My very first Bible Study…

This was quite possibly the hardest challenge I’ll go through on this entire adventure. I’ve been both dreading and looking forward to it since I opened the envelope. I knew that it would force me to take a look at some things I have pushed down for quite some time and I also knew that it might open my eyes to something I hadn’t previously realized. I had a feeling Claire would send something like this my way when I mailed out her card, I just didn’t know it would affect me this much. This was a deeply personal experience for me and I’ve struggled with how much of it to share. I am omitting some of my own reflection from this post, but as I vowed to do when I started this whole thing, I will be as open as I can.

(Warning: Christy, there aren’t a whole lot of pictures this week.)

Challenge #21:

…I had a really hard time coming up with a unique challenge. Then, yesterday, I was reading and it came to me! I would love to take this opportunity to share with you the place where I’ve found the most encouragement and inspiration. Ephesians is my favorite book of the Bible and I would like to challenge you to read one chapter from this book every day. But what’s the challenge in simply reading? 

When you are ready to do this challenge, shoot me a text or an email and I will send you related questions to consider/journal about and devotions to make it apply to your day. Think of it as intentional reading for inspiration! 

You’ll notice there are only 6 chapters in Ephesians…Well God rested on the 7th day for a reason. On day 7, take some time to rest and reflect on your week. If you feel so inclined, check out a church or join me at Crossroads. I’d love to go together.” – from Claire Hayden (I will refer to her as CB – Claire Bear- throughout the post).

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Claire is one of the many cousins I have on the Hayden side of my family. She is the baby of the family, but has proven to perhaps be more mature than any of us. (Though we don’t set the bar real high…) We have been through a lot together and, as I mentioned in previous posts, are incredibly close. Claire has lived her life through faith unlike anyone I’ve ever known so closely. She lives “through Him, with Him, in Him” all the time. It’s very admirable, though I’m not sure I’d ever be able to commit myself as fully as she has. She takes it into consideration in every aspect of her life and I’m very proud of her. Claire is also one of the funniest people I know. Her timing and wit are so finely tuned that she sits quiet through most of what we joke around about and at just the right moment, hits you with a zinger. I greatly enjoy being around her whenever I can.

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On my first challenge, I mentioned that I have a general aversion to religious preferences. In order to fully understand why this challenge was so tough for me and why that is the case, I have to go back, 12 years ago, to the time when everything I thought I ever knew started to change. I find it extremely coincidental that I’m writing this on 9/11 as that is when much of this aversion to faith began. I grew up attending St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Anderson. We went to church most Sundays, unless one of our various sporting events got in the way, and attended Sunday School through much of our childhood. I always kind of went along with what they said and enjoyed the projects we worked on, never really understanding what it was we were doing. I was a kid. I didn’t know the difference. As I grew up, I began to question things. You see, I am scientifically oriented. I like to know why things work the way they do when they do.  I like to have proof of existence of things. That being said, I also habitually make wishes on shooting stars, eyelashes and every day at 11:11 when I catch it. I can’t explain it…

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I went to public school through elementary school when I switched to St. Ursula Villa, a private Catholic school, for Junior High. I then went on to St. Ursula Academy, an all-girls Private Catholic School, for High School. I had to attend religion class. In my formative years where I began to develop my own (strong) opinions on things, I began to question everything I had ever been told about God. I had a fundamental issue with the fact that everyone says the same things during mass and reads the same things, sings the same songs, etc. because half of the people surrounding me had absolutely no idea what any of it meant. They were simply reciting words they’d been told to say.  What’s the difference between that and a cult? And then on top of that, because I’m not Catholic, I was not permitted to take communion. But then they tell me that God loves everyone, no matter who they are? So you love me, but I cannot worship you in the same way others do? K. Cool.

I have always believed in some sort of higher power that makes things work.  I also have a very difficult time believing all the walking-on-water, dying and rising, water into wine mumbo-jumbo.  And I spent much of those 6 years of religion class challenging my teachers to provide evidence that these things they were telling me were real. They would say I just had to believe it. Well. No I don’t. That’s why I am asked the questions. All I know is that I can’t explain it. No one can prove it, it seems unfathomable and I cannot suspend my disbelief long enough to fully comprehend it.  I’m not sure what my higher power is that I believe in, but I know that when I say something or do something I shouldn’t, I silently apologize to the sky and whatever might be watching from above.

So, 12 years ago…

September 11, 2001. I remember sitting in my art class in the Fine Arts Building my senior year of high school when the news came over the speaker that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Our teacher then turned on the TV and we sat there, mesmerized, eyes glued to the screen, speechless. We had these tall wooden desks with cold, black laminate desktops. Girls crowded around, sitting in chairs, on top of the desks and I myself was crouched underneath, arms wrapped around my knees tucking them in close to me. Curled up in my little ball, I sat there and thought, “How in the world could this happen? If God exists, how could He possibly let this happen?”  I wanted my family. And I was full of questions. What faith I had left came into serious jeopardy.

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A little over month later, October 17, 2001, I headed home from school early because I was not feeling well. I was driving up Salem, a road that winds through the woods with a pretty serious S curve, and there were wet leaves scattered everywhere. My car skidded and I went off the road, through a fire hydrant, ricocheted off of seven or eight trees, then spun around and slammed into one at the bottom of a ravine. My car was completely smashed on all sides except for where I was sitting. The driver’s seat was completely unaffected. I walked away without a scratch. I climbed to the top of the ravine and the firemen informed me that there “is no way in hell I should have made it out of that alive, let alone unharmed.” I began to consider the idea of guardian angels. Maybe, just maybe, there is a small possibility, that God exists. There is simply no other explanation.  I asked fewer questions in religion class and began to accept that they could be onto something, though still not fully convinced.

Fast forward to May 8th, 2002. My mom and I had been driving to soccer practice and noticed that Beechmont Levy was abnormally crowded with traffic. We had determined that there must have been an accident somewhere and traffic was diverted. Thinking nothing of it, I went to soccer. My mom picked me up and asked me to quickly get in the car because she had something to tell me.  I, instead, stood there and demanded that she tell me immediately because I could tell that something was wrong. She informed me that there was in fact a car accident and that my cousin, Page, had been killed. My knees buckled and I fell to the ground in tears.  My siblings didn’t know yet so we had to get home quickly to tell them. We sat in our old family room, crying, and hugging one another. Same question came to mind again. “How could this happen. If God really does exist, how could He let this happen?” She was 22 and just starting to really live her life.  My family was shaken and so was my faith.


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I immediately decided that I was done with religion. I was done with God. I was done with believing in something bigger than myself. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. And in my mind, we were the best people. Our family grew incredibly close – closer than we already were, if you can believe that. I spent as much time as I could with them. Every single phone call, goodbye at family gatherings, email, etc. ends with “I love you” and always will. I carry this into relationships with many of my friends, and though they don’t always say it back or use the phrase as comfortably as I do, I will continue to say it every time I speak to them. Deal with it. Should something happen, my last words to you will always be “I love you.”

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I spent the next few years hating Him. Constantly struggling with the fact that my parents wanted us to go to church on major holidays, though they didn’t force us to go in between.  I would go and listen, just to appease my family, but I didn’t make the slightest inclination of an effort to participate. Then some things happened and I had this revelation. If I don’t believe in God, then Page is just gone. If you don’t believe in God, then there is no Heaven and that means she’s just. gone. Not willing to accept this fact, I started to explore my options in faith again. I went to some nondenominational churches and had extensive conversations with people about my faith, their faith and what it means to them.  My dad is strong in his faith and, at his request, I considered the idea of letting it become a part of my life again.

Fast forward again. April 27, 2012. I was at the airport getting ready to board a plane to Minneapolis for a final visit with John and Becky before Belle arrived. My cousin Terri called right as they announced that my zone could board. I picked up and she asked where I was. I informed her I was at the aiprot and she said she needed to call me back. Something was wrong. I’d had this feeling before and my gut said don’t get on the plane. I begged the gate agents to give me a minute and wait for Terri to call back. They graciously obliged and I sat there for what felt like an eternity, though was only about 3 minutes. Finally, she called back and, just as I suspected, something was wrong. She informed me that my Uncle Bill, Page’s father, had died in a plane crash. Again, knees buckled. I fell to the ground, right there at gate B16, in uncontrollable tears. The same question, only this time it was less confusion and more rage. And followed by an “ARE YOU *$&@!?* KIDDING ME!?” I gathered myself and my belongings, asked them to remove my luggage from the plane, and headed to baggage claim. When I got there, I kid you not, there was a group of 8 South American nuns standing at the counter, dressed like Mother Theresa.  One reached out with a tissue and assured me that whatever I was going through, it would be alright and that He would see me through it. This infuriated me.  To have something so tragic happen to the same family TWICE is incomprehensible to me.  I feel for my cousins and my aunt as they continue to live their lives without two of the most important people they’ve ever known. I feel for my father who lost a niece and a brother, for his parents who lost a child and a granddaughter, for the rest of my family for having to lose an uncle, a brother, a niece, a cousin.

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At this point, I’m done. I know that people all over the world experience terrible loss and stay steadfastly devoted to their faith. I’m not one of them. It shook me to the core and I’m over it. I have since had more conversations with people in regards to their faith. My dad and I have discussed this many times and he truly wishes that I can find some way to let faith back into my life. When my Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer this past February I felt helpless. Then suddenly, I found myself praying. I was literally laying there in bed, thinking about my mom, our family, what would happen and all of a sudden I realized I was praying.  I had asked others to pray for my mom for me because I didn’t know who to pray to and I didn’t know what else to do. And there I was. Praying.

My friend Megan, among others, shared with me that they focus on all of the blessings and are grateful for the wonderful things in their life as opposed to blaming Him and hating Him for the bad. (BTW, I hate that I’m capitalizing these H’s right now. But I’m trying to get past that. I also just silently apologized to the sky.) They also don’t see that He has caused them, but that He provides them the strength to get through them.  Well if He brought you the good things then why isn’t He responsible for the bad? This is all so inconsistent.

This past May, John and Becky asked me to be my niece Belle’s Godmother.  The first thing I said was, “Are you sure? I’m not a very Godly person.” They informed me that they hoped I would explore my faith with this newly appointed responsibility. So I placed my hand on their shoulders at her baptism and agreed to the things I thought I could live up to, remained silent during the parts I fundamentally could not comprehend, but in the end I vowed to guide her through her spiritual journey as she grows up.  If anything, she can come to me and ask questions because Lord knows I’ve asked plenty myself.

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So here we go. I’m keeping an open mind. Claire, I read the Bible this week. Not because I wanted to, but because when I started this project I told myself I had to complete each and every challenge extended to me, no exceptions.  Alongside these passages, I worked through the questions and reflections you sent my way.  I’m going to say right now that I did not agree with some of what I read, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I woke up each morning to an email from Claire. They included the following:

  • an amusing opening greeting/video/picture/quote
  • a link to that day’s chapter of Ephesians
  • a breakdown of all of the “Christianese/Biblical Mumbo-Jumbo”
  • a series of “Light bulb questions” to help me reflect on the reading
  • a “So What” section with a variety of thoughts and correlations between the passage and Claire’s reflections
  • and CB’s response to the reading that day

Claire, forgive me if I get any of this wrong. It was a lot to process.

Day 1:

Katie,
 

Woohoo, today you begin your challenge from me! First of all, let me say I’m really honored to get to contribute to this awesome journey you’re on this year, and it has been such a pleasure reading along! Also, I want you to know that this week, you actually aren’t doing this challenge alone. Everyday, I will be reading Ephesians, journaling about it, and taking the passage into my life, right with you. So, maybe you’ll be getting a text from me one of these days about some sort of funny “coincidence” God sends my way….feel free to do the same to me 🙂 Oh! And, you said that with your impending (yes, “impending” should make you think of doom) challenge coming up it “may be good to have God on your side”…But my hope is that if you get anything from this challenge, it’s realizing that God is always on your side–always has been and always will be!

 
Alright, since this is one of my favorite books to read through, I have gathered a lot of notes and such on it. So, I thought I would share the information and questions I like to journal about as I read through Ephesians. The resources will be included in every email, and–of course–it’s up to you if/how to use them. I tried to come up with a unique application to daily life for each day/chapter; I hope it helps draw a connection to what you’re reading. And hey, you’re a Hayden…I know I don’t have to tell you this, but don’t be afraid to challenge what you read and be honest with your thoughts/convictions, but be open-minded too. I really think discernment is a great gift God’s given our family 🙂

 

Ephesians, Chapter 1.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%201&version=NIV;MSG&interface=print

So. Paul’s first letter to the people of Ephesus essentially breaks down the blessings that Paul has for God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He also  says that God made an investment in us as a people because He had us in mind even before he created the earth or the universe or whatever.  Why we were picked over the other species is unbeknownst to me. It also includes his prayers for the people and for their enlightenment –  that they may seek to understand and know God more fully.

Lightbulb Questions:

  • Why does Paul begin his letter with praise to God?
  • Verses 4-6 say that God chose me before He even created the world. The Message translations says: “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
  • God chose me and adopted me…What does it mean to be personally adopted by the Creator of the universe? (Think adoption…heirs/inheriting His purpose…Princess to the King)
  • What does this say about my self-worth and the value I have in God’s eyes?
  • Do I believe I could be worth a plan God had to watch His holy, righteous, and perfect Son brutally die on a cross, so that I can have the opportunity to be closer to my Father in Heaven?
  • According to verses 13-14, because of whom do we have salvation? How do we go on to receive this redemption?
  • Christ’s death was a “deposit,” an investment in the promised inheritance of our eternal life with God. What are you investing in (beyond finances…because Lord knows we have no idea how that works in our family) that’s significant to you? What comparisons/contrasts do you see in these investments?
  • Verse 18 talks about an eternal hope God offers us. What are some things you place your hope in?

Then the So What and her response:

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I thought about many of these things. It was hard for me to comprehend, but the question about the investment, (and she also tied it back to things like my relationship with Destiny through BBBS) really stuck with me. My investment of time, energy, care and concern for her. Why do I do it? Because I want to see her grow and flourish into a productive, happy, healthy member of society. I want to help her learn and become the person she’s capable of being. I guess, according to this chapter, that’s the same thing God did with us.

I drafted my own responses every day, but have chosen to keep those private as this is, in fact, an exploration of my faith and it is a very personal journey. And Claire is also MUCH better at it.

Ephesians Chapter 2:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%202&version=NIV;MSG&interface=print

I think this one was largely about the fact that God freed us from sin and made us alive in Christ. He also made it so the Gentiles and Jews could set aside their differences and worship together as one. Though, if I’m correct, I don’t think it continued that way…

Lightbulb Questions:
  • What are my “cravings of the flesh,” or the parts of me that don’t seem to align with God’s plan for me?
    • Why do these desires and giving into them anger God?
  • What are some ways in which I have personally experienced glimpses of the “incomparable riches of God’s grace?”
  • We live in a society that is all about “earning your way.”  How does the concept that God offers new and eternal life as a free gift (verses 8-9)–despite my work–challenge my typical perspective?
    • Can I ever “earn” what God is providing/offering?
  • How can the belief that God has already planned “good works” for me to do help calm my worries about determining my future and where I devote my time?
  • In comparing verse 3 with verse 10, I find we should be objects of God’s wrath (cue the lightning strike), but He sees us as his “handiwork” intended to fulfill a good–no, great–plan. What does this say about my identity/worth and the things to which I am intended to strive for?
  • In times when I feel aimless and alienated, how can I find hope in belonging to the “citizenship of Christ” (verse 12) fully accepted as I am, where I am?
  • How does the previous point unite me with others in such a divided society? 
    • How can this change the ways I judge others who are different?
  • How can I let Jesus be my cornerstone, and the foundation by which I live and evaluate my life?
So What?:
  • Think about things in your life that you worked your butt off for.  Obviously you earned bragging rights after all that hard work, correct? But what if it was God that gave you the strength, skill, perseverance, etc. to reach your reward? 
  • Today, every time you’re tempted to talk about a personal success or achievement, stop and consider what “natural” (perhaps God-given, or grown through the influences God put in your life) skills helped you reach this goal. Then, try giving the bragging rights to God…and instead of boasting in yourself, boast in what you’ve been given.
    • Boast about who/what you believe brought you to said achievement.
  • On the flip-side, think of something you’ve placed so much of yourself into, only for all of your efforts to result in no avail (not to rub in job/internship hunts…I know I can relate to that). What kind of peace can you find in the belief that God has a plan for you (verse 10) to do great things? 

I have a tough time with this one. If I worked my butt off for something it’s because I worked my butt off for something. I give thanks when thanks is due, but He didn’t sit down and write all of these cards that I sent out to you. He didn’t write this for me. I agree that I have been blessed with certain talents and skills. I’m grateful for those, but I always assumed they came from my parents and encouraging camps and classes they sent me to. I have a feeling my teachers might be a little upset if I don’t give them any credit for my sheer brilliance. As for the job thing. I found out last week that I didn’t get the job I’d been dying to have. I literally cannot think of a more perfect position for me. I’d really like to know what He has in store for me that’s better than that. I find peace in the fact that maybe, JUST MAYBE, He knows what he’s doing. But I’m still really bummed out.

Ephesians Chapter 3:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%203&version=NIV;MSG&interface=print

Lightbulb Questions:
  • How would the world–or even our society–look different if we all truly received the message Paul shares in verse 6?
  • What is God’s plan, and what is the purpose of it?
    • How does this “promise through Jesus” impact me and my life?
  • Paul seems confident of his purpose in life, where is he finding this courage, despite his current troubles/sufferings?
    • Where do I find my courage/confidence, and how does that impact my response to struggles?
  • Paul offers a powerful prayer for us in verses 16-19, do I really desire to have this prayer answered in me? 
    • What does it mean for me to grasp the love of the God who created me? 
    • How do I respond to this extravagant love expressed in these verses? 
    • Do I believe that is the character of Jesus/God?
So What?:
  • Do you ever feel “less than the least of all the Lord’s people?” What are some ways God has equipped you to face life with the confidence of Paul and fulfill the purpose for your life? 
  • According to Paul, God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  Today, challenge this trust by asking God to reveal His true character to you, personally. 
    • Whether you go on a drive down an aimless road, or sit on the porch swing enjoying your yard, spend some time in silence to confront God with your doubts and ask Him what it would be like for Paul’s prayer to be answered in your life.
    • I come back to this chapter so often when I am struggling to let God in because I doubt His goodness, but these times of solitude (which often begin with a lot of pent-up rage) always result in reassurance and peace, in an acute awareness of God’s presence in my life.

This particular chapter stood out to me in a way that I didn’t expect it to. As you can tell, I doubt God’s goodness a lot. A lot. I can’t understand why so many things happen in this world. I get that people veer away from His path and that we are all our own person with the power and will to make our own decisions. I do not, however, understand why events completely out of the control of human beings happen. Like natural disasters. If God exists, why do people get hit by tornadoes? To me, that is easier explained by weather patterns and science. It can be proven. I am willing to accept that good things happen to good people and that the work that you put in produces the result you get out of it. There could be some sort of divine intervention that I’m not completely comprehending, but perhaps the part I’m missing is that it’s not meant to be understood. It is meant to be accepted. Believed. Followed. Trusted. I feel hypocritical when I say things like, “It’s in God’s hands now.” But then at the same time, how do you explain medical miracles? Every day people survive things that they truly just shouldn’t. There is no explanation for it. And this is why I’m so confused.

Ephesians Chapter 4:

From CB’s email:  
Nothing says “Get yo Jesus on” like a morning wakeup call from Friends, so Good Morning!”
Needed that one today 🙂
While I was researching this one, I came across a summary that says

"...they are to speak with truth and 
grace, work hard to help those in need, and be kind, tender-hearted, 
and forgiving just as God has forgiven them in Christ."
I can get behind that. Everyone should live that way.
Lightbulb Questions:
  • What are the three character traits listed in Verse 2, that Paul says we should possess? How would these help us to carry out Verse 3?
  • What is the purpose of the repetition of “one” in Verses 4-6? What does this consistency reveal?
    • How would churches be different if there were no more divisions/denominations, but we adhered to the unity of one hope?
  • While we are all God’s children, as a good parent desires healthy growth in his/her child, so does God seek to see us mature. Apparently, eating crayons and glue is no longer acceptable after a certain time…what does it look like to grow up in the ways God desires for us?
    • How does He help us mature?
    • How does it help to know we are not in it alone, but we are “built in love” together, as a body/church/family/community?
  • What are traits of my “Old Self” and what would it look like to be completely anew, allowing God to “reproduce His character in me” (Verses 20-24)?
    • The good news is that we are not on our own. The more we desire relationship with Him, the more we allow God to transform our hearts, which changes our attitudes and actions.
  • What does a Godly life look like according to Verses 25-32?
So What?:
  • Just as our parents expect us to live a certain way according to how they raised us, and we choose to live in that way out of our love for, and trust in, them; so does God expect us to live a certain way when we come to trust His faithfulness. Think back to values/lifestyle traits your parents instilled in you that continue to influence your life, how different would your life look if you neglected to live in the way they desired for you? How does this impact your understanding of God’s desires for your lifestyle?
    • For all the times you want to go against your parents’ will (hello adolescence!), how often do we find they were (once again) right? Yet, how did you benefit from their good parenting allowing you to make mistakes? 
    • Our parents always seem to know better, because their perspective/experience are broader than ours…What does this reveal about how/why God speaks in our lives when we may not agree with Him?
  • What does it mean to speak the truth in love“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34b).
    • What do my words say about my heart/beliefs?
    • Today, how can I be more thoughtful in the words I speak, and ensure my motives are genuine?
  • How often do we allow anger to get the best of us? How much more at peace would I be if I just forgave whoever my anger is directed against, and trusted God is in control?
    • How can I flick that devil off my shoulder and let go of any anger festering inside? Why would this be helpful?
    • How can remembering that God continually forgives me help me to forgive others in day-to-day life?

I understand “speaking truth in love”, but I struggle with some of this one, too.  I’m not sure I understand why He is continually forgiving people. I guess that’s why He’s God and I’m not. Now, I can let go of whatever it is that was done to me, but that doesn’t mean I have to forgive them. I don’t think everyone deserves forgiveness. I think there are things that happen and sometimes, you don’t get an “It’s ok, I forgive you.”

There are also things I’ll never forgive myself for. One of the last conversations I had with my cousin Page before she died was a stupid argument over a dumb ex boyfriend. She said he wasn’t good enough for me and I disagreed.  In retrospect, she could not have been more right!! But I can’t take back that conversation or even apologize for it. I can’t thank her for looking out for me. I can’t change any of it. And I’ll never, ever forgive myself for that.

It might not be right in His eyes, but sometimes I hang on to anger for certain things because it reminds me of the lessons learned during those circumstances. I have a ridiculously good memory and for some reason, allow certain things to linger. In most situations, I forgive those that have done wrong to me, hurt me or whatever.  I don’t have feelings of rage or hatred toward people. That’s just a waste of time. But sometimes, I just keep my experiences as a reminder. I certainly don’t forgive them, but I have learned and grown to be a better person through those experiences.  And I’m ok with that.

Ephesians Chapter 5:
Lightbulb Questions:
  • Notice that Paul shows the reasoning for all of the holy conduct he goes on to describe is rooted in love. How can the belief that I am a beloved child lead me to want to demonstrate that same love in all my actions?
  • What does it mean to be a “Child of Light” vs. one in the dark?
  • What are some practical ways you can “live a life of love”? 
  • Verse 22-24 taken out of context can lead to some pretty angry women (even God doesn’t want to fuel the wrath of an ardent Feminist…or anyone on their period), but consider how we have seen this kind of healthy submission in marriages around us? How does submission lead to greater trust, commitment, and love when practiced appropriately?
  • How does Christ being the head of the church reflect a husband-wife relationship?
So What?:
  • Paul is adamant in this chapter about living intentionally. Today, think about ways that you can be more purposeful in your living.
  • Does anyone actually understand love? I sure as heck don’t, but I am extremely encouraged and humbled when Paul relates to this in Verse 32. Spend time with a married couple today, and observe/reflect on ways that you can better understand God’s intentions in marriage having specific roles but being mutually fulfilling.

I can support this perspective, as well. I totally get living with intention. Living with a purpose. I’ve been doing a lot of searching lately to figure out just what that purpose might be. I try to do things the way I think they should be done to and for others. I try to live with the ideals that I have set for myself and stay true to my value system. Every now and then I get off course, but I understand that.

I actually spent time with my friend Megan and her husband today. In observing their relationship, though as with any marriage, the give and take isn’t always the same, their mutual love for one another is beyond apparent. They are currently expecting their first child and the excitement within both of them is clearly evident.

I cannot however get behind the “obey your husband” bit. I know that’s not his direct message, but come on. It’s beyond dated. It’s anti-feminist. It’s degrading. I understand that husbands and wives should cherish one another, but in my perspective, it is an equal cherishing.  I went to a wedding once where this was the reading they did and I about fell out of my pew.  It did however make me think about a few things. Back when the Bible was written, did people really marry for love or were they marrying for other purposes? Efficiency? Property? Betrothals? Is the idea of loving the person you marry different from the original purpose of marrying? I hope not, though according to some of the scriptures I’ve read over the years, it is. Just a thought…

Ephesians Chapter 6:

In CB’s email…there was a video. About a very intense Hayden family discussion of Toilet Seat up vs. Toilet Seat down. I love being a Hayden. For the safety of Claire, I will not share this video with all of you.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%206&version=NIV;MSG&interface=print

Lightbulb Questions:
  • What do you think is meant by Verse 3, in relation to obeying/honoring our parents? How can we do this as adult children?
  • After all we have read in Ephesians, what does it mean to be “strong in the Lord” (Verse 10)?
  • Who does Paul say in Verse 12 stands up against us?
  • What does Paul describe are the elements of the “armor of God” (see Verses 14-17)?
  • What do Verses 18-20 reveal as the strongest weapon God gives us?
    • What does Paul tell us about prayer?
  • Why do you think Paul said he should declare the gospel without fear?
  • In what ways can prayer be both a preparation for battle, as well as the battle itself?
So What?:
  • Verse 7 discusses serving wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord. How could this mindset help you through completing seemingly monotonous tasks in various settings? Next time you’re ready to pull your hair out over the work you’re doing, remember these verses and consider how your task can help serve a greater purpose. 
  • How can you grow to feel empowered by the “armor of God?”
    • Reflect on past struggles that have challenged your faith. How would your experience have been different or could you have found more peace/hope in those times if you were more firmly equipped with each of the elements of the armor of God?
  • Maybe you’ve been doing this already…but today, say what’s on your heart in your own words to God. Talk to Him, and consider sitting in silence a bit and listening to what He has to lie on your heart.
After having made it through all six chapters I had a lot of different thoughts. I understand the purpose with which we are supposed to live. I understand being kind to one another, honoring your parents and your family, forgiveness and so on. I would agree that had I had a better foundation of faith in my life I might have had an easier time dealing with and accepting some of the events that have occurred. I don’t know whether or not that’s accurate because it simply isn’t the case. Everyone feeds you the “Everything happens for a reason” line whenever something goes wrong. I hate that. I’d really like an explanation for some of these things because I’m lost. And it makes me really, really mad.

I think that the biggest realization for me throughout this week’s challenge is that I’ve been asking the wrong question in trying to process my thoughts about faith. I’ve been asking “how?” when I should have been asking “why?” How can people believe in God when bad things happen? How can people stand strong in their faith when adversity hits them left and right? I should be asking WHY they stand strong and WHY they believe. Without having to ask, CB filled me in. She left me with this note on my final day:

Katie,
I hope that this has been a unique challenge for you and that you have benefitted in some way from this week. As your Challenge Card says, tomorrow is your day of rest.
Let tomorrow be a day of reflection and quiet entertainment with some of your favorite activities. Spend the day enjoying what you love to do and maybe thanking God for giving you those things. Perhaps journal a prayer or conversation with God to consider how you’re growing and what you’re learning. Normally my “Sabbath” day of rest falls on Sunday, so I’ll be attending Crossroads this weekend if you’d like to join me 🙂
I hope you don’t feel like I’m trying to shove some belief system on you. That was anything but my goal.  You asked for a challenge, and I chose to send you the thing that has challenged me in the toughest and most beautiful way over the years.  Katie, pardon my French, but our family has gone through some real shitty circumstances in the past (yeah, your little cousin finally cussed…you should see the prayer journal I keep and some of the things I’ve said to God in the height of those circumstances).  I’m not gonna tell you all that feel-good crap that everything happens for a reason and Jesus will give you all the warm-fuzzies you need…please punt anyone who tries to tell you it’s that easy. This life is hard, but I have to believe we’re given it for a reason and that there is a purpose in all we experience. 
 
God is a big and complex dude, but the good news is…what he calls us to is simple and freeing. All He asks of us is to get to know Him more and live a lifestyle that celebrates Him and the blessings He gives us. After MUCH contemplation, frustration, doubt, distrust, fear, and heartache…I have come to believe that we aren’t always going to know the “Hows” and “Whys” in life, but ultimately, it’s for our benefit. The only “Why” I have found that I need to know is that this world is broken, and it hurts God even more than it hurts us…death wasn’t a part of His plan in the beginning. 
 
But I believe God works all things out for good…I see that in my life…and I see that in your life. 
 
Would our family be half as close had we not experienced loss together? Did God have to use that means to bring us closer together? Maybe not, but we also don’t know the other circumstances that led to this event. God doesn’t create pain or death…He has to let it happen because of His nature. He is a good and loving God who desires relationship, but who gives every individual the power of choice.
 
When you really think about it, if I knew why Page and Uncle Bill died, what purpose would that really serve? But…I have a lot to celebrate (in all circumstances). I mean look at the family He’s given us; personally, I feel no logic or simple science could explain that bond.
 
What you’re doing with these challenges and getting outside your comfort zone is really inspiring.  Seriously, it’s an encouragement to me as I go into the field in my Social Work Internship and doubt myself. I love you and am so grateful for you, Katie. When it comes down to it, I hope maybe what you have gathered from this week is that you don’t have to have faith in God for Him to have faith in you.  But in receiving and leaning into the relationship He desires with each of us, we may actually learn to be grateful for each of life’s curveballs.
XoXo,
CB
I love you, Claire Bear. Thank you for putting so much time and effort into this challenge. Your thoughtfulness, hard work and dedication are unparalleled. It helped me to know that you get mad at God sometimes. That surprised me because I didn’t expect that at all. Knowing that you were doing it right along side me helped me feel connected to you throughout this period of reflection and for that I am grateful.  I am so very, very proud of you.

I took some time to myself, took a drive and thought about all that I’ve read and considered this week. I have a new perspective on some of this faith stuff after reading through Ephesians. I’m not quite ready to say that I’m all for God yet, but I’m open to the idea and I want to learn more. This past Christmas Eve, my family and I went to church, as we always do for the holiday. Only this time, I was present. I knew that my uncle had passed away, but it didn’t really hit me until that night. Almost 8 months later. Til I was around my family for Christmas Eve. Til I was sitting in that pew seeing everyone with their loved ones.  Til I realized Christmas would never be the same again. Not the Jesus part of it (The reason for the season), but the family part of it.  And it hit me and I missed him. I was pissed sad and angry and full of disbelief.  And then I cried. I cried throughout the ENTIRE service. Not just quiet tears – like, legit sobbing for an hour.  Aside from a few weddings, I haven’t been to church since. Claire is taking me to Crossroads with her on Sunday and I’m hoping for a different outcome.

That being said, I still believe in The Big Bang and Evolution. I often wonder if there are other planets in the universe thriving, just as we are. In the grand scheme of things, we’re just a mess of tiny atoms that happened to hang out close enough to one another to take on the form of human beings. That has been proven. I can support that. However, maybe God knew that’s how he wanted to make us. Though according to the Old Testament, I came from a rib bone. Or something. I dunno. I feel like I’m starting all over again and maybe that’s the best way to look at it. Maybe I need to forget everything I already know about religion and start over. I should also let you know that I realized when I pray, I don’t pray to God. I pray to Page and Uncle Bill. If there is a God, then they are angels and they are watching over me and they’ll deliver my message safely.
If anyone else would like to discuss this with me, share their thoughts and feelings about their faith or learn with me, I welcome the conversation and the company.  
I will close this by saying that I am incredibly grateful for the family with which I have been blessed.  Even if some were taken too soon, I’m so lucky that I had to opportunity to know them. They are the single greatest thing in my life and if God did that, then I owe Him a really big, huge thank you.  This one is for you, Page and Uncle Bill. I love you very much and there isn’t a single day that passes that I don’t think of you. xo.
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4 thoughts on “My very first Bible Study…

  1. I love you a whole stinkin lot Katie, thank you for remaining so dedicated to this challenge (and for putting up with my corny-ness). Your words mean a lot to me (…and about that maturity thing: I’m still the one who laughs first at farts), and I am so grateful for you. You can always come to me about this stuff (and anything else!), and I’m really looking forward to Sunday.

  2. I love you a whole stinkin lot Katie, thank you for remaining so dedicated to this challenge (and for putting up with my corny-ness). Your words mean a lot to me (…and about that maturity thing: I’m still the one who laughs first at farts), and I am so grateful for you. You can always come to me about this stuff (and anything else!), and I’m really looking forward to Sunday.

  3. Katie,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I was part of Claire’s small group through The Navigators this past spring and she shared your post with the Navs community. it was beautiful reading your reflections and the way you view and challenge faith. you brought up lots of questions I know I’ve also wondered about, especially the ones related to loss. I hope your visit to Crossroads with Claire is encouraging and life-giving. 🙂

    Natasha

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