This is new territory for me. Growing up in the denomination that I did, talking about faith and God isn't something I am very good at. That's for ministers and I wouldn't want to sound silly or, even worse, given someone a false idea about God. It's crazy how strange I find talking about faith. I guess my prayer should be that God guides my tongue and gives me the words that I need.
Let me start by saying that I am really enjoying this study, much as I always enjoy Beth Moore's studies. I'm a learner, a bookworm, someone who loves to read and learn new facts. I love trivia and connection and patterns and Beth gives me everything that I feel like I am missing in my own reading of the Bible. When I read, I want to know how one text relates to another and the time and geographic and theological links between different people and stories. Beth definitely gives me that. I know all the "big" Bible stories from growing up in the church and having done the "Old Testament Challenge" (we read through the O.T. as a church and did small group study), I feel like I know the O.T. fairly well. I grew up in a tradition that follows the lectionary (set readings for each Sunday on a three year rotation which omits huge portions of the Bible, especially from the N.T.) I know the gospels inside out but get me past the few first chapters of the book of Acts, and it's a struggle. It's so nice to get to travel in a new land!
I also love the fact that Beth doesn't shy away for the tough stuff. It doesn't take long to get into texts that are easy to avoid... James 1:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,(F) 3 because you know that the testing of your faith(G) produces perseverance.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial(T) because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life(U) that the Lord has promised to those who love him.(V)
I've always found these kinds of texts really hard. I'm nowhere near joyful in the hard times and to be honest, I always found that texts like these actually make me feel kind of guilty and shallow. At times, I am able to see small gifts in times of trial but honestly, pure joy it isn't. It's easy to put that down to "special people" (you know the ones, people who either need nothing and live in horrible conditions and serve the poor and truly seem happy... I don't do dirt or bugs and while I do feel shallow about it, that's not my way to serve). In doing the studying along with Beth, I heard a new message - these times of hardship serve a purpose - to develop in me the things that I am lacking, to strengthen me. It's not the hardships themselves that should make me happy but the strength, the wisdom, the clarity in how I see things that they bring that should give me joy. It's easy to do when I think of a very, very hard time I made it through a few years ago. I do have to admit, awful though that time was, so much good has come out of it, in part because of the fact that it blew some things open that needed to be addressed and in part, because it taught me to appreciate what I have. It did help me see my life in a different way. Will it change the way I see intense hardship the next time round? I hope so! I hope it will help me to trust God and to not be,
"like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind"
One other little thing that is speaking to me? Writing out James as I go. I have never written out a large text from the Bible as part of the study and now, I am wondering why I haven't. It really helps me to see each and every word and puts things in my mind in an entirely new way.
I hope I haven't seemed silly in my comments here - what I am saying doesn't read as being very deep to me but truly, I am feeling them in a very deep way. I'm looking forward to read what others are thinking.