Thursday, August 24, 2006

Women Reading

I have tried various programs and schedules of reading through the bible, with varying degree's of success. The fault being mine, not the program's. That said, I have found it useful in my desire to be a devoted student of the scriptures, to use various "helps" along the way.

In the last six years, I have noted a few things in my readings of various saints. From Thomas Boston's memoir, I have read his report of finding answers to prayer and guidance from God in what he refers to as "my ordinary"...I have seen this phrase or something similar, in the writings of other pious souls. It is my understanding that by this he meant, that he was, far from "lucky dipping" (horrid phrase, meaning opening the bible and sticking one's finger in it and expecting an answer written out for one in the spot) he would be reading according to his usual daily plan (whatever that was in his case, be it through a particular book of scripture, by a calender of readings etc.) and that he found aid from God through the holy spirit in the instructions there, aid often seeming to perfectly suit the concerns he had been crying out for, in prayer.

Another thing I have noted, particularly in the Memoir of Mrs. Marion Veitch, wife of a persecuted Scottish covenanting pastor, is that she would plead the promises of Scripture, in prayer, for herself and those she loved. (Actually, she'd plead the promises of scripture regarding evildoers as well, that they would be stopped in their wicked ways.) In Mrs. Veitch case, she would often refer to a promise as being one she believed the "lord had made out to her" much as a check would be, to be taken to the bank.( Spurgeon similarly had a wee devotional book based upon the promises of God called "The Checkbook of Faith.") I am unable to find her exact words at the moment as I seemed to have lost the fragile wee volume which held her memoir but the spirit of her view of the Word, is there in my paraphrase. Again, as with Boston, I was deeply impressed by the tremendous volume of scripture she had "hidden in her heart." Someday perhaps I'll start another site which might feature excerpts from the various women's writings I have collected.

Now I am reading a new publication of Ruth Bryan's letters, and again, in these pages, am reminded of how intimate she was with the word of God.

In all these combined readings, I am struck with the awareness that I and any others of our day, who are not faithfully taking onboard the word of God with the Holy Spirit's enabling, reading it, ruminating upon it, doing all those wonderful things we are told to do with the word in Psalm 119, cannot truly expect to have the type of intimacy with God, that these foreparents enjoyed. Yes, I do tend to agree with friends who have suggested that God is not seeming to pour out his riches on our generation as he did, say in the time of Rutherford and his peers, but certainly there is a way we can go in seeking such fellowship with God as can be had in our day.

I know from experience, which to my shame is far smaller than it ought to be given my days on this earth, that the times when I have been most spiritually uplifted, encouraged, and most fully fixed upon Christ and his loveliness have been when I have been seeking him Where he is found, in the pages of the Word of God. While the holy spirit has graciously stirred me at times from a cooling state, it has always been to bring me near the fire of the word and prayer round that fire, in very fact and deed, back to GOD himself, not my notions of God, not warm fuzzies about God, but to God as He manifests Himself in His own word. (A side note for the faint of heart, those times of sweetness with Christ have also often co-incited with a fair amount of pain and or heartache either physical or emotional. ( "It is good that I have been afflicted that I might learn thy statues."Ps. 119:71)

I do believe that there are various ways and means of being a faithful student of the word, so far be it from me to prescribe any one methodology. In fact the very word methodology reminds me to say emphatically that we need grace and the outpouring of the holy spirit in our every spiritual motion, including this one. I know that I often have to pray to be prayerful, and pray to have both desire and discipline stirred up.

Years ago, I used to quite enjoy doing deep inductive studies of a particular book of scripture, and I still highly recommend such a thing. However what I found all too often, is that when I finished a particular book of the Bible, I'd fall into this "what next" lull that could eat up a huge portion of time while I "decided" what portion to study....there could come a form of interia. Having a daily reading plan was helpful because I didn't have to get stuck wondering "whatever shall I do" if the spirit would be displeased if I read the "wrong" book ...Even if one does "take off" from the through the bible type reading for a few weeks of inductive study, it is simple just to look at the date in Mc'Cheyne or the day of the week in the new program I'm mention below, and take up where one is supposed to be.

For years I've been a fan of the plan known as the "M'Cheyne" plan. (see links section.) I appreciate the order he goes in and that his plan contains portions of the various parts of scripture daily. One does not get stuck never getting past the book of numbers with such daily variety.

I am now at the point of trying out a new plan. Since it is a plan that could perhaps encourage those who have ended up leaving off other plans waiting for the start of a new year, hoping this year will be different, I thought I'd share it with you. I thought it might also be a good plan for those who have young children who need so many hours of care day and night. I found this plan in notes from Toad Hall by Margery Haack. I have a link to the plan pages here and to the website it originates in the links section.

The plan entails reading through different types of scripture according to what day of the week it is. On every Lord's day: O.T Poetry. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays it is O.T history, on Friday's the reading is N.T History and Saturday :N.T Epistles. The plan can be printed out and stuck in one's bible. While it does suggest fairly large chunks for some of the readings, I figure the faint of heart, or overly time pressed could simply cross off the portions read and not fill in the box indicating completion until the suggest reading is done, even if it takes two Mondays to finish one box worth. The woman who suggested this plan said she took 1.5 years to get through the entire bible. Having done M'Cheyne now for about 4 years, I'm rather looking forward to a suggested reading list that has me being able to enjoy the spot and topic I'm in rather than flipping to various readings in one sitting.

I've been pondering if there is any way for the gals in our congregation (or even those far off who read this blog) might like to either meet, or email each other as a form of aid and encouragement to each other, regarding our devotional lives. I know of one group of sisters who have what they call "the 5 am club" or some such, and they encourage each other to be up and reading in the wee hours...their "club" spawned others at other hours of the day (not everyone is likely to feel 5 am to be their best time.) I know that plans of such a type can lend themselves toward folk doing the right thing for the so called "wrong reason"...obviously the point of being in the word is for one's greatest benefit and one shouldn't need a nudge, but fallen as we are, sometimes plans, books, a new set of colored markers for writing in the margins of our study bible, can be a boost to our clay flesh. I like the idea of an email check in or report as it doesn't encourage getting side tracked with chatting. (I am black: the pot and the kettle.)

And for those of you who read faithfully but at times find yourself trudging through, all I know to say is, keep on keeping on for the promises are sure, that there is great reward and blessing in knowing the word of God. He has promised to draw near to us when we draw near to him. It is and can be a struggle, it is the "good fight"we have not the "good ease and repining". I think prayer can help break through the seasons of dry reading, praying over what we read, asking God for his strength to press on. It could be helpful to go through Ps. 119 noting all that is said there about God's word. There are also volumes written on Psalm 119 which could be a helpful encouragment in one's study of the Word. Perhaps I can post a few here as I go along.

If any of you sisters out there have idea's on this matter of being in the word, encouraging each other in it, by all means post a comment or write me privately.


Anonymous said...

I would gladly be involved with something like that!
I'm interested, and appreciated reading this post.

Anonymous said...

Count me in!! I could really use encouragement/ accountability in this.

I like the e-mail idea. Don't have time, or can't make time for anything else right now!

You are a blessing, Susan. Thank you!