Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Time Out

God calls us—but are we listening?

God is always calling to us, like he called to Israel:

I have spread out my hands all day to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts. (Isaiah 65:2)

He was calling to them but they weren’t listening. Are we listening?

In our culture we race through our days in a blur of activity, and truthfully, haven’t we heard others and even ourselves say, “I don’t have time for ….” We don’t have time for reading the Bible. No time for prayer. No time for … God. We “walk in the way which is not good, following (our) own thoughts.” And God calls to us, but too often we aren’t listening.

Then enters something unwanted, that slows us down, even stops us in our tracks. There is nothing like abject fear, pain, or a sense of powerlessness to drive us to our knees to cry out for help from Someone who is not overwhelmed by any of those things that can and do overwhelm us.

I wrote these words in the opening to Lesson 5 of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty. The Bible study is still in the writing stages, to be published next year.

After looking for the address to send my friend Marsha a card to encourage her as she goes through a seriously rough patch of life, I went to her blog and started reading. She has a gentle way about her and depth of insight from the Lord, for she walks with him and has cultivated a listening, servant’s heart.

I want to share this particular blog post, The Power of Silence, with you today. I hope you will not just read it and go on your way. I hope you’ll take the time to listen closely and let the Lord challenge you. I believe Marsha’s message is especially timely for us today.

Read her post here: http://www.marshasmusings.com/blog/the-power-of-silence


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Are we low enough to get up and go?

In my last post I shared from a journal I started back in 1995, a few months after we moved to West Virginia to start our work in community development, serving the people of McDowell County. Earlier in that year I had begun reading through the Bible, taking my time, absorbing not only the magnitude of the span of history I was reading about, but also pondering the depth of what was written. I wrote:

“As I read I realized how little I truly understand and grasp of the spiritual realm. To ‘walk’ through these pages of Holy Writ is an exercise in humility. It helps me put things into perspective.”

Today, in 2016, I still feel that way about the Bible! As I now write a Bible study guide to accompany my book, Brokenness to Beauty, I am constantly reminded when I read a verse or passage of Scripture, how amazingly relevant and applicable it is to our lives today.

From my journal:

“One of my most favorite passages is in Exodus 34:5-8. Here God fulfilled Moses’ demand/request to see God. Though he only saw God’s “backside” because of his great glory, the LORD proclaimed himself to Moses:

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’ Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.

This just struck me as so powerful! This is who God is. He himself declared it. It is quoted almost directly, in part, in a couple of psalms. I’m sure I’ll see it quoted in other books of the Bible as I read through it (I have).”

This passage, in which God tells Moses who he is and reveals as much of his glory as a human being can bear and still live, is to me one of those pinnacle moments in God’s revelation of himself to mankind. He declares who he is and what he is like, then throughout Scripture we witness how he proves it by his actions.

Compassionate and gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in lovingkindness. Abounding in truth. He keeps lovingkindness for thousands. He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. But he will mete out judgment for the guilty.

Think on these truths about God. May we make haste and bow low in worship of this Awe-inspiring God, as Moses did! Then get up and serve him faithfully the rest of our days.

 


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Cosmic Necessity–to write is to Move?

There must be a cosmic reaction to the act of writing which produces the necessity to move from one location to another. While writing Brokenness to Beauty we moved twice, once across the country, the next time across town. The distance of the move is almost irrelevant; you still have the same amount of work!

Now, while I write the Bible study guide for Brokenness to Beauty, we will be moving once again.[1] This time we are moving to southern California or “down south,” as they say here in the central valley. Having lived in the east most of my life, I have to do a quick mental switch from thinking of “the South” back east to the south part of California!

So now I am once again trying to downsize, going through the same stuff for the umpteenth time, trying to decide if I keep it or toss it. So hard! I am not a packrat but neither am I natural purge-r. I still have things my kids made while in school and now I am adding things my grandkids make! I think they call that sentimental.

I have several journals, all partially filled. I’m not a natural journal-er either (I’m making up these words as I go). I started reading the journals and decided I have to keep these little books. They are like records of the heart, keeping tabs on where I was and where I was going.

I also decided to begin sharing some of these journal notes, or “journey notes,” with you.

In May of 1995 Randy and I moved to West Virginia, establishing a home base for Mustard Seeds and Mountains, the community development organization we founded earlier that year. This would be our home for the next 17 ½ years. My friend Carolyn gave me a journal when we moved. Six months later I started writing in it:

November 13, 1995

I’ve decided to start writing down some of the thoughts which come to me from reading, studying and meditating on the Scriptures. I had started a systematic, meditative reading of the Word of God beginning with Genesis, earlier this year. In places God spoke to me powerfully. All throughout Exodus and Leviticus God gave little glimpses of insight. Unfortunately, I did not write these down, the same with Numbers and Deuteronomy.

As I read I was impressed with the knowledge and depth of meaning and spiritual richness in these books, especially Exodus and Leviticus. I felt as though I was in a canoe skimming over the surface, and down beneath me were the stores of riches to exceed all riches. I had a sense of the immensity of the person and wisdom and knowledge of God.

The physical symbols God gave—sacrifices, rituals, festivals—are “shadows” of the heavenly realities. What we live and experience are as vague and ungraspable as shadow, substance-less while infused with substance. The heavenly realities are Real. Though unseen, they are true, everlasting substance.

As I read I realized how little I truly understand and grasp of the spiritual realm. To “walk” through these pages of holy writ is an exercise in humility. It helps me put things into perspective.”

This is how I began, as I recorded my thoughts and impressions about the Word of God and what it was teaching me. Of course, it was the Spirit of God teaching me as I read and thought about the words of Scripture. And he continues to teach me as I go back to the Word regularly.

Next blog post, taking a break from packing and writing the Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty, I’ll share more from my journal notes, including favorite passages of scripture, like Exodus 34:5-8:

5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.[2]

Deep, eh?

To be continued.

[1] More on that later

[2] New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

https://www.biblegateway.com

 


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Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ” (Repost)

Last week I clicked on the link to read Susanne Maynes’ latest blog posting (you can read it on her blog here). Susanne is one of my blogging friends whose articles are thoughtfully written and rich with truth. I respect Susanne’s writing so much I asked her a few months ago if she would read and write a review of my book, Brokenness to Beauty, which she kindly did. You can read it on Amazon reviews (click here to read her review).

After I read one of Susanne’s postings, I often leave a comment, letting her know how much I appreciated what she wrote, how it encouraged me in some way. It’s sort of like a verbal “high five,” digitally sent hundreds of miles from my computer to to hers.

This time I read Susanne’s blog post and not only thanked her for saying so well what I believe and have tried to live, but told her I wanted to repost her blog post. She enthusiastically gave her assent. Thanks, Susanne!

Below is what Susanne had to say about a very important issue for us today:

Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ”

Have you ever read through the whole Bible chronologically just to get a feel for the over-arching story of God? If so, you may have noticed the same phrase which stood out to me this time around.

cross-from Susanne Maynes' blog 800x532

In my read-through for 2016, I was struck by the  New Testament theme of  “Obey the gospel.”

Nowhere did I read,  “Accept Jesus as your Savior.”  Nowhere did I see an invitation to “ask Jesus into your heart.” No, the call of the gospel is to die to the old, selfish way of life and rise to an entirely new life in Christ.

How do we do this? By means of obedience.

Please hear me out before your “legalism” trigger goes off.

It bothers me — nay, troubles me deeply — that the Church has reacted against rule-keeping to the point where we no longer talk about obeying the commands of Jesus.

Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” — John 14:15

Real faith is more than just accepting an offer for forgiveness. That’s the starting point, but it’s our obedience to Christ that demonstrates a changed life.

However, we’ve allowed pop psychology to worm its way into our thinking. We’ve bought the notion that Christianity is a self-improvement plan, the ultimate 12-step program, a way to feel better about ourselves and to fulfill our potential.

So we advertise a gospel that is really only half the story.

We talk about a Savior who has mercy on us and died so our sins could be forgiven. This is wonderful news — but there’s another dimension to it!

Jesus doesn’t just forgive us. He empowers us to live a different life. A holy life. A life that spreads the fragrance of his beautiful name in the earth.

God’s goal for us is not to make us comfortable and happy, but rather to transform us into the image of Christ (see Romans 12:2 and Corinthians 3:18).

Going back to my New Testament reading, I’ve placed our theme in italics here:

  • Romans 10:16 refers to the importance of preaching the gospel, and says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel…”
  • 2 Thes. 1:8 refers to the second coming of Christ and God’s judgment on “…those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
  • I Peter 4:17  refers to God’s judgment beginning with believers, and “…if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

That’s just a smattering of references to this idea, but do you sense the seriousness of the apostles on this topic? They’re telling us that some people will not obey the gospel — and that’s bad.

Did you catch the wording? It’s not that some will not “accept” the gospel. It’s that they won’t obey it.

One comedian describes how, as a boy, he would whine endlessly about a toy he wanted until his mom relented — whereupon all his pleading and grousing quickly turned into a flippant, “Thanks, Babe!” as he ran out to play.

Too often, we demonstrate a “Thanks, Babe!” attitude towards the Lord Jesus. Problem is,  we can be guilty of inviting unbelievers into a flippant, shallow faith — a faith that fails to produce change.

Paul writes this to the believers in Corinth so they will follow up on their promise to send a generous gift to another church:

“…others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ… —2 Corinthians 9:13

Wow! I want obedience to accompany my confession of faith. I don’t want to be a “Thanks, Babe” kind of believer.

You?

Visit Susanne’s blog at Susanne Maynes: Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion. Check out her website. She has good things to say, and write.

Leave me a comment; go to Susanne’s website and leave her a constructive comment about this post. Share it with others. This is a message we need to hear.


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The First Step to Building a Bible Study: Making a start

Not all the ladies who had been invited could attend, but we made a start. It was our first meeting to “build a Bible study” based on my book Brokenness to Beauty.

A few months earlier, when I first sat down to begin writing a Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty, I wondered how in the world I could write a Bible study for a chapter in a book that is rather like a portion of a memoir. That’s what the first chapter of Brokenness to Beauty is. It is “my story,” my life story in a nutshell. How do I make a Bible study to go with that?

About that time I’d been reading Psalm 145 in my daily Bible reading. I had camped out there for a week or so, reading and rereading that psalm every day. There was so much there, I just couldn’t move on.

Then I came to this question of developing a Bible study for the book’s first chapter about my life story.

When those two separate thoughts converged in my mind–my story and Psalm 145–it suddenly made perfect sense to develop a Bible study of Psalm 145 to go hand in hand with my life story. It would make perfect sense for every woman’s  story. I began writing.

This became the draft of a Bible study for Chapter One of Brokenness to Beauty that I used it at our women’s retreat in April. I did some rewriting on that first draft based on things I learned from the women as we worked through the study during the retreat.  This was exactly what I knew I needed: the contributions of differing perspectives, insights, comments and questions; and seeing the lesson in action. I learned so much in April.

It was this rewritten draft I handed to my friends gathered around my table on this first day of a “Bible study to build a Bible study.” As we also worked through the study, I made more margin notes as comments and insights were shared by my friends. Then followed more rewriting, adding and deleting as I considered the comments and suggestions given me that day.

This past Tuesday more ladies were around my table for our second Bible study to build a Bible study. Once again I handed out a rewritten draft of the study for Chapter One, plus a partial draft for chapters two, three and eight.

Progress.

I value these times with these women, and the perspectives and suggestions given me to ponder and pray about as I craft this Bible study. I wrote my book alone. I cannot write this Bible study alone. I need other women’s input.

Photo by Gaborfromhungary

Photo by Gaborfromhungary

 

My desire and goal in writing a Bible study to accompany Brokenness to Beauty is to provide women with the tools to help them grasp truths from God’s Word that will give them the strength to go through their tough times.

It won’t be my words that help them so much as my pointing them to the Words of God, who alone is our “very present help in trouble.”

 

 

Are you struggling with a burden that seems too heavy to bear, a trial that threatens to drown you? Do you wonder how you can make it through these dark days?

front cover

 

Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life was written for you.

Pick up your copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or WestBow Press Bookstore today.

Send me your comments or questions and I will prayerfully consider them as I craft a Bible study companion to the book.

 


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How to Build a Bible Study

“Do you have a Bible study for your book?” “Is there a Bible study guide to go with Brokenness to Beauty?” “You should write a Bible study for your book.”

After hearing these kinds of questions and comments a number of times since Brokenness to Beauty was published in January, I decided I did indeed need to write a Bible study guide to accompany the book. A start has already been made on Chapter One which I used at a women’s retreat in April. That weekend I got valuable feedback from my friends and learned a good bit about writing a Bible study (and we had a good time in the process, in the beautiful mountains near Bakersfield!).

Not wanting to wait until I wrote a Bible study, two groups of women have, on their own, begun studies based on Brokenness to Beauty. One group is in Georgia and one in a town near Bakersfield, CA. Pretty exciting!

front cover

And next week Tuesday a small group of women and I get serious about diving into a full-fledged Bible study based on Brokenness to Beauty. These women have agreed to work through each chapter with me, giving me their questions, comments, perspectives and insights. Obviously, this will not be your run of the mill Bible study!

This will be a Bible study “formation” group, that is, we will be taking what I’ve written in Brokenness to Beauty, and with the material generated from the input of these women, I will further develop topics and concepts I wrote about, delving deeper into the Scriptures, to form and shape it into a usable study for other women to use in the future.

Have you read Brokenness to Beauty? Do you have questions, comments, insights and perspectives you’d like to share with me to consider as I write this Bible study?[1] I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to email me at Jacqueline@brokennesstobeauty.com.

Brokenness to Beauty may be purchased online at Amazon books, Barnes and Noble and WestBow Press Bookstore.

[1] Submission of questions, comments, perspectives, insights, etc., is no guarantee these will be incorporated into the Bible study but I promise I will read and prayerfully consider all sent to me.


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Got God? The God Bigger than Your Problems?

I’ve met many inspiring writers in my blogging and book writing journey. Some of them I’ve asked to read and write a review of my book, Brokenness to Beauty. Some have asked me to do the same for their books. Debbie W. Wilson is one of them and I must say, her newly published book, Little Women, Big God: It’s not the size of your problems, but the size of your God, is a Bible study for women that captured my interest in the first few pages.

Little Women, Big God by Debbie W. Wilson

Little Women, Big God by Debbie W. Wilson

Wilson takes five women in the lineage and life of Jesus—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary, the mother of Jesus—and walks them right into your living room. She puts skin on these women who are only names to us in the Bible. They become real, live women we can recognize and relate to. Sometimes you will see yourself, sometimes a relative or friend, in the author’s insightful analyses of these women’s lives and the myriad of problems they faced. And the God in whom they trusted.

Debbie Wilson doesn’t just lightly skip over what the Scriptures say about these women, though. No, she boldly yet graciously goes deep with probing, absolutely relevant issues for women today. The statement in Scripture that “these things … were written for our instruction” (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11) was never more masterfully brought to light than in this Scriptural study of these five ordinary women in the biblical record.

This ten week study will definitely be worth the commitment of time and thought required to go through it. You will not come out the same for having learned at the feet of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary through the mastery of Debbie Wilson’s teaching. You will come out stronger in your faith in your Big God. Check out Debbie’s book, Little Women, Big God: It’s not the size of your problems, but the size of your God, and blog at www.debbiewwilson.com.