Altars of Remembrance [the importance of looking back to see the faithfulness of God]

// When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’”

Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” //

Joshua 4:1-7

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I remember my entire body going limp and a sensation of weightlessness.

I remember my arms floating out in front of me as confusion and shock flooded my system.

I remember the windshield crumpling and a cocoon of impact sounds—a grind, a screech, a whoosh, a thud—surrounding me.

I remember the moment of absolute silence as I sat shaking right before I climbed out of the window of the SUV, body trembling with adrenaline, mind working in overdrive to figure out what had happened.

I remember walking away perfectly intact but for a few scrapes. I remember that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. I remember that my concussion was so minor that I only ever got a few headaches in the aftermath. I remember that I didn’t need stiches or even band aids. I remember that I wasn’t sore. Like, at all. I remember waking up the next morning alive and well—extremely well, unnaturally well.

That SUV rolled twice before it landed right side up, but I was completely all right.

I remember that God preserved me, that he kept me safe when I shouldn’t have been safe, that his hand covered me so much that I have no scars from that accident.

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I remember other times when God has proved his faithfulness to me, even though he is never under an obligation to bless me, even though he doesn’t need me to be safe or happy, even though he doesn’t need me at all.

I remember opening the email that told me a magazine had acquired my first short story. I remember the rush of elation so potent it brought tears. I remember talking long with God about it, trying to express my excitement and thankfulness and wonder because he never had to give me a gift like that. But he did.

I remember wrestling with God over the eleven months of rejections that followed that happy day. I remember what he taught me about myself and himself in those rejections. I remember how he gradually recalibrated my goals and ideas of success.

I remember who I was a year ago today, and I see all the ways God has grown me. I remember my bone-deep pride and my faithlessness, and I remember how he’s remade me again and again, each time with a little less of my old nature.

I remember the season of my life when I was hopelessly entangled with sin and all the depression that came with it. I remember how God pursued me, always had grace for me, made me brave enough to do what I had to do to be free of that sin.

I remember walking through wastelands, and I remember the sudden, intense floods of joy and hope and truth that God rained down upon me.

I remember times of striking loneliness where God met with me, was a friend to me.

I remember the trials of these last few years and how God was walked before me, behind me, and with me through all of it.

I remember being overwhelmed by the weight of how sinful I still am—the pride, the faithlessness, the fear, the selfishness—and thinking to myself, “How will I ever see God?” only to have him take the weight from me and remind me that Jesus finished it—all of it—on that cross.

I remember blanching at the thought of the future only to have him take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.

I remember asking for a new heart, and I remember him giving it.

I remember so many things—the person I have been but am no longer, the times in my life where I couldn’t make it, the heart-breaking twists that crushed me, the impossible coming to pass, the blessings from his hand for no other reason than because he loves me and wants me to know it in new ways, the friendships that have fallen apart and the pain they brought but looking back and seeing why, the pulling through when I didn’t have it in me but he had more than enough.

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Remembrance.

If we do not make remembrance a habit, our heart of gratitude flatlines, and our faith and hope wither. It is in the practice of looking back—in remembering specifically what God has done in and for us personally—that we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.

We are creatures so prone to forgetfulness. I can forget in the afternoon the joy of meeting with God I had in the morning. I can forget in a couple of months the despair of being caught in sin. I can forget in a few days the urgency that should trademark how I approach evangelism. I can forget in a few minutes to love of God when a trial comes.

But I cannot—I must not—forget.

When the trial comes, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our wonder is gone, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our hope withers, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be. When our faith dies, we must remember who God has said and shown himself to be.

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But how can we remember?

We must build a memorial beside every Jordan river that God leads us across. He gives us the rocks from his very hand, the stones that build our faith and hope and joy and love if only we remember them.

They are massive boulders. They are little pebbles. And they all build up, help us to understand in our hearts and our heads and delight ourselves in God’s goodness and faithfulness and love, readying us for when his blessings aren’t so apparent.

They are little moments of wonder, and they are life-changing events, and they are weeks and months of growth.

They are the encouraging texts out of the blue.

They are the moments when the presence of the Holy Spirit is undeniably tangible.

They are the massive, unexpected, unnecessary win at work.

They are the conversation with a friend.

They are the peonies with their hundreds of petals in full bloom.

They are the truth we are suddenly, powerfully reminded of down to our core.

They are the old friend who is still a good friend despite the time and distance.

They are the passage of Scripture that comes alive.

They are the hug of a sister.

They are the prayer of a brother.

They are the healing and forgiveness after so much hurt.

They are the fireflies flickering on a summer night.

They are the safety in a dangerous place.

They are the song for the dark of night.

They are the deep sleep that refreshes and renews.

They are the victory when it seemed the fight was lost.

They are the hearts being transformed into the image of Jesus all around us.

They are the remaking of our own hearts day by day.

They are the cancer in remission.

They are the grandparent coming out of the hospital safe and sound.

They are the little things. They are the big things. They are all the things in between. These are the stones with which we build our memorials, our altars of remembrance.

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My memorial is made mainly of paper and ink.

I journal to remember, and I keep a notebook of thanksgiving. I also make playlists, and each song reminds me of something specific from different seasons of life.

On July 6—the anniversary of my accident—I buy flowers, and I set aside a little while to think back, to journal, to pray, and to worship. It’s special not because of the flowers or even because I’m alive and well and happy to be; it’s special because on that day I remember well the sovereignty and faithfulness and grace and love and power of my God.

So I encourage you—I challenge you—to remember what your memorial is made of. I challenge you to regularly identify the individual rocks and gravel bits that have built up your altar of remembrance.

Remember who God has said and shown himself to be in his Word and how he’s confirmed it in your life.

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I would love to hear from you. What are some things—big and small—that you remember? How do you remember—do you journal or make photo albums or something else entirely?

With much love,

Rosalie

P.S. – Here’s the original post I wrote after my accident in 2016, if you’re interested.

P.P.S. – The whole account of the crossing of the Jordan is pretty spectacular; Joshua 1-5 gives a fairly comprehensive picture of the situation.

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The Get To Know Me Tag [writer’s edition]

Happy Monday, friends!

Today I am finally (finally finally) doing a tag that has been sticking to me for a few months now. Way back in March (or something like that), the lovely Savannah Grace tagged me with The Get to Know Me Tag: Writer’s Edition, and I am finally doing it.

So here we are.

The rules:

  • link back to the person who created the tag (Savannah)
  • thank the person who tagged you (Savannah)
  • tag eleven bloggers (I don’t know if I can do eleven, but we’ll see)

Fun fact about Savannah:

She and I are Splickety buddies! Her flash fiction, Shoot Straight, and my flash fiction, Our Family, were published in the same issue of Splickety!

And she’s since been published with Splickety twice. Yeah, she’s that cool.

And now for me actually doing the tag (question: is that what we call it? “Doing” a tag? Or participating in a tag? Or something else????).

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[Vital Stats & Appearance]

(pen)Name: Rosalie Valentine (it also happens to be my real name).

Nicknames: Rosie, Rose, Seeta, Honeywheat, and Sourdough (thank you for those last three, brothers).

Birthday: July 30, 1998 (aka: I’m very close to leaving my teen years behind me, which is oddly somewhat unsettling).

Hair color and length: Brown and down to my lower back (and straight like there’s no tomorrow; it won’t hold a curl or wave for more than half a day so woe is me if my life one day depends on having texture in these brown locks).

Eye color: Hazel!

Braces/piercings/tattoos: Pierced ears (I got my ears pierced for my fifth birthday).

Righty or lefty: Righty all the way (though who hasn’t had the ambidextrous dream?).

Ethnicity: A lot of European blood with just a little Cherokee mixed in.

[Firsts]

First novel written: Truly, a Cinderella retelling novella (and that was right before it got cool to write retellings).

First novel completed: I’m not sure if setting aside a story because it is irreparable counts as completing it, but we’ll just go with that. That would be Truly as well.

Award for writing: N/A

First publication: A flash fiction for Havok magazine back in 2017 titled The Necklace. It’s still one of my favorite stories I’ve written. :)

Conference: Realm Makers 2015!!! This is where I first met Katie Grace for the first time! I literally cannot imagine my writing life without Katie because she inspires and encourages me in so. many. ways.

And I finally met Nadine Brandes at RM 2015 after I was on the launch team for A Time to Die (A Time to Speak was coming out in just a few months at that point, and I was DYING with questions). And I got to ask Steve Laube a bunch of questions in a mentoring session. And I met Victoria and Jordan there too! And Jill Williamson for another mentoring session!! So many amazing things happened at Realm Makers 2015. :)

Query/Pitch: Possibly False Gods by the end of this year. We’ll see where it’s at after this draft and then what alphas and betas think. But guys, my heart is so ready for the world to meet these characters and this story; I cannot wait to see what God does with it (especially since it’s the most direct, not-subtle-at-all story I’ve ever written).

[Favorites]

Novel (that you wrote): Lol, False Gods for sure.

Genre: Between flash fictions and novels, I’ve dabbled in science fiction, various kinds of fantasy, contemporary, and YA. My default seems to be fantasy, but there’s a sci-fi story-possibly-novel that I am dying to write.

Author: Just one? It’s impossible. I’ll go with two—Anne Elisabeth Stengl and Nadine Brandes.

Writing MusicIt really varies on the story! A lot of my stories/characters have tailored playlists depending on the genre and situation. Lots of film scores (Hans Zimmer and Trevor Rabin are some of my favorite composers).

Time To Write: Early morning or late night it seems.

Writing Snack/Drink: Gummy bears, granola bars, coffee with enough cream to make it tasty, chai or lavender lattes, and water.

Movie: This is where I cannot do one or even two. Prepare for a list, kids. The Dark Knight trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and The Lion King.

Writing Memory: Hmmmm, this is an interesting one. My favorite writing related memory was probably when I got the email telling me that Havok wanted to acquire The Necklace.

My favorite memory of writing is probably when I drafted the climax scenes for False Gods. So much of me and what I’ve learned about God is in the story and the themes and the characters, and so when it was all coming together for the first time, it was all rushing from my heart to my fingers in a way that doesn’t happen very often.

Childhood Book: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and the Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl are my childhood.

[Currently]

Reading: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (which, by the way, releases in less than two weeks!!!!).

Writing: A flash fiction to submit for the Realm Makers live critique and False Gods editing/revising.  The flash fiction has to be 300 words or less, and it’s related to one of my other stories (but I won’t say which because it would be so fun/cool for you guys to one day figure out which story/character it’s connected to). And my project for Camp NaNo this July is False Gods again. We’ll see how it goes with Realm Makers in the middle of it.

Listening to: The Piano Guys because I somehow forgot about them for two years and just rediscovered them last week! And re-listening to my 2018 and worship playlists a lot recently.

Watching: Lost in Space—the new one that Netflix made. I’ve seen four episodes and like it so far!

Learning: To have faith over fear and to dream better regarding everything, including my writing life.

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(how did you not see this gif coming?)

[Future]

Want To Be Published: Yes! So very much! … but I’m in no rush. I keep submitting short stories and working on novels, but it’s not consuming like it used to be. If I get published again, it will be when God wants it to be, with the story he wants it to be, and with the publisher he wants it to be. Until then, I’m at my leisure.

Indie or Traditional: It varies! For novels, I want try for traditional first, but as far as some short stories/flash fiction collections, those might be self-published.

Wildest Goal: Get False Gods published and into the hands of people like me, who have doubts and struggles like me, who need to hear Asha and Adele’s stories like I have. My best hope and prayer for my writing right now is that God will use False Gods to do in others what he’s used it to do in me.

It’s crazy how much Jesus has changed my desires and goals for writing over the years. At one time (and sometimes still), success was writing and selling lots of books; now success is writing stories with God and seeing what he does with them—in me and in others.


I hereby tag:

Thank you so much for tagging me, Savannah! This was fun!

What about you? What is your childhood book/series? And leave your strangest nickname in the comments too, because I need to know. ;)

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – another memo of High Command is going out this Friday (not last Friday like I said it would on Instagram because I forgot that last Friday was still in June and that it won’t be the first Friday of July until this Friday. #oops)

P.P.S. – anyone else kind of appalled that it’s July 2 today? Like, where has the first half of the year gone? Riddle me that.

The 2018 Penprints Flash Fiction Dash WRAP-UP

Well, kids, today is the day.

Today is the giant wrap-up for the 2018 Penprints Flash Fiction Dash.

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Before we get to the stories themselves, I just want to say a few things (because I’m charge and can do as I please, mwahahaha).

I wasn’t going to do a flash fiction dash this year just because of the time it takes, but almost last minute, I decided to launch it because it had been so much fun last year. And I decided to give it an Instagram so that I could give the stories another spotlight and hopefully be able to interact with all you lovely people on another level.

Guys, you made it so worth it.

It was so fun tracking the hashtags and seeing people work on their stories, but when the stories actually started to come in…. man, you guys blew my mind.

So much imagination and creativity and talent has gone into each of these stories, so many unique angles on the prompts that I never dreamed of, and I feel so privileged and humbled to be able to interact with these writers and compile these stories.

I know I sound like a broken record because I keep telling people “I love what you did with the prompt”, but it’s just the way it is–they did amazing things with the prompts.

So, without any more of my rambling, let’s go on 25 different adventures. Click the prompt to read the story.

Disclaimer: neither I nor any of these writers own any of these pictures; they were found in the depths of Pinterest.

[Science Fiction]

To the Stars Who Listen by Athelas Hale.

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Human Error by Faith Song.

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Moya Tobey.

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[Fantasy]

Sun Eater by Just B. Jordan

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The Painting by Alina.

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Dragonborne by A.K.R. Scott.

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The Last of the Lightning Bearers by Sarah Rodecker.

 

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Rimewhittling by Spruce Holly Nogard.

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The Deal Is Off by Julian Daventry.

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Song of the Wind by Emily Jayne.

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Letters from the Banned by M.

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Ambush by Katherine M.

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The Pond by Melinda Wagner.

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[Contemporary]

The Day We Say Goodbye by Micaiah Saldana.

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The Decision by Andi L. Gregory.

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Different Storms by J.M. Jablowski

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Survival by Abigayle Claire.

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A Change of Heart by Anika Walkes

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[Historical]

To See by Tapar – through the desert.
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Between the Raindrops by Amanda Harder.

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[Other]

[aka: the category for stories that I can’t figure out what genre they belong; all I know is that they’re mostly speculative]

Replaced by Aebli.

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All for a Sip of Hot Chocolate by True Shaw.

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Black + White by Lisa Elis.

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Ribs by Heid Melo (and she’s a girl after my own heart–she has a playlist for it).

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Not for Me by Michael A. Blaylock.

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And that’s the end of it.

The 2018 Penprints Flash Fiction Dash has come to a close. Here’s a huge thank you to everyone who participated, and a huge thank you to everyone who’s stopped in to read these fantastic stories.

What story was your favorite? What prompt was your favorite?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – For news of the 2019 Penprints Flash Fiction Dash, keep a weather eye on the Instagram account.

P.P.S. – The July memo for High Command (aka: my swanky newsletter) is slotted to go out this Friday; sign up now to receive the secret updates.

P.P.P.S. – Flash fiction dashers! Also be on the lookout for a debrief email about this year’s challenge!

The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference 2018 Recap

If you follow me on Instagram (a horrible decision, really), you may know that I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this past week at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference (TGCW18 for short) in Indianapolis. I went with Arielle (my sister) and Janie (my sister-in-law), and it was an excellent time of learning and getting deluged with truth from Deuteronomy.

So I’m going to do a quick recap.

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Going Into It

Now, I am not going to pretend to be ultra-spiritual or so godly or pure-hearted here. This is it all just hanging out as it happened.

When I heard that TGCW18 would be primarily centered around texts from Deuteronomy, my little heathen heart sighed and rolled its eyes.

Just leave it to These Sort of People to try and make Deuteronomy—the slightly more endearing sibling of Numbers and Leviticus—a palatable, helpful, super meaningful, cut-me-to-my-core book. Like, only Those Sort of Christians (the wise, mature ones who actually mean it when they talk about how precious allllllll of God’s words are) actually like Deuteronomy. But I guess I should have anticipated such a thing from The Gospel Coalition since it is, after all, filled with Those Sort of Christians.

And then after hearing the gushing, opening remarks They made about Deuteronomy I rolled my eyes and thought, “You all are such nerds.”

And then They talked about how Deuteronomy is about hope for our rebel hearts. To which I internally rolled my eyes again and replied, “I don’t have a rebel heart.”

Famous. last. words.

I won’t pretend that I am now head-over-proverbial-heels for Deuteronomy, but I do intend to reread it very soon with less sighing and autopiloting and with hopefully more Holy Spirit illuminating and guiding.

Because apparently the Word of God actually is a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit. And because apparently I have a rebel heart (shocker).

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Various Swanky Things

So, there was a massive bookstore with books from all the Christian non-fiction publishing houses I’ve ever heard of and some that I haven’t. And everything was at least 40% off.

*cue the jaw drop and the money zipping out of my bank account at the speed of light*

Did I buy more books than I should have? Of course not. Don’t be absurd. I am in perfect control of all my faculties when surround by highly discounted books. I have no idea why you would think otherwise.

Among my spoils purchases, you can find Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke (the only Tony Reinke book that I didn’t own and hadn’t read; it shall not be so for long since it now sits alluringly on my shelf), The Prayer of the Lord by R. C. Sproul, The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield, and This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe.

Speaking of Jaquelle Crowe, I’ve been internet stalking following her for a while now, and I’ve been wanting to buy her book since it first released. But somehow it never landed in my cart. But due to my highly trained Instagram story watching skills, I found out that Jaquelle Crowe would also be at TGCW18.

I finally bought her book, carried it around in my conference bag for day and a half in hopes of “running into her” (i.e. – catching sight of her with my eagle eyes and swooping in), and finally found her on the last day! Annnnnnnnd, I talked like more of an awkward dork than normal and interrupted her and her mom and really wanted to get a picture with her but chickened out but did manage to ask for her to sign my copy of her book. And she did! And was so chill about my ambush! And so sweet!

(I wanted to meet her so badly that I showed her picture to Arielle and Janie and repeatedly instructed them to keep their eyes peeled for a young, dark-haired Canadian. Because that description is so helpful, obviously.)

There were around 8,000 women at TGCW18 from 27 different countries, which was so cool. During the worship time in each session, the sound of 8,000 voices singing to Jesus together was incredible. Something like what I imagine heaven will be like.

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Takeaways

There were seven speakers on Deuteronomy as well as a bunch of other speakers for the workshop/breakout session, and Jackie Hill Perry and John Piper were by far my favorites.

Each speaker had so much to offer that it would take many, many posts to share what they said, but I will share a few things. These aren’t direct quotes; they’re some of the quotes/paraphrases I managed to scribble down in my notes during the sessions. After each little nugget, I’ll have the name of the speaker in parentheses.

  • God gives us everything we need to trust him, and when we don’t, we forfeit his blessing. (Mary Willson)
  • Our imaginations tend to get captured by the greatness of our obstacles instead of the greatness of our God. (Mary Willson)
  • We are no match for our foes, but our foes are no match for our God. (Mary Willson)
  • We obey the Law not to get salvation but because we already have salvation. (Jackie Hill Perry)
  • All image-bearers (people) matter to God, so all image-bearers must matter to the people of God. (Jackie Hill Perry)
  • We must infuse the love of God into the regular rhythms of our lives. (Kristie Anyabwile)
  • The problem of a divided heart is a problem of idolatry. (D. A. Carson)
  • In the name of loving others, we sometimes love others more than we love God (which is idolatry). (D.A. Carson)
  • The little choices we make every day are the sum of our lives. (Melissa Kruger)
  • People who have wisdom spend time with the God of all wisdom. (Melissa Kruger)
  • If you love the stranger, you’ll become strange yourself. (Rosaria Butterfield)
  • The sin that is going to undo us is our own. (Rosaria Butterfield)
  • Generosity only flourishes when you do not fear loss. (Jen Wilkin)
  • If you cherish something—anything—more than God, that is treason. (John Piper)
  • Until you understand the condition you were saved from, you will not enjoy and spread the Gospel to the fullest. (John Piper)
  • Doing things for God is not the essence of loving God; it’s the result of loving God. (John Piper)
  • Choose life. Hold fast to him [Jesus], for he is your life and length of days. (John Piper)

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Last Things

Would I recommend TGCW to women/girls? Yes, absolutely.

The next TGCW will be held in 2020, so there’s plenty of time for you to save. PLUS, they do a very good job keeping the pricing for the conference low, and even when you add in lodging and travel expenses, it is well worth the cost to be drenched in so much knowledge and have three days carved out to focus on God.

The Holy Spirit blessed me a lot during my three days at TGCW18, and I’m very grateful to him for it. I hope you’ll consider this conference, and maybe I’ll see you at TGCW20!

In the meantime, what has been a blessing to you this year? Or what is something you’re really looking forward to in the next couple of months?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – we’re all going to ignore the fact that I totally skipped last week’s post.

P.P.S. – all flash fiction dashers, this is your last day to send your story in!

P.P.P.S. – I’ve gotten so many stories for the flash fiction dash already, and I think you all are going to love them!

When You Don’t Understand the Bible

I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a lot of crazy stuff in the Bible. It is out there. Like, far out there. Wild and confusing things fill the pages of Bible.

And just when I start to think that I know what’s going on, that’s when I come across a passage or book that is way over my head.

But that is okay, and I daresay, a good thing. It’s okay—good even—to be blown away and bewildered by the things that fill the Bible. It’s what we’re talking about on Penprints today (if the title of the post didn’t tell you that already).

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Let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about a few different types of literature in the Bible.

Historical Narrative

This kind of stuff is simple for the most part, once you come to grips with just how depraved humanity is,

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just how holy and righteous and sovereign God is and everything that goes along with that,

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and the literally mind-blowing miracles and such that God does all the time.

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(Why, yes, I did just use two gifs in the middle of a sentence about human depravity and God’s holiness, but it’s just one of those I-don’t-even-care-because-this-is-how-it-is posts.)

Prophecy

Some of the prophecies in the Bible are just… wut.

I have a fairly vivid, expansive imagination due to all the sci-fi, fantasy, and biblical accounts I’ve been exposed to my entire life (thank you, parentals), and I’ve been introduced to theories about prophetic passages my entire life as well (thank you again, parentals). But on first glance, I just don’t know what to make of a lamb standing as though it’s been slain with seven horns and seven eyes.

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actual footage of me trying to talk about prophecy

And that bit imagery is straightforward compared to some of the other pictures painted with prophecy in the Bible.

Poetry

 

So there’s poetry.

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And then there’s ancient Hebrew poetry.

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And then there’s Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry.

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Oh, and sometimes the Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry is also poetic prophecy.

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So there’s that.

Epistles

Let’s not forget these bad boys. They’re rarely as simple as all the flowery shareables online make them out to be. My goodness, no.

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The epistles read so beautifully, but it’s crazy how quickly you can come to realize that you actually don’t know what all the lovely words mean. Like, a third heaven? What? What does it meant to be “caught up” to this third heaven? And what about the other two heavens?

The point of all this is to say that it is natural to be confused by verses, passages, themes, and whole books of the Bible.

Please don’t get disheartened by what’s confounding. Don’t give up on trying to know God because of the mental strain required to grasp/reconcile the confusing things.

Don’t buy into the lies that you’re not smart enough to understand because you’re “just not cut out for it” or that you’re less spiritual because you don’t understand or that you will never understand, because they are all just that—lies.

As far as your intellect goes, understanding the Bible is not about being smart enough or having the right sort of mind for it. The Bible is richer and deeper than you or I can imagine, but God has not made it inaccessible. He didn’t write it for a select few. Maybe you’re a genius. Maybe you’re more like me. Regardless, you don’t understand parts of the Bible not because you’re “just not cut out for it”; you don’t understand parts of the Bible because the Holy Spirit hasn’t illuminated them to you yet.

(Sidenote: God is far more glorified in making the simple wise than he is in smart people figuring something out on their own.)

When it comes to being more or less spiritual, well, I don’t believe that is a biblical measure (because don’t forget that demons are spiritual). The measure isn’t in being more or less anything than anyone else. The measure is godliness. Christlikeness. In your core, expressed in your words and actions—not in what you do or do not understand.

And you can understand. Just because something’s baffling right now doesn’t mean that it always will be. Be proactive. Take steps to understand what you don’t understand.

  • Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and help you. Don’t rely on only your mind and human resources.
  • Don’t skip the first suggestion.
  • Get a good commentary (no matter what you may have heard or think about the recent happenings at Moody Bible Institute, the Moody Bible Commentary is an excellent, trustworthy resource to have on your shelf if you’re looking for a whole-Bible commentary).
  • Get a study Bible (the ESV study Bible seems to have solid notes, as does the MacArthur study Bible. Don’t skip research when buying a study Bible. Try to get an idea of who wrote the notes and if they’re trustworthy.)
  • Ask your pastors and small group leaders questions.
  • Read the difficult passage. And then read it again. And then read it again.
  • Don’t give up. Knowing God and his Word isn’t easy, so keep working at it. Keep studying. Keep learning. Don’t throw in the towel.

Friends, when God commanded us to know and keep and love and live his Word, he did not give us an impossible task.

If you’re confused by the Bible, good. Good because it means you’re thinking about a theme or passage deeply and intentionally. It means your brain didn’t drop into autopilot while you were “reading” the Bible. It means you’re invested.

Please don’t feel silly; just seek to understand.

What have been some things from the Bible you’ve grappled with? What’s been confusing? And what do you do when you don’t understand?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – a special shout-out to 2 Corinthians for being confusing to me right now and inspiring this post.