Mansions in Heaven

There are some things about heaven that I’d really like to know. For instance, will our pets be there? Will there be people of all ages, including babies and senior citizens? And, very important to the here-and-now me: will there be stories and novels to read?

These and many other questions won’t be answered until Jesus calls me home. For now, I must be satisfied with the things I have been told about heaven, and one of my favorite things is this:

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Give God Room

A difficult person.

An uncomfortable situation.

A frustrating relationship.

An unexpected dilemma.

In our fallen world, these kinds of problems are all too common. And we often react to them in one of two predictable ways:

We worry, or we try to control.

In some ways, these are opposite reactions (worry is mostly passive; control is mostly active), and yet it’s quite possible to do both at the same time. I’m actually quite good at both and often manage to do them simultaneously, over the same problem.

It’s not a skill that I’m proud of, and yet I’m also sure that I’m not alone in having mastered it.

When we’re faced with a situation that seems to have no solution and no end … or with a person who really gets under our skin … or with a sudden problem that’s completely out of our comfort zone … or with a relationship that’s going downhill fast and we see no easy way out … do we react in the way that God would have us react?

In my kitchen, I have many little pieces of paper taped to cabinet doors with quotes that I find particularly important or inspiring. These quotes come and go, but one of them is so perfectly universal in its application that I think I’ll never take it down. It’s this one:

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That Bible Book You Don’t Like and What to Do About It

Here’s a question you may not be asked very often: what’s your least favorite book of the Bible? Which book do you avoid reading, or skim over lightly when it shows up in your Bible reading plan? Which book confuses you, frustrates you, or (let’s be honest) bores you?

Could it be Leviticus or Numbers? What about some of those Old Testament histories? Any of the major or minor prophets? Revelation, anyone?

For Christians, the Word of God is essential for spiritual growth, relevant to everyday life (even in the 21st century), and irreplaceable by other means. This description applies to the entire Bible—all 66 books, whether we like them or not. And let’s face it: those unliked books aren’t going anywhere. Every time you open your Bible, there they are—Leviticus, or Job, or Song of Songs, or Revelation, or Ezekiel—waiting for you to understand and even enjoy whatever God would have you learn from them.

So what’s the best way to learn to like the book of the Bible you like the least? My own answer to this, and one I think would apply to any book, is to study it.

Several months ago, I deliberately chose my least favorite book in the Bible for the women’s Bible study group at my church (I’ll share more about that in a bit). I had a theory that a deep study using reputable resources would give me a new appreciation for why God had included this particular book in his Word. At the same time I was deciding to tackle this unliked (by me) book, I discovered that my friend Sara had been doing a Bible study at her own church on a different book, the one that’s the butt of many Bible reading plan jokes: Leviticus.

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Good Habits from Painful Beginnings

How often does God allow something negative or painful in our lives so that we begin something new—a new habit that is for our own good?

Last spring, I developed shoulder bursitis, a painful condition that required months of time-consuming physical therapy. After my insurance quit paying for the therapy, my doctor and therapist both recommended that I continue going to the training facility on my own, in order to keep my shoulder from getting worse. By this time I had frozen shoulder (less pain, but limited mobility). So for nearly a year now, I’ve been going to the gym two or three times a week.

“Going to the gym two or three times a week.” For some of you, that phrase would roll naturally off your tongue. This was not the case with me. I’ve never been the kind of person who would make a habit of going to a gym, or even try it once, for that matter.

The fact that I am now a person who “goes to the gym” still astounds me. I feel like an imposter every time I say it. But it has, in fact, become a habit. It’s true that I often wake up not wanting to go (I may never get over that), but the minute I arrive, I’m glad to be there. If I have to skip a visit, my body feels it and I look forward to the time I can go back and feel good again.

Against all odds, and much to my amazement, going to the gym has become a habit for me.

Because I’m a Christian, I can’t help but wonder … did God allow that shoulder pain in my life so that I would form a good habit because of it? Without it, I’d never in a million years have gone to a gym—I was too busy, too self-conscious, and too broke. But now that I’m going, I’m pretty convinced that it’s making me stronger, healthier, and likelier to spend more years on this earth with the people I love.

Once I started thinking about my pain leading to a positive habit, I began to wonder how many times God works in this way. How often does he allow something negative or painful in our lives so that we begin something new—a new habit that is for our own good?

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Why I Stopped Paying It Forward in the Drive-Thru

I have what may be an unpopular opinion about paying for the person behind me in the drive-thru. It’s not the “paying it forward” (or is that backward?) aspect that I have problems with. It’s what the practice has morphed into in the past few years.

Quite a few years ago, our local Christian radio station began encouraging people to “spread joy” during the first week of each month. Many people chose to do this by paying for the person behind them in the drive-thru lane (Starbucks, McDonald’s, wherever). My middle son was a young teen at the time, and we spent more than a little time together in the drive-thru lanes of fast food restaurants. When he heard about this new way to spread joy, he was all over it.

“Let’s do it! Next time we go to McDonald’s, we should do this!” The radio DJs talked up what a blessing we could be to others, to surprise strangers with a message that their bill had already been paid. My 13-year-old was 100% on board with this. Who was I to tell him that no, I didn’t want to bless others?

So we did it. While we waited in line, we talked about how the person behind us would feel and the ways that it might truly bless them. They might be having a really bad day, and this unexpected gift might remind them that someone cares, that they are loved by God. Or they might have just lost their job or be down to their last few dollars, and this unexpected gift might be a more practical blessing, demonstrating how God comes through when we need it most. We talked about sharing the love of Christ with a stranger in a tangible way, believing that God would bring just the right person behind us in the drive-thru for this moment.

I remember the first time we did this, the cashier was a little surprised, then happy to participate. My son was really enthusiastic about what we had done, and that meant at least as much to me as the blessing we had given to the man behind us.

At other times, we were the beneficiary of this type of kindness, once at Baskin-Robbins and once at Chick-fil-A. Both times almost brought tears to my eyes at this unexpected and entirely anonymous generosity. It was also a joy to share this with my children, that complete strangers had done this kind thing for us and wasn’t God good?

In the past few years, though, this “paying it forward” has morphed into something else. Today, quite often, when someone pays it forward in the drive-thru, it starts a chain reaction of everyone in line paying for the person behind them, and so on and so on. Cashiers start counting how many cars are paying for each other (we’re up to 8! now we’re at 15!). Customers realize what’s happening and ask the cashier how much is owed on the receipt behind them before deciding to participate in this game—a long chain of “blessing” from car to car.

But is it a blessing, really?

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Be Careful, Little Hands, What You Type

I’ve been writing professionally for more than 30 years. Most of those have been part-time from home—a small vocational and financial miracle from God that allowed me to stay home with my kids.

Nearly two years ago, during the spring of 2020—the Pandemic Spring—I began this blog. I’d been thinking about doing this for a long time, but life kept getting in the way. During the Pandemic Spring, the many plans I’d had were cancelled left and right and I suddenly had the time to consider blogging for real. Everyone else’s plans were cancelled, too, so my tech-savvy and artistically talented daughter was also on hand to help me get this blog off the ground.

The writing hats I wear, often on the same day, are very different. One hat, my professional hat, is 100% dictated by what my clients want me to write. I receive no visible credit for this writing (my name isn’t on anything), but I do receive payment. It’s a good trade. I need to earn money doing something I love, something from home, and something people are willing to pay me to do. Writing is all of those things for me.

The other hat, my blogging hat, is quite different. No one tells me what to write, or when, or how, or for whom. I have no deadlines, no boss, no colleagues, and no financial reward. My motivation to write consists of feedback from readers (all writers have somewhat fragile egos and I’m no exception), my love of words, my desire to help and encourage others, and a conviction that God wants me to use my writing to do that. Also, to be honest, that indescribable feeling of elated relief that comes after having written something (the process itself is a form of mild self-torture; the after-feeling makes it all worth it).

There’s so much freedom in this kind of writing that I sometimes have to remind myself of the most important difference between the types of writing that I do:

The writing I do here has my name on it.

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Who’s in Need of Redeeming Love?

The reviews are in on “Redeeming Love,” and redemption is not what our culture thinks it is.

I can’t begin to estimate how many female Christian friends have urged me to read Francine Rivers’ 1991 bestselling book Redeeming Love over the years (so many!), and I finally got around to it last year. Now, romantic fiction, Christian or not, is not my cup of tea, and I’ve read very little of it. So I’m a poor judge of books in this genre. I would have a hard time reviewing something in a particular category that I’m mostly unfamiliar with … other than that it’s a book, and I’ve read plenty of books.

Unfamiliarity with a genre (or the actual subject matter) doesn’t stop movie reviewers, though, and they weighed in this past weekend with their thoughts on the new movie adaptation of Redeeming Love. Full disclosure: I don’t have plans to see the movie, and it’s not even the movie itself that I find interesting—it’s the reviews, and one review in particular.

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Glue Sticks and Bible Songs

The sweet smiles of two- and three-year-olds … a catchy song written for preschoolers that I still sing to myself decades later … the feel of a tiny hand in mine, clutching a fat glue stick with intense focus … the shining eyes and serious faces of little ones as they hear parts of God’s great story for the first time …

In his wisdom and grace, God gives us people, situations, and experiences that we often don’t recognize as priceless gifts at the time. Some of those gifts were given to me 20 years ago, and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to truly appreciate those busy days of teaching, corralling, discipling, and loving the lively and earnest little children that were entrusted to my care every Sunday morning.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

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A New Year’s Gift for Your Scripture Writing

Whether you were inspired to begin Scripture writing by this recent post, or you’ve been doing it for a while and enjoyed seeing the many different reasons and methods for it, or if you’re still contemplating giving it a try, I have a gift for you.

This was actually a gift to me, created and given by Katie—the same Katie who shared her story and her journals in the article linked above.

The Scripture Writing Tracker is available below, which you can print and use in several ways. This beautiful document is something that Katie designed for people like herself, who would agree that “there’s something about coloring in a dot on a page to track your progress that is just so rewarding.”

I’m going to put myself in that category! I’m currently writing out Psalms—this morning was half of Psalm 69—and while I plan to fill in Psalms on my “Books of the Bible bookshelf” when I finish it (see bottom of previous article for that photo), it’s going to take me a while to copy out 150 chapters. So I’m excited to start using this tracker for steady and frequent visual encouragement.

I can think of a few ways that this chart could be useful and helpful to anyone who’s planning to be in the Bible this year:

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Ready to Try Scripture Writing?

Why and How to Do It • Plain or Fancy Methods

Daily time in the Word is a struggle for many Christians, and for many years, I was no exception. Despite my good intentions, I couldn’t seem to find the time or motivation to read my Bible every day, even though I truly wanted to and knew that I should.

Since 2018, I’ve been reading the Bible daily without fail, and I can give credit to one simple thing that has made this change possible. Scripture writing has utterly transformed my spiritual life (no exaggeration), my mornings, and my Bible time.

Here’s how it happened: I began Scripture writing with very small bits of Scripture, taking baby steps and establishing a pattern of opening my Bible first thing every single morning. After a year or two, I had formed a very strong morning habit and had also added my own evening readings from other parts of the Bible. Which led to where I am now: expanding my daily Scripture writing to much longer passages that I choose myself, while continuing to read the Bible in the evenings (in a translation I haven’t read before). For the first time in my Christian life, I feel I’m soaking in God’s Word every single day.

Because it was life-changing for me, I want to share how to begin a habit of Scripture writing for those who want to give it a try. I’ve asked two friends who practice this discipline, and who do it differently from me, to also share their experiences. So I (Rebekah), along with friends Debbie (who inspired me) and Katie (a young friend whose story is so encouraging), will answer the questions most people want to know when they ask what Scripture writing is all about: Why did you begin Scripture writing? How did you begin and how do you do it now? And what method do you use?

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