t take care of their yard like you do and they don’t stay quiet at night. You may judge them because their kids run through your yard or they sleep in on Sunday mornings.

God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). Seeking with the heart is different then seeking with the eyes. If I dig deep down in to my heart, there are places where I am lonely and I need a relationship to help me heal.

Seeking God can be seeking the lonely in others, being a real neighbor and seeking a relationship with the people whom you think no relationship could possibly exist. God rests in those who need a relationship. You’ll find Him in the neighbors, the lonely, the outcast. It’s in the least of these, the person very different than you, where you’ll find the deep layers of His love for us.

It’s hard to stop turning away. I am programmed to set my eyes on the floor when someone different walks by. It’s easier to look at the floor than to look in someone’s eyes. It’s harder to re-program myself to actively seek my neighbor, not just wait until they notice me.

But my heart longs to find God, to know Him and live in His deep love. There are times when finding God means finding my neighbors, loving them the best way I know how. There is no secret formula, sometimes it’s an awkward wave on your way out the door. Or asking for help because the lawn bags are stuffed too full. Or maybe it’s dessert at the doorstep just because.

Loving your neighbor takes lots of different forms and we need to find the ones that work for us and our neighbors. Continue to keep your eyes up and keep seeking, with all your heart.

Change is a Challenge

By | Keeping it Real | No Comments

Hello and much love from the cul-de-sac.

I’m back in town after a month’s worth of on-the-go like nobody’s business.

First stop – crazy, whacky, bizarre New York City. If you have been there recently, did you experience the 70-year-old naked women painted like Old Glory frolicking through Times Square? Insane, truly insane. Anyhow, every time I visit that megalopolis I think, “how do these people live like this?” The lunacy of overpopulation, overstimulation, and overindulgence smothers me. But ironically, I love it. For a moment. Three days tops.

So New York was our last attempt to soak up Emma-time before she hightailed it to Baylor. We shopped, dined, took in Phantom, Madam Tussaud’s, Lady Liberty, Ground Zero…yes, more food (specifically Junior’s cheesecake) and more shopping and a million miles worth of steps. I’m not kidding here. One. Million. So when we hopped in that Uber car, exhausted and full, there was only one thing left to do…sleep!

Touching down at O’Hare only launched us into full-throttle mode though. Sleep is for sissies you know? So packing and hustling we went, loading Emma’s belongings up for our 1,100 mile haul to Waco, Texas. Well, my son-in-law did most of the loading. We watched and cheered and blessed him for his never-ending help, and off we went.

Once Emma was settled, and we bid our tearful goodbyes, Tony and I hopped in our SUV bound for home. The cruise control was set and we made sparks fly on our 16-hour jaunt back home.

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That’s when the release valve popped! Months of stress came pouring out of my eyes, pairs of tears rolling down my face one after another, after another.  The sadness of leaving my baby so many miles from home, coupled with the stress and fear of trying to obtain a new homestead for GRM finally peaked. I knew it would happen, and so it did.

But I’m good now. I’ve pulled myself together, and I’m realizing that empty-nester life isn’t so bad, at least not this week, yet. But the fear that trips me up occasionally is GRM’s future. I feel a bit like Abraham ya know? Like when God said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

Ok, so I’m being a bit dramatic, but you know what I mean, right? Change can be challenging.

While poking around Pinterest the other day this quote grabbed my attention:

“EVERYTHING YOU WANT IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR”

IMG_5666Two weeks ago we submitted a revised letter of intent to the church, and over the weekend they met to discuss our intentions. So we wait. And pray. And anticipate a future in ministering to the community out of that adorable little white church on that “land” in the “Big Woods” that God showed me.

But we cannot make this happen without you and your help. Your talents, your passions, your expertise, and your resources are meant for Kingdom building.  You aren’t a part of GRM by happenstance. Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

Do you know that?

Do you believe it?

Have you given it any thought?

I know it’s scary. Trust me, I’m right there with you.

But author Robert Liparulo has something to say about fear. He writes, “Bravery is not the absence of fear but the forging ahead despite being afraid.”  Getting Real Ministries is forging ahead and I’m asking you to join hands with me. With us. Am I afraid? Yes, at times! But hey, I’m walking with God and so are you, so what is there to fear…right? Right?

So let’s go together, because it’s impossible to hold hands alone. Kingdom building is community work, and joining hands while skipping into our new land – just over the bridge – sounds like more fun than forging it alone!

Snappy Crabs

By | Katie Landers | No Comments

A Week Without Prayer Makes Us Crabs

Spring break is over and the kids and I are back in school, on the home-stretch to summer vacation. Yes! The break was nice and the rest well needed but during break, the kids and I became what we like to call ‘snappy crabs’–our definition for being crabby and grumpy.

And guess who was the biggest snappy crab? Me, of course! I could sense it over break but couldn’t seem to get any of us, especially me, out of our funk.

You know what was lacking over break? Looking back it is easy to pinpoint–we were lacking prayer. Those pinchers were out snapping because of one thing—no continual prayer. I didn’t wake up and start my day with my usual routine of prayer for my kids. I didn’t spend time at night with them in prayer or reading the Bible. Our dinners weren’t always together so there weren’t mealtime prayers. Yikes! We were out of zone and it showed!

I could blame the crabbiness on plenty of other things–late bedtimes, too much TV, not enough coffee. Those are all valid reasons in my book but I know in my heart the real reason was not enough prayer.

Prayer works. Spend a few days without it and you’ll find your step is out of sync. Next thing you know your husband’s on your last nerve, you’re picking out all his faults and he’s barely in the door from work. Those pinchers are out snapping now!

I know how hard it is to develop a prayer routine. And how much harder it is to maintain it. I feel your pain if you’re stumbling around trying to fit in prayer among the millions of others things you do every day.

I don’t have a magic prayer devotional that will change your prayer life in five easy steps. Or the next best book or study guide or website. I won’t even go on and on about journaling your prayers or waking up just five minutes earlier every day–haven’t we all heard it before, tried it before?

We all stumble with our prayer life. It happens. So when it does, start looking back. Start reflecting. Become a noticer of your life and the lives of those whom you love. How can the needs of those around you ignite you back into praying again? What do they need that only your prayers can answer? Has anything changed with you or them? Could the changes, the change in attitude, the change in behavior, the lack of love be because there’s a lack of prayer?

Don’t become hard on yourself and start feeling guilty. Just start noticing, start seeing with your heart what God is telling you needs prayers…maybe it’ s your family, your job, your friend, your attitude. Get back on your knees and lift up those prayers. Then watch for the change. Keep an eye out for it. It will happen, I guarantee it.

I put away my pinchers the other day and replaced them with folded hands. My heart is softening again towards my family. I heard giggles coming from my daughters’ shared bedroom and let me tell you, that’s definitely a miracle! Just last week I thought we might need to pull out the tape and split the room in half just to gain some sanity and now we’re laughing.

Prayer is necessary. I need it. My family and friends need me to do it for them.  I’m betting you and your loved ones need it too. So get started. No delays, no excuses. And once you start, sit back and prepare to be amazed.