Thursday, January 28, 2010

Psalm 20

Plans, pleas, and victory

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob, protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion...May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans.

May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of God set up our banners...Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.

Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call."
From Psalm 20

In the beginning of Exodus, God repeatedly says he heard the groaning of his people and remembered the covenant he made with them. He begins to put Moses into action to take the people to the land he promised them.

My mom, Emma Jo Choate, prayer warrior extraordinaire, tells a story of a woman who called into a phone line at Van Dyke Church of Christ years ago. The woman asked for the church to pray over a concern and then said, "I will call back with the victory."

Since then, mom frequently says when there is a prayer request, “I will pray. You call back with the victory.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sodom Still Simmering

Another thought provoking response on the Sodom and Gomorrah blog. A friend from Mississippi writes:

Your comments on the Sodom narrative in Genesis reminds me of the words of the prophet Ezekiel:

"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." (16:49)

It amazes me when I look around at our society and see that we, too, are so self-oriented that it is acceptable to seek one's own personal satisfaction instead of being called to uphold and respect the basic human dignity of others who were created in just as much of the image of God as we were. There really is no limit to what we will allow ourselves to do for personal pleasure and satisfaction.

The more I study, the more firmly convinced I become that the sin of Sodom was that they were able to look at their fellow man (and woman) and see them as objects, not brothers and sisters. It makes me wonder, how far off are we?

The outpouring to Haiti has been touching. We can be so generous when we get the picture of the extent of suffering. We can be calloused to suffering of others closer to us--the day to day struggles of the working poor, for example.The comment by a South Carolina politician recently about children who get free and reduced lunch stung because the tone of the remark reduced them to less than human. Metaphors matter when leaders speak and teach. If he had spoken in a kind tone regarding the challenges of cultivating dependency, the offense would not have been so great. Contempt for the poor violates the Spirit of Scripture.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Reading for Revival Week Four--The Process

For my friends who have been corresponding with me—I did find a printable listing of the scriptures for each day on a website:

So, Week Four will find us in beginning in Exodus, and continuing in Matthew, Psalms, and Proverbs.

I glanced at the website which has lots of material each day. I have not yet even determined who puts it together, but I will be examining it from time to time for inspiration. Keeping up with the reading and finding some outside reflections on these subjects keeps me pretty busy. How about you?

I think it is good for me to stick to reading all week and posting on the weekend. I think short posts may be more readable than one long one.

I have been thinking so much about Genesis, although I have been doing the other readings, I haven’t had time to comment much on Matthew, Psalms, and Proverbs. If you are doing the readings and have something to share—questions, comments, even prayers, let me know. I’ll post your observations, too.

Themes I have been conscious of—you may have noted—are gender issues and general interpretative questions. As I read this week, I am looking out for ways God showed love and grace to the rascally people in these stories. I am also going to be doing some outside reading on the covenant to Abraham and want to write a bit more about that—because I think the love of God and the covenants made with man are the underlying messages to you and me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lessons for Little Ones?

Why are these stories in here? Are they for me to follow? Are they for me to formulate moral positions? Are they there to explain how things work in the world?

Are these early stories really lessons for little ones?

Jacob and Rebekah could be stars in a soap opera. A modern re-do of their story could rival Destiny, that lawyer series starring Glen Close.

Jacob stole from his brother; his brother did not kill him; he was blessed.
Jacob wrestled with God; God did not kill him; he was blessed.
Afterwards, Jacob was generous to his brother; his brother did not kill him; he was blessed.

He was one of the least deserving guys to receive such blessings.

That might be a lesson for us. We may wrestle with God. We may wrong others. We may, in spite of ourselves, be blessed.

Joseph’s saga shows that there are no new sins under the sun. Partiality and extreme sibling rivalry. Child trafficking and slavery. Neglectful, vengeful, and exploitative family members and dens of thugs. Rich urban women—like Potiphar's wife—can take their turn at being exploitative and deceitful—not just leaving it to hunting and gathering nomadic types like Eve and Rebekah.

Yet, Joseph inspires with the possibility that even the exploited, and the neglected, by the grace of God, can rise above circumstances and shine like stars in dark places.

That is a powerful story for children.

Some general reflections...

If you simply start reading Genesis, with no preconceived notions—nearly impossible—but if you try—you don’t see any descriptions of God that we give to him based on later passages of Scripture. You do not see the terms omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Theologians, though I find them very helpful, can sometimes function outside the narrative of scripture in assigning God traits. Many works of popular devotional literature call God these things, creatng systems for interpreting his actions that are certainly not laid out in Genesis. I am thinking in particular of the view of God's sovereignty that says he is completely unchanging, controls all actions of men, and that every particular thing that happens is His specific will.

These stories hold some problems for that view, I think.

The God of Genesis seems to be so far, a God creating, relating, contemplating, urging, bargaining, recompensing, and revealing himself to humanity.

If I understand Christopher JH Wright, the main take-away from these stories should be the actions of God in granting grace. Creating a beautiful Garden in which to live, with no initial effort for man. Granting Abraham wealth and promise, based not on his actions, but on his belief. His continued blessings on this flawed, but fascinating family, including Jacob and his sons. A study human nature and interacting with the divine. Agree?

Sodom and Gomorrah

In the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative, homosexuality is undeniably part of the story.

Were pervasive same-sex relations the reason for the destruction of the cities? Pardon my frankness, but this is what I am wondering—is the willingness to rape the visitors the outcome of homosexuality or is the homosexual rape part of a culture of all kinds of lust and brute violence? I am thinking of prison rape. Is it a function of homosexuality or is it a function of brute violence and lust?

I am asking because this story is used to condemn homosexuality today. Is that what this story is about? Is this an admonition to those who claim same-sex attraction and love?

Are the other stories in these chapters admonitions about personal moral conduct? How is this to interpreted in the context of all the other goings on?

God, Grace, and Faith

God made a promise to Abraham. Then, Abraham moved his family around. He offered his wife to rulers for as a concubine. He slept with his wife’s servant. He generously shared property and wealth with his nephew. He acquired enormous wealth. He routed tribes in short wars. He participated in bloody sacrificial rituals. He bargained with God. He nearly killed his own son. He gave a tithe to a mysterious, to me, priest, Melchezidek.

Abraham heard the voice of God and moved in the direction God asked of him. Abraham, sensitive to a number of divine directives, was deemed as right before God not for the sum of his deeds, but for his faith.

God’s promises to him seemed improbable if not impossible, and he certainly did not see in his life the totality of their fulfillment. The part he did see—the birth and life of Isaac—had to produce an increase of faith. I wonder how he processed all this in the middle of the night when he woke up and thought about Sarah, Isaac, Hagar, Ishmael, and the promise?

The fact that he was father two sons from whom came great nations fascinates me. The father of Islam; the father of the Israel; and we who are Christians are adopted as his offspring.

Reading for Revival Week Three-The God Gene?

God creates, relates, reveals...
How was Cain supposed to know God would reject his sacrifice?

In the flood narrative—it says that the people were evil. I wonder if they knew they were evil?

How did people know God?
How did they know, after the fall, what he expected of them?

The text doesn't reveal moral law being laid out for them.

Romans says that creation itself speaks of God.

Romans 2:14-15 states,
When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

Is this a function of the God gene? Is it the evidence of God?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reading for Revival Week Three-Selections

January 17
Genesis 35:1-36:43
Matthew 12:1-21
Psalm 15:1-5
Proverbs 3:21-26

January 18
Genesis 37:1-38:30
Matthew 12:22-45
Psalm 16:1-11
Proverbs 3:27-32

January 19
Genesis 39:1-41:16
Matthew 12:46-13:23
Psalm 17:1-15
Proverbs 3:33-35

January 20
Genesis 41:17-42:17
Matthew 13:24-46
Psalm 18:1-15
Proverbs 4:1-6

January 21
Genesis 42:18-43:34
Matthew 13:47-14:12
Psalm 18:16-36
Proverbs 4:7-10

January 22
Genesis 44:1-45:28
Matthew 14:13-36
Psalm 18:37-50
Proverbs 4:11-13

January 23

Genesis 46:1-47:31
Matthew 15:1-28
Psalm 19:1-14
Proverbs 4:14-19

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Isaac, Abraham--tell me why

I cannot think of a more troubling story told to me in my youth, with as little explanation or meaning, as the sacrifice---near sacrifice--of Isaac. Finally, I read an argument that one of the functions of this drama was to convey to Yaweh’s people that Yaweh would never require a child sacrifice, as was common in the era.

In the conclusion of this narrative, as you recall, God provided the ram.

In our narrative as Christians, God alone provides the child sacrifice, the Jesus, the lamb.

A little sweeter possibility to pass on to explain to our little lambs as bedtime story.

Years ago, my very good friends, Janie and Jimmie Lawson, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, introduced me to a book, An Eye for an Eye: The Place of Old Testament Ethics Today, by Christopher JHWright. No book ever gave me more delight in my understanding of the Bible. I cannot find my copy of that book right now, but I do have another one by him, Walking in the Ways of the LORD, The Ethical Authority of the Old Testament. I find them a little difficult, since I am not a formal theology student, but they have given me some theological background that helps me form a more coherent story in scripture.

It’s easier to read the Old Testament with some guidance. Christopher JH Wright is a protegee of the John RW Stott, the venerated Anglican leader.

Revival Reading Rated R

The Flood-Under 17 not admitted--sexuality, violence, some nudity
This sounds more like a Greek or Roman story of divine beings and humans interacting than I remembered reading. It makes me wonder about divine and human connections, about the realm of invisible spiritual warfare. Check out this from Genesis 6

1 When the people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that they were fair, and they took wives for themselves of all they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days will be a hundred and twenty years."
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. They were the heroes of that were of old, warriors of renown.”

So picture, the Nephilim, reportedly a population of giants from this primeval period, cavorting with the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of the earth, these warriors of renown. Whatever this is about, obviously God was not very happy with the carrying on and as a consequence put an end the era of five, six, seven hundred year-old people.

Imagine the market for plastic surgery in those days.

Eventually, semi-divine hanky panky combined with the total depraved conduct of the population of the fallen world, provoked God to plan destruction upon them all.

When I was a child I don’t remember really liking the flood story much, but I don’t remember being terrified by it. I think because there was a lot more emphasis on how cool the ark was with the gopher wood, pitch, and all the animals. I did not like the idea of the folks drowning, but I think I pictured it like folks were knocking on the door wanting in and getting turned away. I never thought of the wrenching fear and utter destruction of this event. I don’t think I ever reflected on in meaningful way until the tsunami of 2004 and the destruction of the shore Bande Aceh, Indonesia.

I cannot really imagine what they found on the earth when the waters receded. Horrible thought.

The pervasive nature of the flood narrative throughout many cultures actually helps me have more faith. It doesn't necessarily make me like it much, however--not that it matters.

Further, the rather unflattering story of naked Noah and his sons makes me think the writers were more interested in conveying a story of the nature of man and God then in trying to create heroes for hearers to worship.

Any insights out there on the Nephilim and the warriors of renown?

Childbirth--Curse or Climax?

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in you will bring forth children.”

The New Oxford Annotated Bible gives a helpful comment on the above found within Genesis 3:16-19,
“Though this is often understood as a “curse” of the woman to pain in childbirth, the word “curse” is not used in these verses. Others have suggested that this text sentences the woman to endless “toil” (not pain) of reproduction, much as man is condemned in v.17-19 to endless toil in food production. The man’s rule over the woman here is a tragic reflection of the original connectedness between them.

This tops some interpretations coming down through the eons around about woman and childbirth and God. Some folks used to have a creepy view that women should not even take Lamaze classes for fear of relieving the pain God assigned to women. My sister, Deborah, gave me The Joy of Natural Childbirth, when I was expecting my firstborn. This little volume begins telling the story of a couple who, while expecting their first child, went to their pastor for some biblical insight into childbirth.

The author, the late Helen Wessel, used this vehicle to dispel the teaching of the curse of pain and espouse the view of childbirth as toil—labor. If I recall correctly—it’s been nearly 29 years since I read it—she equates the birth of child as tantamount to the ultimate, euphoric sexual climax. Hmmm. Wessel may have overstated it, but she makes a vibrant case for women, childbirth, and the grace of God in Christ.

I recommend it.

Wow, Woe, Whoa

Adam saw Eve and proclaimed, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” I heard this could be interpreted as saying, "Wow!" Maybe so.

Not long after that, he might have cried, "Woe." The fall troubles Adam, the rest of humanity, of course, and depending on whom you listen, the woman’s culpability, creates degrees of trouble for the wow sex. A reader on this blog said, “But I still feel that the curse of Eve is emblazoned on all women to wear as a scarlet letter to be forever ruled by men.” That response gave me pause. It may be because the tradition in which I grew up doesn’t really teach a doctrine of original sin in the either the Catholic or Calvinist tradition, I have never been inclined to reflect much on the curse of Eve in such an intense way.

I did once hear a highly regarded minister say that it just means that women are more inclined to sin than men. I pause. I say, "Whoa."

"As an atheist, I truly believe Africa Needs God."

In case you missed the following article last year, I wanted to post it as an observation of some of the good done by the Christians in Africa. Times writer, Matthew Parris, winner of 2005 Orwell Prize for Journalism, spent much of his youth in what is now Malawi. In December of 2008, he wrote

But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

Read the whole article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Does religion cause the violation of women's rights?

As I read through the Bible this year I am taking note of the story of men, women, and God as it unfolds. I have already noted that though men are definitely the power brokers, at least the women were not circumcised in Genesis. Okay, so a virgin daughter or two are offered to crowds of men in lieu of offering male house guests—virtual strangers for—sex. Okay, so Abraham gives his wife with benefits to several men to avoid being killed.

Observe, I still, even after reading more than twenty chapters in Genesis, hold out hope for a good story to unfold for women.

Also note, I made a decision when I was about 24 years old to keep my mouth shut about woman’s role in the church. I convinced myself that I would not have any credibility in the Church of Christ unless I could prove that I could be a good wife and mother. I would have to hold my tongue on my the view that women are marginalized in church practice due to a misappropriation of a few select verses written by the good bachelor Apostle Paul—until I was 50.

Well, I would not approach the issue with such reasoning today—now that I am well over 50. Certainly titles, offices, and power are not what Jesus sought. He did, however, come to “preach good tidings to the poor...proclaim the release of the set at liberty them that are bruised.” Throughout the world, women fall into these categories day in and day out.

Juxtapose the above proclamation of Jesus with a comment I heard many times through the years in women’s Bible studies in Churches of Christ, "Remember, in Christ, we have no rights.”

Did you ever hear this? How would you have responded? Sometimes people would say it in response to the hymn in Phillipians 2 in which Jesus did not claim his equality with God, but made himself a servant. However, how damaging is it to re-write this and tell women they should not claim rights?

New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, in his January 9 piece entitled, "Religion and Women" challenges leaders in world religions, those who devote their lives to their faith, to take steps to stop the oppression of women. He says, “Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior.”

I have a thought, and I wonder if you agree. Many leaders in Churches of Christ agree that women can speak in the regular assembly—as they do in Sunday school classes, small groups, and after the “closing prayer,” but they do not make it a practice in their churches for fear of offending some—in particular, the more conservative women. When will those male leaders in our churches stand up for the women of the church whose gifts are stymied and marginalized while they enjoy using their talents in full employ?

I think most of the church leader fellows I know are nice guys thinking they do not want to rock the boat for the more conservative members of their congregation. I wonder if they ever consider that they may be part of a very big global problem?

What do you think?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reading for Revival Week Two Selections

from the One Year Bible: The Entire New International Version Arranged in 365 Daily Readings, Tyndale House Publishers, 1986

January 10
Genesis 23:1-24:51
Matthew 8:1-17
Psalm 9:13-20
Proverbs 3:1-6

January 11
Genesis 24:52-26:16
Matthew 8:18-34
Psalm 10:1-15
Proverbs 3:7-8

January 12
Genesis 26:17-27:46
Matthew 9:1-17
Psalm 10:16-18
Proverbs 3:9-10

January 13
Genesis 28:1-29:35
Matthew 9:18-38
Psalm 11:1-7
Proverbs 3:11-12

January 14
Genesis 30:1-31:16
Matthew 10:1-25
Psalm 12:1-8
Proverbs 3:13-25

January 15
Genesis 31:17-32:12
Matthew 10:26-11:6
Psalm 13:1-6
Proverbs 3:16-18

January 16
Genesis 32:12-34:31
Matthew 11:7-30
Psalm 14:1-7
Proverbs 3:19-20

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Reading for Revival Week One

Creation Comments

Recently,a young adult friend of mine posted this as his Facebook update, "Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise, there wouldn't be religious people."

Among the thirty or so ensuing comments was his unconfession of faith and a passionate series of irrational comments about evolution and seven days of creation. This week as I read through the creation narrative a few things came to me.

Genesis 1:1-:2:3 pulsates with powerful images. A dark watery void. Chaos. Then comes the wind of God blowing over the deep, speaking order out the chaos, calling for light, crafting the sky, dividing oceans with dry land. Wind speaks trees into existence. Seed bearing plants appear. Sun, moon, stars, planets fly into motion. God speaks birds and fish into their elements. He gives voice and vegetation comes forth. Then out of the earth, the creation of humankind—male and female.

If I were to write something for my children to help them understand their origins, I could write about how Ken and I loved each other and how it took an eternity for us to decide to marry. I could tell them about the days around their birth and what it meant to us. There would be hyperbole, some figurative language. Nonetheless, a story of our family could add to their sense of identity, of their place in the universe. Now, if they need help determining their genetic make up to plan some medical treatment, my love narrative would not suffice. My story predates much of the latest genetic research.

When I hear some of the comments made about creation and science, arguments over the literal, figurative, or “scientific” nature of Genesis, I know why, in part, my young friend begins to find religious folks irrational. Besides, a literal interpretation is interrupted in the next section, Genesis 2:4b-25, as this second creation narrative differs in the order of events.

A venerable brother at a church I used to attend, a PhD in one of the sciences, makes an ornate argument for a literal--what is called “young earth” interpretation--of Genesis. When I listen to his various observations in support of a literal seven day creation, I find it fascinating, but fantastical. However, I deeply appreciate the disclaimer he gives at the beginning of his presentations on the topic. He explains that he thinks the discussion of these things is important because it is in the Bible, but there were no eyewitnesses to creation, so we remain limited in our knowledge in that way. We are left to examine, to consider. When it comes to salvation, however, we rely completely on Christ, for whom we have eyewitness testimony. This creation narrative matters--but the interpretation of it cannot be where we place our hope.

I think Genesis is a place to wrest a sense of identity—we are created with a spiritual likeness. There is love, power, and passion connected to our being. But what this story does not do, in my understanding, is put forth scientific proofs or assertions. It’s a story of beauty, love, and identity, but not a scientific treatise. The creation narrative predates science. It is not science. If we need science, we can go to science.

Come to think of it, this part of Genesis also predates history.

My children learning scientific details, even more historically accurate details, of the narrative of our early years and their birth, would not make my story a lie. It remains a true love story.

I don't think we should wage cultural war over this passage of scripture. We should wage confidence, courage, and wonder as creatures of a great and mighty God.

Nakedness and Trees

On the way home from work this week, I heard what I thought was an odd story on NPR about author Diana Wells, and her recent release, Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History. She presents over 100 trees and stories about how these trees derived their names and how certain people have interfaced with these trees. She asserts that trees are very much bound to our lives and are, of course, important to our planet. She spoke of the Japanese Cedar and the practice of “forest bathing.” She says, "You go into the forest and soak yourself in the trees," she says. "I live where there are woods and I will [do that] quite often and let the trees feel as if I'm part of the forest. It's very, very soothing — it's beautiful." I am pretty sure she said this soaking takes place sans clothes. My gut reaction was “whack job.” More reflective second reaction was “pagan.”

Then, I went home and worked on my new commitment to read through the Bible in a year, and started reading the Garden of Eden narrative. Very naked. Very tree oriented. Not so pagan, really. I mean it is in the Bible. I have become fascinated by the life giving, wisdom giving nature of the tree stories in Genesis. Then, today we sent to see Avatar. Very naked. Very tree oriented. I started to think about Lord of the Rings. Not necessarily naked, but very tree oriented.

I was intrigued by the provision of God for men and animals of green plants and fruit bearing trees for food. First few chapters—pretty vegan. Seems like Able actually had better cred with God over the fruit of earth type sacrifice and that for some reason, the animal sacrifices didn’t cut it. I found it remarkable that it was only after the flood that the narrative included, “The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea; into your hands they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you, and just as I gave your green plant, I give you everything.”

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Revival ala Julie & Julie

This life in Christ. I’ve been at it hard for most of my life. I and a cadre of Christian friends experienced theologically a sort of Vactican II, Age of Aquarius meets Alexander Campbell, with a nod to Pat Boone’s A New Song, upbringing. I am a boomer with a veneer of postmodern bred of an Eastside of Detroit public education sent South to a Christian college.

Growing in a veritable Church of Christ ghetto in suburban Detroit, my childhood was blessed by parents in love with each other, kinfolk who cared deeply for us, and kindly neighbors. Good memories abound.

Yet, in my young world, the Catholic kids I went to school with were all taught that I was going to hell for not being a Catholic. The Church of Christ I attended taught that the Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, were sadly, all lost. I learned that we Church of Christ kids, we were Neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jew. I read it on a little tract on a rack in my church foyer.

I credit the genesis of my ecumenical spirit to a moment at Michigan Christian Youth Camp when a college aged Bible teacher read aloud from a little volume called Voices of Concern, a collection of letters from earnest Church of Christ folks who just couldn’t take the sectarianism, called “Church of Christism,” anymore, and went denominational. I was in the eighth grade. Reading The Chosen, by Chaim Potok further influenced on my approach to orthodoxy. I was just over forty. I won't say how old I am now, but I was born the same year Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England--the current Elizabeth.

My mom posted a sticker with a verse from the King James Version of the New Testament, Philippians 4:11b, on my bedroom door when I was child. It read, “I have learned therefore, in whatsoever state I am in, therein to be content.” It made an impression on me because post high school, I found a way to be content living in Michigan, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nebraska, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee.

I have embraced and have been embraced by, loving congregations in all of these places. No two people have been treated more kindly than my husband, Ken Dowdy, and I, through our 35 years in these communities. We are deeply grateful for the grace, mercy, and love we have experienced.

Most of these churches only faintly echoed the harshest teachings of my youth. In with all the sweetness, I often chafe at the latent judgment, sectarianism, and sexism in the culture of this movement. These elements seem to be derived in part from theology, and partly from regional and socio-economic factors.

Of late, the church experience notwithstanding, it has been my own personal failings and the vicissitudes of life that most challenge my walk of faith. Sometimes I fear I may have become “as one of the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word and it yields nothing.”

In addition, several young people with whom I am acquainted, and whom I love well, have left the faith of Christ. This grieves me so deeply that sometimes I fade into thinking that if I just didn’t believe so intensely, their leaving the faith would not cause such a wound to my heart.

I need a personal revival to finish the course, to keep the faith. I need to renew relationships to help me finish the course, to keep the faith.

In my childhood, I was taught “five steps of salvation.” The first step was that one must HEAR—“for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Reflecting on this "step" and inspired by Julie of Julie & Julia, I thought of a plan to revive my faith by reading the Bible through this year and blogging my experience. I intend to read through the One Year Bible, The New International Version arranged in 365 Daily Readings. I confess to a complete lack of diligence in my reading over the past few years.

I will read daily and post weekly. I thought that a few of my friends might join me and share questions and revelations. Read just Old Testament; read just the New Testament; read just the Psalms; or read just the Proverbs. Just read and share. I am already playing catch up because this all just came to me on January 4.

January 1
Genesis 1:1-2:25
Matthew 1:1-2:12
Psalm 1:1-6
Proverbs 1:1-6

January 2
Genesis 3:1-4:26
Matthew 2:13-3:6
Psalm 2:1-12
Proverbs 1:7-9

January 3
Genesis 5:1-7:24
Matthew 3:7-4:11
Psalm 3:1-8
Proverbs 1:10-19

January 4
Genesis 8:1-10:32
Matthew 4:12-25
Psalm 4:1-8
Proverbs 1:20-23

January 5
Genesis 11:1-13:4
Matthew 5:1-26
Psalm 5:1-12
Proverbs 1:24-28

January 6
Genesis 13:5-15:21
Matthew 5:27-48
Psalm 6:1-10
Proverbs 1:29-33

January 7
Genesis 16:1-18:19
Matthew 6:1-24
Psalm 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-5

January 8
Genesis 18:20-19:38
Matthew 6:25-7:14
Psalm 8:1-9
Proverbs 2:6-15

January 9
Genesis 20:1-22:24
Matthew 7:15-29
Proverbs 2:6-15