The Struggle: Finding a Bible Study That Works for Me

It has been a while, actually, a lot longer than I realized since I have added any posts. This was a bit intentional on my part. I needed to find focus. I needed to step away and hear what God wanted me to do. Then it wasn’t just me any more. The whole world went a bit topsy-turvy, or so it seemed. I stepped away from social media almost completely. I say almost because there are some cases in which I needed to research a few things which took me to social media to find the answers. This is basically all I use it for now.

Why?

I found myself loosing too many hours in mindlessly scrolling through social media and in the end finding no benefit to it. Then, many times, I found my emotions being triggered by posts that had no purpose other than to project anger, fear and hate. I choose not to have anger, fear and hate in my life if it is within my control. Anger and hate are open doors for the enemy to insert a foot and then a stronghold to pull me away from God. This is not my purpose in life. My purpose is to get closer to God. So, social media is no longer a daily activity it is a tool for research only and I only go there when I need to research something.

I won’t be writing about Covid. I will only say this, we are fine. My daughter and I are fine. We follow our government’s advice, we stay home as much as possible and I follow my company’s requirements. Working in a pharmacy, interacting with people every day, means Covid can be a hot topic, a trigger to mine and other’s emotions, and I prefer to hand all my concerns over to God and let him take care of us. He is.

The past week or so, our air quality has been really bad here, due to the fires in the U.S. south of us. So, with the air quality, on top of Covid, breathing for some can be a huge challenge, and breathing for healthy people can be a challenge they never thought they would have to face. I fall somewhere between those two, as I learned my sensitivity to smoke can clog up my airways. Again, we stay inside as much as possible.

I know some people find restricting their movements, remaining home as much as possible a bit frustrating. I am not one of those people. I love being home whether it is with my daughter or on my own. I am never short on things to do.

I briefly scanned my last post just to remind myself where I was at the last time I posted. It didn’t have to remind me that one of the challenges I faced was in how to proceed with my bible studies. It is probably one of the main reasons I haven’t written, because it continued to be a challenge. Finding what works for me has not been easy. I often found myself asking, “why”.

That hasn’t been an easy thing to answer. I looked at inductive bible study method. I looked at the SOAP method. I tried devotionals. I checked out some Facebook groups devoted to bible study and a variety of bible classes from various sources. The list seemed endless and none seemed to work.

The other thing I was hung up on was my prayer life and wanting to be more focused and not so directionless in my prayers. I am not short on talking to God or praying to Him. I just always felt like they were NOT focused where they should be. Too much whining not enough praise, not enough thanks and so on.

I have been doing a lot of research, a lot of reading, and a lot of trial and error and praying for guidance in regards to both my study and prayer life.

I may address my prayer life later but for now I am working on a prayer journal which may work out but it is still a work in progress.

In my research regarding bible study, I came across Cat Woods on YouTube. I watched several of her videos before coming across one on how she studies her bible. This struck a cord with me and I let it germinate in my mind for a bit.

I tried a couple bible classes by Robin Sampson but they didn’t feel like they were fulfilling what my spirit hungered for. I tried altering one of the courses where I would first read the scripture, find images to correspond with what I read, incorporating those images into a journal where I hand wrote the scripture but again something seemed lacking. My spirit hungered for more.

I asked myself “what do I return to over and over again when things don’t work for me…. writing is what I always return to. I have found that my form of study is more of a written form instead of others, who like to use a lot of images in their bible journaling. I do enjoy searching for images and adding them to my handwritten scriptures which helps me to remember what I read, especially when I flip through my journal.

My study in Genesis using images, an altered version of Robin Sampson’s Creation Era class
Another page in the journal.

However, it takes a lot of time to do this and something was still missing. My spirit hungered for more. So I continued searching even though this partially worked for me.

In the meantime, I remembered Cat Wood’s video and I wondered if I could somehow formulate my own method of study. I knew I wanted to be creative in whatever I did and a new idea started to develop.

I knew I wanted to use lined paper so, the first thing I did was print out some lined paper I designed using a beautiful floral image I can’t share because it came from one of the classes I took and is not my own creation. But, by using Microsoft Word, I created lined paper with a background that looks like parchment paper.

I printed this on copy paper, two-sided, so it could be folded it in half to create a notebook using 5 or 6 sheets.

I, eventually, came upon an idea on how to create a cover that would hold about 5 or 6 notebooks. Each notebook would be like a little traveler’s notebook. The cover is based off of a travel’s notebook cover using crochet thread to hold the individual notebooks in place. I can slide out the notebook I want to write in and then slide it back in.

I created the journal today when my computer was updating. Unbelievably, I was done with the traveler’s style notebook long before my computer completed its update which took 5 hours!!

Of course a bible study isn’t just a notebook or style of notebook, it is about a method in which we can dig deeper into God’s word and learn about Him. However, I knew I needed a journal that would suit my needs and so I created this one in a traveler’s style. This enables me to pull out the journal I want to use when I’m studying.

Why 5 notebooks within my journal? Well, I’m not really sure. Tonight I started with two of the notebooks. The first I use for my reference study. The second for my study notes.

What do I mean by reference study? As an example, I started with Genesis 1:1. I start writing out the verse until I come across a superscript. The superscript points to a verse or group of verses in the reference column of my bible. Next, I flip to the first verse from the reference and write it in my journal, indenting it so I know it came from the reference. I do this for each verse or set of verses the superscript refers to. Then I go back to the verse I was reading and continue to write it out until I come across another superscript. Here is the example:

In the bible:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning,A God created the heavens and the earth.B

Reference: A Jn 1:1-2 B Job 38:4; Ps 90:2….

In my journal I did this, everything is handwritten (you might be able to see this in the 3rd image above):

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning

John 1:1-2

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

2 He was with God in the beginning.

God created the heavens and the earth.

Job 38:4

4 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.

Psalm 90:2

2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting

to everlasting you are God.

I continued in this way until I had all the referenced scripture written down under the scripture in the verse I was reading. In the above example there were more scriptures referenced for the B reference, a lot more. In my own journal, I wrote them all out, but for sake of space and time, I only showed two of them here.

What I found when I did this was I gained a greater perspective on what the scripture means, as well as, how it relates in other scriptures. For instance, another scripture referenced in B above (which I did not include) is Isaiah 42:5 “This is what God the Lord says– the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:” and Isaiah 44:24 “This is what the Lord says– your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself,”

In another notebook, I dated the page then wrote down notes relating to “who,what, where, when, why, and how” and then my thoughts. My notes included referencing the two Isaiah scriptures to back up my thoughts about how God didn’t just create the universe and our world and step back. He continually has a part in it every moment of every day. He gives us breath. He creates life in the womb, without Him there would be no life. This to me isn’t a new thought but it does instill a sense of amazement and an understanding of how each breath I take is a gift from God.

In just one verse of scripture, and using the reference feature of my bible, I think I have found what my spirit was seeking. I will know more as I continue to use this method. In Cat Wood’s video she didn’t stop at the scripture referenced in the verse she was reading. If for example she was also reading Genesis 1:1 she would go to John 1:1 and write it out until she came to a subscript and then go to that scripture in the reference, and write it until she reached a subscript and go to that referenced scripture and so on. This would lead to a lot of chained verses and can get quite complicated. Since I’m just starting out with my studies I decided to only go one deep which means only looking at the references for the scripture I am reading and no further.

What amazed me most about doing this is how the scriptures written out in this way have a sense of wholeness/completeness to them. They seem to form a complete thought.

When I realized my computer was going to take a long time to update I knew, this was God’s way of telling me I was on the right track for my studies. He gave me the time away from my computer to get my journal together. Then the time tonight to try out my first study in the method I had chosen. The insights from just the first verse in the bible by going to the references was mind boggling to say the least. If my eyes weren’t already strained from the lateness of the hour I would want to continue on to the next verse.

This also revealed to me, my study now is at the verse level and that I should never be in a hurry to get to the next verse or chapter.

What thoroughly blows my mind is the effort and work it must have taken for the creation of the cross-reference system. This was done before there were computers. How they did it just absolutely confounds me.

I did compare two of my NIV bibles that contain references and they are not identical. My study bible has more references. I decided to go with the one that has less references only because I am just starting out and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Again, this is about taking my time and letting the Spirit lead me.

I am on day 2 now. My study included Genesis 1:2-5 and I felt it no less invigorating and informative. Reading that when God “sends his Spirit, they are created” (Psalm104:30) and “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6) helped confirm a thought I have always had. That the Spirit of God is part of all that he has created.

Learning these things on my own as I am lead by the Spirit is more insightful and embedded than just hearing it in a sermon or in a class. I make a more solid connection with this knowledge in this way than I do if someone tells me. My Spirit also recognizes its truth when I discover the knowledge for myself, whereas, hearing it from another source, there is a certain amount of skepticism.

I am not sure if I will return to my blog to write any more posts. I have been considering removing it but I am not sure if that is what God wants me to do. For now, I’ll leave it here and wait for guidance from God’s Spirit.

Spirit led….

I love being led by God. Being so takes me to some unexpected places. Learning to let go and just be led by God was not easy. I had to go through some growing pains. Pain is never easy. Most times I find myself rebelling against anything which causes me pain. Pain whether physical or emotional is pain. It is real. Both are equally difficult to deal with and accept in my life. But both are necessary. Both reveal an area which needs healing. Letting go and letting myself be led by God was painful. I have no doubt I am not done learning and healing this aspect of my life. I am only just now realizing that if my life is easy, without obstacles, without difficulties, then I’m stagnant and not learning, not growing, and not being led by God.

However, there is another side of this. If I am feeling resistance then I have closed myself off to what God wants for me. Being God led, doesn’t mean life will be easier, but it does mean God will give me whatever I need in my life. However, this does mean if I trust God will give me what I need, then life is easier though it might be difficult. I am slowly being taught this by God. I have seen indications of this lately even though it has been going on for some time.

My first real, “Ah Ha!” moment that God was teaching me is from 10February2019, Sunday sermon I watched online. This sermon was about living a Christian life of condemnation versus living a Spirit filled Christian life. What an eye opening sermon! It revealed to me how I have been living a Christian life of condemnation and thus living a miserable life. This is not what God meant for me to have. In just the few days since this sermon and choosing to live a Spirit filled life, things are changing. My perspective of my own life is changing. I knew living a Spirit filled life meant I would be led by the Spirit but I wasn’t sure what to expect.

My next real “Ah Ha!” moment came this morning only about an hour or so ago when I came across this post and was led to listen. This post was from an unexpected source Cinnamon and Sparkles on WordPress. Two things intrigued me enough to want to listen. The first, was the source and the second was the location of the pastor. I used to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I’m always fascinated when I learn new things about the place and find myself drawn back there for whatever reason. I seem to have a permanent link to this town or state.

The link, in the post, is part 1 of a sermon on relationship goals. This was another reason why I was drawn to listen to it. I have never had what I would consider a successful relationship. I am drawn towards trying to understand why that would be. I generally associate the difficulties I’ve had with my childhood and what it trained me to do and how difficult it is to break this training. In some cases I have basically given up because doing it alone seems to be impossible. This sermon was another eye opening experience.

Even if my experience over the past few days had just been these two sermons, I would still believe I am being Spirit led. But every day I am being shown something. Sometimes these things seem quite small and insignificant. One step at a time, I am being taught by the Spirit that he is listening and answering my prayers. He is doing so not in any way I expected but in the way I need the most. He knows where I need healing and like a precise, well experienced surgeon, He is targeting exactly the areas where I need healing and understanding first. I am beginning to understand without taking these steps first, it would most likely be impossible for me to fulfill my God designed purpose.

It would be difficult to explain what I have learned and how my life is changing without someone first listening to the sermons, so I invite you to listen to them before reading further.

Without giving a detailed history of my life, it might be difficult for someone to understand but I’ll try. I was either pre-teen or just turned a teenager when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior. I attended church and took part in the teen classes and activities. I enjoyed it all but in the background was my family life who also attended church but was not the healthiest family life. Shortly after, my parents divorced and my relationship with a boy from church fell apart. It is obvious to me now what was going on but not to this teen who was emotionally confused her whole life. The teen leaders instead of sitting down with me and trying to help me (they knew what was happening with my parents because my parents sought church counseling, I learned many years later), put me in a room with my boyfriend and told us to talk to each other. I was unable to talk and so that is how my whole life progressed. Churches failed me in trying to help me understand and my Christian life became a life of condemnation. Never feeling good enough and never feeling part of a Christian family. For years I went back and forth between attending church and creating my own spiritual life without church. I always believed in God but never felt good enough for Him or for any church to want me or accept me. Consequently, I also condemned myself at every turn and made excuses for every sin.

My life was a roller coaster ride. From high joys to low depression. The joy usually came when I was in a relationship with a man and plummeted when I realized that relationship was over. I ended the majority of them and blamed myself. I looked for reasons and found them. I tried to conquer them and deceived myself into believing I had. This was mostly romantic relationships but I lied to myself that it didn’t bleed over into my family, friends and even business relationships. As I grew older I became more and more lost and I isolated myself more and more.

When I developed breast cancer and had a bad reaction that could have led to my death, I was devastated but not enough to turn back to God. A year later, when I was laid off of my job, I found that was even more devastating than almost losing my life. It took an emotional breakdown and two years of not being able to get a job for me to finally turn back to God. He had become my only hope.

I made a commitment to try and learn about God by reading the bible from cover to cover. I wanted to learn about Him from the Word of God and not from a preacher. My earlier years taught me that I needed to find a different way to learn so I went to the source, the Bible. Since starting to read the Bible, things have been happening. I pray and sometimes I feel my prayers are answered and then later things happen to make me see they weren’t answered in the way I thought they were. I would apply for a job I thought for sure I was being shown was the job for me, have an interview and hear nothing. I would see something online which I was sure was a message to me as an answer to a prayer and then it would all fall apart. Things would happen and then the thing that looked so promising would then crumble into pieces and disintegrate. Over and over again this would happen. Each time this happened I looked at myself to blame. I blamed myself for sabotaging it all. I would believe I wasn’t good enough. I believed all this was happening because I deserved to be punished. I was living a life of condemnation. I saw no end to it and started giving up hope.

There was one prayer I pray quite often that never changes. “God help me to become the person you want me to become.” What I didn’t see until 10February, was that God was indeed helping me to become the person he has always meant for me to be. To be the person he created me to be. On 10 February, when I learned the difference between living a life of condemnation and living a Spirit filled life, I saw for the first time what God was trying to teach me. I vowed that day and prayed that day to live a Spirit filled life and put aside condemnation.

Without a doubt in the week following, I lived cautiously. I waited for the old thought patterns to reassert themselves. I waited for overwhelming depression, and anxiety to come rolling back into my life. So far that has not happened. Instead, every day I’m shown something new. When I reveal something about myself one night, the next day I’m shown how I can overcome it or how healing can begin and I was led to the second sermon about relationships. In part one, I learned how trying to fill myself by other’s expectations is not what God wants for me. I knew that, even when I was a teen and left home and tried to live my life according to my own expectations. But, what I didn’t realize was my expectations were built off of society’s expectations and not upon the person God made me to be. As long as I continue to try and be the person built off of society’s expectations I will never feel I am good enough. WHAT AN EYE OPENING MESSAGE!

This is why I had to write this post today. What I think about my job, what I think about my relationships, friendships, family and so forth have all been built off of societal expectations.

If you find yourself with feelings of not being good enough, of not having a successful relationship, of hating your job and so forth, listen to Part 1 of “Before the Person: Relationship Goals” and see if it has a message for you. I know it did for me.

I am not going to stop there. I am going to listen to the rest of the series. I will do so when I’m led to do so by the Spirit.

Bless you and if you feel moved to leave a comment please do so.

 

The End of #Inktober2017, and moving on…

October is over which means #Inktober has ended. I find myself with conflicting feelings. I love that I was able to complete #Inktober. I’m sad that it is over. In some ways I miss it, while in other ways I’m glad it is over so I can move on to using what I learned, during #Inktober, in my other art. I want to move on to working on larger pieces though they will still be in one of my many art journals, they will be larger than the 2 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ spaces I blocked out for my #Inktober pieces.

I did, however, choose to do the last #Inktober drawing a bit larger. I used the whole page instead of blocking off a small section and wasting the rest of the page. So with no more delay here are my pages from #Inktober2017:

I sort of cheated on the last page. I added some graphite shading to it so it is not 100% ink. I’m also not sure I am totally done with it. It is still calling for something more, especially in the square spirals. They need more drama to them. Just not sure how to do that yet.

Towards the end of October, I was feeling a strong pull to do something with color. Because I’ve been learning a lot from Tamara Laporte and her use of Neocolor II and acrylic paint, those are usually my go-to art supplies, especially when creating faces. I pulled out my handmade art journal I had originally created for BOD2017 (Book of Days 2017). When I created it, I used watercolor paper, so now it is my journal for when I want to use wet medium. I have been so enjoying my #Inktober faces I immediately went to drawing a face in my BOD journal for the intent of adding color with paint. Here is my progress so far:

IMG_1134

I started first with Neocolor II, salmon. Then added SmartCraft vanilla. I left it to dry over night, then added more Neocolor II, and acrylic paint. I don’t remember all the colors I used, and I left it to dry over night between each of the layers. There is probably four or five layers. Of the Neocolor II’s I used paynes grey, indigo blue, salmon, phthalocyanine green, yellow green, malachite green, emerald green, purple, carmine, raw umber, ocher, brown, black and light grey.  I only used vanilla and white acrylic paint. Obviously, I’m not afraid of mixing and overlaying a lot of color but I do so lightly and sometimes using vanilla or white acrylic paint to blend and smooth out the Neocolor II.

Once all the layers were dry, I still wasn’t happy with it. It didn’t have the depth of shading I wanted so I pulled out my Prisma Premier colored pencils. I can’t even begin to tell you what all the colors were that I used. Most of them were very similar in color to the Neocolor IIs I used. But for the eyes I first started by adding black Posca paint pen for the pupils and on the edge of the upper eyelid and a bit on the nostrils of her nose.  I also added vanilla and white acrylic paint for the highlights on her face before adding colored pencil. I waited on the highlights in her eyes until I was almost done.

Then I went to town just layering colored pencil with lots of the similar colors to the Neocolor IIs and using either a blending stump or a blending pencil to help smooth out some of the colored pencil. In the end, I stopped using the blending stump and blender pencil and just added color with the pencils.

I did not use a reference photo when I added color. This is completely from my imagination and the next steps will be too. I plan on using watercolor for the rest of the page. It will span into the full spread of the two pages but what will develop is completely unknown at this time.

I don’t plan my art work. At the most I might start out by thinking I’ll do a face, or I’ll do a mandala, or I’ll do an abstract collage of doodles or as in one of my pages I decided to partition it off into six equal parts with a border between each of the parts, but that is as much as my planning goes for these days.

Once I make that choice, if it is a face, I’ll decide what angle I want. If it is a mandala, I’ll decide if I want one or multiple mandalas. Then I’ll decide if I want the face or the mandala to be center of the page or to one side, if one side then which and so on. I make decisions as I go. I do start them all with pencil first. When I say I decide, it is more of an intuitive decision. I don’t make the decision on what I think the end result will look like. I go by what my intuition is telling me.

I guess in some ways, I create my art the way I go through life. I do think ahead and try to imagine where I want it to go and sometimes I make choices that will help me to get there. But where I think it might go, rarely is where it ends up. And most times what my intuition tells me to do rarely fits with anything I’ve visualized.

However, my main focus is on the now and doing what I feel needs to be done next. I have not done any huge studies of what colors blend well together to make other colors. I go on intuition when it comes to what color to use next. I don’t generally do any test swatches to make sure they will mix well together. I just add them to my page. I do start small and if I don’t like it, then I’ll go for another color. For the most part, I don’t do that very often. I’ve learned my intuition is usually right on target. It is when I try and alter what my intuition tells me that it goes wrong.

#Inktober was so much fun and carried with it such a variety of emotions with each drawing. The ones I thought I disliked at the beginning, I now find beautiful in their own way. I understand how they represent my search for own style. I was surprised when the graphic style started to appear and very pleased when I saw the results. Then mixing them with mandalas and tangles. It was like bringing all the things I love together in one piece of art. My inner artist was dancing a jig inside she was so pleased, especially with day 31.

I have heard other artists talk about how their emotions appear in their art. I rarely ever saw this happen in my art until now. It is subtle. And sometimes, it is surprising. It can be surprising because sometimes what appears in my art isn’t how I thought I was feeling. Take for instance, day 15. This was during the most active time of the “Me Too” movement on Facebook and I was seeing a lot of posts about it. I had a mixture of emotions about what I was seeing in my news feed along with it and some of the discussions between people for and against Trump. It took me by surprise when my drawing ended up appearing as if she was in prayer and possibly spiritual in nature.

On the surface, I was frustrated and angry by the Trump posts because when I stepped back from the emotions of it all, it was difficult to tell the difference between the opposing parties. The hate and bigotry, mud slinging and name calling was going on from both sides and it just made me sick.

On the surface, when I read all the various “Me Too” stories, I was saddened and sickened by how many there were and so fearful that those two little words, “Me Too”, would become a trigger for someone instead of comforting words.

To find these feelings manifesting into a picture that for me reflects my spirit in prayer was calming and soothing. It helped me to realize that deep inside I was in prayer over all the turmoil going on. I have no formal religion though I grew up in a Baptist church and then a non-denominational church in my teens and adult years, I was surprised to find this drawing containing elements that are associated with religions I have not been a part of but do respect. I love it for that reason.

I know there are people who use art to release their emotions. I use writing to do that. It seems that art for me is becoming a doorway I can open to discover what is going on even deeper within myself. I can use writing to do that as well but I have also found writing can keep me from moving deeper if I don’t intentionally ask myself the important questions. Art, however, requires no questions, just an opening of the soul. The nice thing about art though is it doesn’t have to be a conscious opening. Therefore, it isn’t invasive. It is less scary. And if you really love watching how the mediums blend and mix together it can be very comforting and a joyful experience.