Most of you know that after moving back to the mainland from Hawaii, Tom and I both lost our dear mothers as well as my own dad. Even as I write this a lump forms in my throat but then at the same time I’m reminded of the snarky quote from The Importance of Being Earnest, “To lose one parent may be regarded as misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness.” Well, at least we know God’s not careless! Never in our lives have we seen what seems like painful loss turn out for our own good and God’s greater glory as we have in the past few years. 2021 proved no different.
To begin with, Tom’s dad remarried and moved out of the family home leaving it vacant. Months later Tom lost his job at Hartland Christian Camp forcing us to relocate into that same childhood home he grew up in. Next thing we know, the very same school Tom taught at years ago calls up and says they need an English teacher again. So now he’s back in the classroom, which he loves, at Fresno Christian Schools which is a 6-minute bike ride from our house! You might be thinking, “Wow, God sure is good!” And you’re right. But He’s not just good, He’s lavishly so. Tom’s work schedule has allowed him to continue his MDiv training with The Master’s Seminary, even to the point of having his last period off so he has time to drive the 40 minutes to our church which is a satellite campus for TMS.
The church itself is an amazing testament to God’s lavish goodness in our life. Right after college, Tom was living in LA and attending John MacArthur’s church. One Sunday, a young pastor, Scott Ardavanis, was filling the pulpit and preached on Ephesians 2:1-9. Even though Tom had grown up in a Christian home, he had never been faced with his own sin and need of a Savior like he was on that day. His life was dramatically changed by the saving grace of Christ. Soon after, he took a position as a youth pastor in Cayucos, CA where we met and married. After we were married he wanted to return to LA to attend seminary, but being the immature and selfish young bride that I was reminded him that I promised to follow him anywhere on earth but Southern California. Years later, while we were living in Hawaii and spending summers up at Hartland, we found out that the same Pastor Scott was pastoring a church in Kingsburg, a small town outside of Fresno. We were thrilled to be able to visit a few times during those summers and then more often when we moved back to CA. Would you believe that God in His great mercy, after I had dug my heels in about moving to LA for seminary, was gracious enough in His own time, to bring the seminary to us?!? This past year our boys were able to sit under the preaching of Pastor Scott as he exposited the book of Ephesians, even the same passage that so radically changed their father’s life years ago.
Even though moving from our beloved mountains down to the city has been a crazy transition for us, the boys are thrilled to finally be able to be more involved at church and are growing so much in the Word and through godly influences there. I’m continuing to facilitate an on-line ladies Bible study for ladies who can’t attend the in-person gatherings. At the end of January we will be diving into the book of Psalms and I can’t wait! A number of ladies join us via Zoom from out of state and even as far as Canada and Australia. If you’re looking to be a part of something like that, please let me know!
Now about those boys. Titus (just turned 18!) graduated from high-school a year early and is now entering into a classical guitar program at Fresno State which is a short walk from our house across their agricultural fields and orchards. (You can check out his playing on his Youtube channel by clicking here). Joel (16 1/2) is living his dream working for a crazy Hollywood stuntman who invented a machine to eradicate ground squirrels from farm land. He’s literally getting paid to do what he was doing for fun all day in the mountains. He also dabbles in school work on the side in a sad attempt to finish a year early as well. He and Ty are both in the market for a used truck if any of you have any leads. There’s some urgency in this not just for work but they also now have to commute to all their favorite hunting/fishing spots. Also, Joel’s adorable black lab keeps puking in our car and we’ve had enough of that. They’ve amassed quite a following on their other Youtube channel called 4600 Outdoors which chronicles their mad skills of hunting down critters, killing them, and making them taste good. Nate (14 1/2) lives part time at the climbing gym and part time in his own head dreaming about climbing (if any of you knew his Grandpa Jim, you’ll know where that came from). He comes down out of the heights periodically to get his own school work done and to build stuff and is proving to be quite the master craftsman. Sam (12 1/2) is our cowboy without a cow or a horse so has had to settle on herding chickens in our backyard instead. He rides other people’s horses every chance he can get and won his first real silver buckle for first place at the Backcountry Horseman competition by box-hitching a mule in under 2 minutes. He’d learned how the day before. He has a keen business sense and quite an odd-job operation going in the neighborhood. The oddest of which being how he managed to buy all the chickens from his brothers that I had bought for them with the hopes of saving money since they’d each be collecting their own eggs to eat every morning. Now he has a monopoly on the chickens and is charging me for the eggs. Gideon (8) just loves airplanes, helicopters and anything else that can fly including his two pet parakeets, a blue one named Friday which we purchased on a Saturday and a yellow/green one named Blue which we purchased on a Friday.
So much about our life makes no sense, I know. But what is undeniably clear, is God’s goodness and faithfulness to weak, undeserving sinners like ourselves. Just as He has turned painful trials in our own life into glorious means toward our sanctification and the furthering of His kingdom, we can trust that all the tumult we witness in the world around us is only a means to those same ends. There may be more pain and upheaval in 2022 but we can trust His sovereignty over it. I love how the new Legacy Standard Bible words it in Psalm 23:6,
“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of Yahweh forever.”
Remember our challenge this summer is to LOOK TO CHRIST, our goal is the JOY SET BEFORE US, and now we’re going to talk about HINDRANCES that keep us away from our Bibles.
1) I don’t have TIME: reading 4 chapters takes about 15 minutes a day
2) I don’t have a BIBLE: Amazon to the rescue! Click here for a cheap paperback. Here for an easy to read single column giant print version. Here for a great note-taking edition. Here and here for these handy grab-what-ever-book-you’re-on-and-go journaling Bibles.
3) I have DIFFICULTY reading: the Same Page Summer reading plan will be available on the free YouVersion Bible App which has an audio feature that will read for you while you drive, walk, or work around the house. You can even play it aloud for the whole family to hear!
4) I can’t CONCENTRATE on long readings: To help keep our focus on Christ I’m going to give you a theme or idea to highlight or listen for in each book.
5) I don’t UNDERSTAND the Bible: Psalm 19:7 says that God’s Word makes even the simple, wise. When God gives you a new heart, He also gives you a new mind. 1 Cor. 2:16 says that if the Holy Spirit is in you, then you have the mind of Christ with which you can discern spiritual truths! This doesn’t happen instantly. It happens over a life time of spending time in His Word and with His people. God put other believers into your life to sharpen you! So ask questions when you read something you don’t understand! If your husband is a believer, ask him first (1 Cor. 14:35). Even if he doesn’t always have the answers, your relationship will definitely benefit from this practice.
6) I always fall BEHIND: If you miss breakfast do you ever give up on lunch and dinner because you’re behind on your meal plan? Why do we do that with our spiritual food? The point of the Bible Reading Challenge isn’t to check off all the boxes, it’s to set your eyes on Christ and be fed by every word that proceeds from His mouth. This isn’t a diet, it’s a feast. So there’s no messing up! If you miss any readings just jump in on the next day.
7) I’m a MOM: Moms with littles in the house rarely experience the luxury of what is known as the “Daily Personal Quiet Time.” The Bible Reading Challenge is designed to help you throw off idolatrous visions of coffee shop tables strewn with journals and gel pens. We all know that’s not going to happen on a daily basis. This is a moving feast. It goes where you go. It feeds you where you are. Click here to read a blog post I wrote to encourage you moms.
8) I feel GUILTY when I read the Bible: This last one keeps us out of the Word more than we’d care to admit. The law acts as a mirror, exposing us to our sin. This is and should be very uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t keep us from reading our Bibles. Remember, we’re looking to Christ. And because He is the perfect fulfillment of the law, yes, we will by all means see clearly where we have failed. But we will also see how freely He forgives, how fully He restores, and how faithfully He works in us for HIs glory and our good.
I’m sure there are more hindrances you could add to this list, but this summer we’re throwing all those aside and together, “looking Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2