A tree firmly planted by streams of water


I have always loved Psalm One. Like a promise for good and not evil, it has wooed me to righteousness:  

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.  (Psalm 1:1-3)




Trouble is, sometimes I forget the over-arching reality of a sin-stressed world, and feel sucker-punched and surprised when difficulties come:


I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b, NLT)


Trials and sorrows. Other translations promise troubles and tribulation, distress and disease, and suffering, but through it all... He offers us peace.




Peace is not what I imagine when I think of prospering. The prosperity Gospel I've heard preached, promises wealth and health.  But what if our prosperity is Peace?  Peace with God eternally and His Peace here and now, though the storms rage.  Peace, because of the nourishing streams that our roots drink up as we abide in Him. Peace, rather than blown chaff. Peace. So we take heart, time and again, each hard day, driving roots of faith down deep into streams of living water, believing that God overcomes it all.


And all that's good and true, though still, as a Christian, I find myself blindsided each time pain and loss come close to my skin.  Oh, how very sly the prosperity Gospel can be, sneaking into our lives, whispering again, health and wealth. Telling us that we deserve joy and ease and every good fruit because we've believed - and to top it off we've not sinned too terribly bad, compared to some others. "Suffering should be reserved for those who make us look good, the true sinners."  But suffering shows no partiality. No, that's not true, Christians are promised a greater degree of suffering this side of glory, for we are called to share in the sufferings of Christ.


In light of that, though it just doesn't seem right or fair to my ease-loving sensibilities, I am intensely grateful for deep roots, living water and peace.


Job: A man God Himself described as righteous in all accounts, and still the sorrowing, suffering shame of tribulation buffeted him terribly, as He cried: "I always expected to live a long time and die at home in comfort. I was like a tree whose roots always have water and whose branches are wet with dew." (Job 29:18-19) Shaking his fists toward heaven, Job sought the water that would revive, and survived the pruning that brought life again to his bones. "For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant." (Job 14:7-9, NKJV)



Tree, by Laura Willingham Walker 


As a child I believed God's Word, and all the sweet Sunday School teachers, and the simple promise: Abide, and you will bear fruit.  But at 41 I'm seeing now that fruit doesn't simply grow like a trophy on a tree.


[Tweet "Fruit is hard earned through the refining fires of real life. "]


Today I am taking a moment to rest under the shady boughs of peace, believing, standing firm like a tree firmly planted by streams of water; drinking deeply regularly, day and nighttime too.


No matter the sincerity of your heart, the tenacity to which you cling to our Savior, nor the way you share your faith with others, we still live in a battle-field wrought with trouble, loss and disease, and an unrelentless enemy.


But do not loose heart, dear friend, though your back is wracked with pain, your child is struggling with emotional instability, your husband's test results have come back positive, and money can't stretch near enough. Shake your first at heaven if you must, but in the end let us each one choose to take heart and believe that God is good and will indeed overcome this world's sin-stained sorrows, and bring water to the sun-scorched places.


"And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail." (Isaiah 58:11)


[Tweet "God is good and will indeed overcome this world's sin-stained sorrows."]


Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:12-13)


I am reading through the bible and painting my way through as well.  And you are welcome to join me on this journey.


If you are currently reading God's Word, please share in the comments below where you are and what His active Spirit is revealing to your listening heart. I love to learn from you all as well. Sincerely,



In the beginning God created...


In the beginning God created...


The heavens and the earth, the sun and moon, the seas that teem with living things, and the mammals with their furry pelt that feed upon grass and berries. Filling the atmosphere with every winged creature, and star-speckled space beyond our skies, gravity miraculously holding it all together.  He caused the moon to move a steady pathway around the globe, creating the tide pull and the ocean's yielding response, lapping upon the shoreline, caressing each grain of intentionally designed sand.


All this God created - And it was very good.


And yet more vast than creation is the creative nature of God Himself - The One who spoke everything into existence, including mankind in His image.


So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

(Genesis 1:27)


Halfway home my middle child confessed, "I didn't bring my spelling book home and I have a test tomorrow." We turned around and drove to school again.  Walking together toward his class we passed the art room with the door ajar, and I saw the sign hanging, pronouncing,


In the beginning God created...


That dear woman who teaches my children art saw me then, and I looked into her eyes and told her what I had just learned, what I'm now tell you: We were made in the image of this Creator God. She nodded back. "That's what I tell the children."


There is a movement abreast in the Christian community, specifically among women, where God's created people are opening up His Word and creatively responding back within the pages of their Bibles.  For years we've dared write within the margin spaces, like a conversation with the Holy Spirit.  But in recent months many have taken to doing something even riskier than write... they've dared create on those pages. With watercolors and pencils, creative women are reflecting God the creator as the moon reflects the sun. Light bouncing off light-bearers. And there's been no better time in history for paint to splatter thin Bible pages then right now, for Instagram and Facebook carry the images to the rest of us like a visual Bible Study.


Inspired, I decided to try my hand at it as well.




As I read again God's creation story, I thought of Aslan breathing green shrubs out of a naked orb in "The Magicians Nephew," the classic children's tale by C.S. Lewis that precedes his famous "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." It's always been one of my favorite interpretations of creation, with the King of Creation singing it forth, and the whole planet responding to his hot breath.


Most people I know get hung-up on those first six days, wanting to understand each 24 hours and carbon dating and evolution and how literal we are supposed to read each word.  But that's not my bag.  I am fine with a literal interpretation, but I am equally all right if God, in His creative majesty, elongated the hours into millennia... At the core, God created - and down to my core, I believe.


Here is where I struggle: Each time I read those early chapters of Genesis I have deep groaning heartbreak over Eden. Witnessing perfection and fellowship, wishing I could go back to that place, wondering why God allowed us this natural bent toward sin, this gift we call free-will, when it goes and screws every beautiful thing up.  Then theology floods my reasoning mind; how it is a gift, free-will, and with it we choose to enter into a true relationship, the submission of will and comprehension of love. All of it rich because mankind gets to choose.


Still my heart cries, "Why God? I'd rather it be simpler, more beautiful, less stained, even if it requires a measure of ignorance." I long for a heart that has a natural bent towards obedience.  I wish we were all sheep that never wander.


But sheep that never wander... never need a Savior.  And it's all mashed up together, here "In the beginning..."


God knows I'd like to walk with Him in the cool of the day, amidst the pre-fallen garden state, and talk with Him of the vastness of His glory and the intimacy of His love and the tendencies of His sheep and the pursuing love of a Shepherd. What a conversation that would be, hand in hand.


Can't you hear Loretta Lyn's sweet voice singing:

I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own, And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.


Already my mind turns to Jesus, here in the earliest stories of Creation and the Fall.  Three days into my journey through the Bible and I see the thread that will weave us through, the theme that takes us from the fall to God's redemptive return.  Jesus.   Though He knew no human heart could earn it, be righteous enough to attain it, He found a way to restore us on the other side of sin and separation. Through Jesus - the good shepherd. Because He wants Eden too. That's the story from Cover to Cover, how Jesus will lead His flock back to the beginning again. That's how we look at Revelation here in the garden.




Over and over again, in the pages of this book. Jesus. Our need for Him and His passionate pursuit of us. Story after story. Image after image. From God's tender call, "Where are you," as Adam and Eve hid, to the moment they are cast out. Because, well... don't we all deserve that horrible separation? Then brother kills brother, the spilling of blood, followed by the cleansing of the earth through the flood.




"Never again," He promised with the artistry of a rainbow sign, for every generation to know He will never cleanse the earth that way again.  The next time He cleansed us from sin, it was a thorough cleansing with blood.  Jesus.  Again and again, Jesus. Blood for blood, our sin in exchange for a life that knew no sin. All of it... pointing to Jesus.


From the beginning... the stories all point to Jesus.


I am eager to hear what it is that God is teaching you in His Word.  Weather you are #ReadingthroughtheBible with us here, or simply abiding with Him in various chapters and pages as He leads.  What are you learning... and does it have anything or everything to do with Jesus?



Reading through the Bible - from the Beginning


After reading through the Action Bible two full times, and his favorite stories countless more, my eleven year old son ceremoniously passed down his worn, frayed-edged friend to his nine year old brother.  This morning I found that middle boy embarking on the journey "in the beginning..." as our firstborn read a more mature translation from his Bible App to the seven year old beside him on the couch.  Then I turned down the hall, and painted in my new ESV Journaling Bible with watercolors.  

Non-traditional, wouldn't you say?  A comic strip for a Bible, a phone with God's Words, and Old Testament pages splattered with paint?  Yet it is all alive - every bit of it growing and dividing, convicting and transforming hearts within our home.


action biblekitchen 4


And I'm inviting you to join the journey, however the Spirit prompts, beginning Monday, June 1st, 2015.  We will use this blog page to chronicle our Bible Reading posts.  Don't forget to print up your chronological reading plan here, or download this comprehensive Bible App that will help you check off each day's God-breathed assignment.  If you would like do this as a family at the dinner table, I absolutely adore The Jesus Story Book Bible for young families, and The Children's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos for Elementary - Jr. High aged kids. Young boys all love The Action Bible or Adventure Bible for Early Readers, and the NIV Faithgirlz Bible is an engaging read for your daughters.  Looking to splatter a little paint into the pages of a Bible by yourself, or with the kids, along the way?  Try the ESV Journaling Bible. Or simply enjoy the ample margin space to communicate with God all you are learning from Eden to Cannon to Egypt to the Wilderness, to your own kitchen table.  What a journey it will be and I hope you are excited to begin!


I keep saying it, and I hope you receive this - I'm not going to be your Bible Study teacher.  I'm a sojourner, another woman, a mom, a wife, a creative personality who is actively pursuing God through the pages of His personal, passionate, and persistent love letter to the world.  I'm simply asking you to come along.  And so today, here we go!  I can't wait to hear what The Lord reveals to your heart, through the faithful guiding friend we call His Holy Spirit.


And so today, take a moment to talk to Him, to ask Him to lead you gently, to speak to you clearly, and to give you the ears to hear His voice, a mind to comprehend, and a heart to respond.


But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Goda may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17

 Away we go!


Why Summertime is the perfect time to begin reading through the Bible


I can feel the scratchy rub of Sunday school carpet on the bottom of my feet each time I think about reading through the bible again. That first time through, a small group of newly married women met together on Tuesday mornings in one of the empty classrooms at church.  A woman named Ann Bentley, 20 years our senior, had encouraged us to read it all.  "There's no better time than right now, before you have children.  Your lives will never again be as simple as they are today.  Read it together, do it in a year, and don't ask me to lead you.  All you need is a Bible and the Holy Spirit."  

So we read it! And the Bible came alive.


During those Tuesday mornings together, as we took turns sharing all that the Holy Spirit was speaking into our lives individually, I would slip off my sandals, plant my feet firmly on the rough floor, and inhale, thinking, "This is holy ground."


From Eden

to Canaan

to Egypt

through the Wilderness

to Plano, Texas...

all of it holy ground.


By the time we reached the end of that barefoot journey through thin pages, I wanted to go again.  Like a child at the end of a ride, a ride they had been too frighten to go on for years and years, then finally they threw their hands up into the atmosphere and begged to go again. So I decided then and there to read it every other year.  One year on, one year off.  One year on, one year off.  One year on, one year off. That was the plan... and then I had a baby.


A baby changes everything... but God's Word.


We brought him home from the hospital on December 19th, 2003, nearly one year after I had ended my first journey through the Bible.  Swaddled in blue I placed him on my lap in front of the Christmas tree, white lights twinkling, and opened the leather bound Word to Genesis.  Aloud, I read chapter one to my newborn son.


Slowly, ever so slowly, I walked the road a second time.


As I nursed and rested and learned to care for a baby, I'd read another chapter here and there, sometimes out loud, sometimes quietly as he napped. Four years later I completed that second trip from Genesis to Revelation.  Four years it took me!  By the time I was done, I had birthed three sons and moved three times.


I thought of Ann's words, "There's no better time than right now, before you have children. Your lives will never again be as simple as they are today."


One year off stretched into a couple of years.  When the boys were seven, five and three, I began again, determined to make a more consistent go of it this time through.  Three years later I finished that third journey.


Now here I am, and my firstborn is now eleven years old and determined to read it along with me this time, and I'm inviting you to grab your Bible and join us as well.  It doesn't matter to me which translation you use or the pace that you go at, if you read it straight through or follow a chronological reading plan, if you use a commentary or not, a Bible reading app or that old brown Bible your parents gave you on your wedding day... All I care about is that you begin.  Slip off your Summertime sandals and embark on the holy road that always winds us to Jesus.


Wendy Speake


Everyone is posting pictures of their deep stack of summertime reading - showcasing bindings lined up side by side, all the titles they'll be bringing on vacation this summer.  Why? Because there's no time like summertime for reading a good book... No early morning crazies, getting children off to school.  No afternoon hustle to soccer practice, so another chapter poolside is possible with a glass of lemonade.


[Tweet "Summertime is the perfect time to dive into the refreshing Living Water of God's transforming Word."]


It's as juicy as that harlequin romance novel, as engaging as your favorite historical drama, as transforming as... well... the Bible.


There's no better time to begin.



Reading through the Bible - an invitation

She sat it down between us, beside the rosebud on the white linen tablecloth, a small silver pitcher of hot fudge. Then the waitress gave us each our own scoop of ice cream.  This was our tradition, ever since Grandma had passed away, how I'd come for lunch and we'd end our time together with two bowls of chocolate mocha swirl and that ample portion of melted fudge to share. And he was so good at sharing it with me, before liberally applying it to his own bowl.

But Grandpa shared more than dessert. Passed down more than a sweet tooth. The stories he'd tell and the listening I'd do, then the dreams I'd confess and the prayers he'd pray. Back and forth, sharing this way.

This one afternoon, leaning back between bites, I told him how I'd just begun reading through the Bible with a small group of friends. "I can't believe I've never done this before," I confessed. "Twenty years a Christian and I've never read the whole thing.  It's a little embarrassing, because I say that I believe the Gospel message more than anything else, but I've never read the whole story."

Grandpa pushed his empty bowl aside then scraped his spoon along the inside cavity of the delicate pitcher.  "I read the Bible cover to cover four times before I was a Christian."  That's all he said, then licked his spoon clean.

I knew most of the story, that he was raised by a Christian woman and acted the part, then in college he only went to the church because that's where the pretty girls were. Even saved his money to buy a 1920 Model T, so that he could pick up the young ladies and take them to the local Christian gathering for the young adults. But this I didn't know, how he had read it all, from Genesis to Revelation, during those growing up years, never moved to believe until the preacher's daughter said that she wouldn't date him until he was an honest-to-goodness born-again believer... and suddenly something clicked.

Clicked so hard and so deep that the rest of his life was spent telling people about how they too might also know God in a real and intimate way.




During World War II, on carriers throughout the South Pacific, Grandpa preached to the Navy men. On trips ashore he brought his Bible, looking for island churches who needed a visiting pastor.  Then after the war, Grandpa took a job with Dr. Irwin Moon, founder of Moody Bible Institute of Science, putting on sensational evangelistic shows at the World's Fair each year.  Wowing audiences with scientific experiments Grandpa would then talk about the God of all creation; the One who had ordered all matter through the cosmos and then came down to earth to have an intimate relationship with His people.

All this from a man who had read through the Bible four times before he believed. Genesis four times.  Exodus four times.  Leviticus four times.  Judges four times.  Deuteronomy four times. Joshua four time.  Judges four times. Ruth four times. You get the picture.


All of it... four times.


I am my Grandfather's Granddaughter in many ways, but this isn't one them.  Unlike Grandpa, I believed with all my heart before I read one word from my Precious Moments Bible with my own eyes.  As a young child I knew God lived in my heart before I knew anything about that biological organ that beat there in my breast. And not once, since that childlike faith took root, have I doubted God's existence or His great big love for me.  And yet, I never knew the whole story.  And what a story it is!

The first time I read through the sweeping tale of God's redemptive love in its entirety, I was 27 years old.  Just a small band of newly married women at church, with no formal Bible study leader, simply the Holy Spirit guiding us individually.  Once a week we got together to share what we were learning. Insight, life application, and a healthy dose of awe were shared together week after week for 52 blessed weeks.  And the overarching theme, we all discovered, was how God used every story along the way to point us to Jesus.

By the time we finished the Old Testament and turned the page into Matthew's gospel account, we were primed like never before to experience the birth of a savior.  Our Savior!  And as we wrapped up Revelation we all celebrated John's prophetic vision of our passionate warrior God returning again to take His people home. Cover to cover - Genesis to Revelation - Creation to the fall to His triumphant return.


Do you know that whole story?


On Monday, June 1st, 2015, I am beginning another walk through the pages of God's Word.  Once a week I will blog about what I am learning and ask you to share what you have gleaned.  Leave your lessons in the comments below each week for our sister sojourners to learn from too.

Four times, Grandpa read through the Bible before He believed and was saved.  And I just realized that this is going to be my fourth time through.  Will you join me for your first, second, third, fourth... tenth time through God's Word? It is alive and active, and you will be changed if you come to it with a heart to receive, a heart purposed to find God.


You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

Jeremiah 29:13


How I wish I could sit down with Grandpa today, over hot fudge sundaes, and ask him to join us this time around.  Cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation, Creation to the fall to His triumphant return... However, Grandpa is a little preoccupied these days, living the final outcome of this redemptive story on the other side of glory.

So that leaves you and me.  This is your formal invitation.  If you are a Christian, and you have believed all your life but only scraped the surface of God's Word, join us.  And this invitation is for you, my non-Christian friends. Would you read through the Bible with me? It's the #1 best selling book of all time!



Stay tuned... more information is coming.  In the meantime, print up this chronological reading schedule and ready yourself with a sturdy Bible.  I just ordered this ESV Journaling Bible, and am eager to fill the ample margins with notes and verses about what I'm learning as we sojourn together. Or do what my eleven year old does and download This Bible App on your phone. If you want to be sure to not miss a blog-post chronicling the journey, sign up to receive email updates. It's going to be an exciting ride.


Join me?


A special thank you to the women I walked barefoot with through every thin page, 13 years ago - that was holy ground we treaded upon, and I am forever changed because of it.  Kelli, April, Anne, Jana, Andrea, Alison, Julie, Bonni, Shannon...

And to the women in my midst today who have already reached out with a resounding yes, I have no doubt that we are in for a marvelous adventure together.  Jenni, Heather, Pamela, Suzanne, Jennifer, Cindey, Angie, Jenn, Christy, Jacqui, Jessica, Corona...


Who else?


Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

James 4:8a