Some Good News to Color Your Day

Political divisions. Racial tensions. A pandemic that didn’t even blink when we hit the new year. Throw that on top of all the “what else’s” in life–the toddler who won’t sleep through the night, the job offer that didn’t come through, the news that the cancer is back–and you may sit back and wonder (as I have, more than once lately): Is there any good news in the world?

Actually…yes.

And chances are, all we have to do is roll over to find it.

I’m talking about the Bible, of course. Whether you have an old-fashioned print version on your nightstand or you prefer some newfangled app on your phone, the Good News is there every morning, ready to color your world. And if you find yourself reaching for God’s Word more now than you used to, you’re not alone. In the pandemic’s early days, Bible sales spiked; more recently, a Bible study podcast took over Apple’s top slot, beating out shows by perennial giants like NPR and The New York Times.

It’s as if we know, almost instinctively, that the biggest threat to our peace or our sense of security isn’t the “out there” stuff in the headlines but the “in here” way that we process it. We long for a voice that transcends the noise of the world and speaks to our soul, a voice that (Isaiah 30:21) is ever behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Coffee and Bible are good news

We know we need God.

That’s the (small “g”) good news.

The bad news is that, according to some researchers, actual engagement with Scripture–as in, the percentage of people who read the (capital “g”) Good News every day–is on the decline. John Farquhar Plake, the American Bible Society’s director of ministry intelligence (how’s that for a cool-sounding job?), links the drop in Bible reading to church closures and the ill-effects of our quarantine time. “When relational church engagement goes up,” Plake says, “so does Scripture engagement, but when it goes down, Scripture engagement drops with it.”

We like our Scripture, it seems, served with a hug or a smile. No wonder the Bible tells us not to give up meeting together.

So what do we do, since hugging is out and our smiles remain tucked in our masks?

We press in. We tune our ears to that voice. We scour the Scriptures to find the good news every day.

We press in: Fifteen minutes a day

This past week, Tony Dungy and Benjamin Watson addressed the weariness we’re all facing and challenged Christians to read the whole Bible, cover-to-cover, this year–a tough-sounding job that, they say, actually takes only about fifteen minutes a day.

I’m all for this plan. I believe Psalm 112 when it says that those who delight in God’s Word will “have no fear of bad news.” I’ve personally experienced the Psalm 1 feeling of being planted by streams of water, allowing the Bible to produce fruit in my life instead of leaving me withered and dry.

Again, I like Dungy’s plan. But having had some Bible-in-a-Year years that felt like flossing my teeth (which my dentist will tell you I don’t do all that well) and some where it felt like sailing with the wind, I’d like to offer a few strategies for success, should you decide to try this at home.

First, start with prayer. Nobody is born knowing the Bible or wanting to read it, but God works in us, Scripture says, giving us the eagerness and the power to do it. As we open our Bibles, we can ask God to shape our desires, using prayers like the one I shared this month on my Instagram stories: “May I take great delight in your law, meditating on it day and night so whatever I do will prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

Psalm 1:1-3 prayer to love the good news

Next, make a plan. Type “Bible Reading Plans” into your Google search bar and you get more than 80 million (!) results. Two of my favorites, if you just want to cut to the chase, are the Bible in One Year plan that comes with commentary by Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (you can get the readings via email or on the app) and the NIV One-Year Bible, which has the whole book pre-divided, with excerpts from the Old and New Testaments every day.

(And pssst on the plan. If you miss a day–or a week–don’t beat yourself up. Treat it like flossing and get back in the game.)

Finally, get some help. Invite a friend to do your plan with you and talk through your insights together. Get a study tool like Max Anders’ bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible. And (most important) count on the Holy Spirit, our Helper, to do the job he does best: Teach you all things and remind you of everything Jesus said.

Max Anders book 30 Days to Understanding Your Bible

As you read, remember that the goal isn’t so much to get to know the written word as it is to encounter the Living Word, to read the book to discover the Author. And it never gets old.

As Charles Spurgeon put it, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”

Good news, indeed.

Girl reading Scripture with Charles Spurgeon quote

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A light to scatter the darkness

I think I’m addicted to light.

I was, actually, diagnosed with that SAD disease in my early twenties (a verdict that came as good news when the doc said a trip to Florida was the best cure for what ailed me), but it’s not just sunlight that makes my heart sing. I’m drawn to all kinds of light: candle light, firelight, even the refrigerator light that glows such warm welcome in the wee hours of the night.

I love light, and when this year’s Grand Illumination–the one-street wonder that kicks off Christmas in our neck of the woods–got cancelled due to Covid, it came as a blow. Not a surprise, given the stadium-sized crowd the event draws every year, but still. An emotional setback.

Christmas lights have a way of keeping the gloom of winter at bay. They fill hearts with hope. And in a year that seems bleaker than most, I find myself drawn, like the proverbial moth, not just to lighted windows and trees, but also to Scriptures that come with the power to push back the darkness.

candle-light-in-the-darkness

Verses like Isaiah 9:2, which heralds the coming of Christ: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

Or John 8:12, where Jesus reveals himself as the light of the world and makes an incredible promise: “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Or John 1:4-5. Here, John says that Jesus gave light and life to everyone, piercing the darkness with a flame that nothing could ever snuff out or smother.

The-light-shines-in-the-darkness-verse

Isn’t that…remarkable? Here we are in the waning days of 2020, surrounded by a world of darkness–families unable to gather, loved ones sick, churches closed–and yet God says we have light. We have the light of life. We are encircled by, and enfolded in, Jesus–a living beacon the darkness can never extinguish.

I don’t know about you, but to me that comes as very good news.

Still, though, there are days–seasons, even–when the clouds try to press in. Days when we know the light’s there, but we cannot perceive it. Days when the gloom settles heavy.

If that’s where you find yourself now–if you need to Christ’s light to kindle hope in your heart this Advent season–can I invite you to lean in with me? I don’t have all the answers, of course, but here are three things that might help.

First, allow Scripture to scatter your darkness. The Bible says that God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. But don’t just read the words on the page; speak them back to God in prayer form. Here’s how John 8:12 might be prayed:

Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world. Teach me to follow you so that I will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.

Second, shed some light on your soul with a life-giving book. I’m loving Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest GiftIt’s meant to be an Advent devotional, tracing the promise of Christ through the Old Testament one December day at a time, but I feel like it would work as a post-Christmas reading. I expect to be digging in all over again, come the dark days of January.

Ann Voskamp book "The Greatest Gift"

And finally, hang some lights.

When Robbie heard the Grand Illumination was cancelled, he missed barely a beat. He spent a couple of days climbing ladders, straddling balconies, and burrowing into the bushes, and then, as darkness fell, he ushered us all out into the yard. Threading his way from outlet to outlet, cord to cord, plug to plug, he lit up our night.

It might not have been the Grand Illumination, but it was our illumination. And it was marvelous.

And honestly? When January rolls around, I think we’ll keep the Christmas lights up. The days will still be short, Covid will still be long, and I’ll probably want to crawl into a hole and wait for the first crocus to spout. I will need–I will cherish–the visible reminder of who Jesus is.

He is the light, and the love, that no darkness can douse.

❤️

P.S. People, as it turns out, are not the only creatures who love light.

I know this because Quarantine Kitty–the one Virginia scooped from the SPCA nine months ago when she fled New York City as the pandemic started to spread–does not go outside. And when the rest of us went out to ooh and ahh over Robbie’s handiwork, the cat did her own light inspection.

Evidently, they taste as good as they look.

Window light with candle intact

Where the candle tip should have been

Quarantine Kitty with Christmas decor

 

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Launch Week Fun!

Ok Y’all. It’s Launch Week for Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult ChildrenWhich means all kinds of fun. Like, look how happy my kids are.

First of all, thank you! Thank you for letting me test drive so many thoughts and prayers in this space. It’s been a delight to partner with you as we bring our loved ones–our kids, our spouses, our friends–before the Lord every week, and then wait and watch as his faithfulness unfolds in our lives.

And thank you for jamming up Amazon. I mean it. The book earned Amazon’s #1 Bestseller flag on Launch Day–thanks to you!–and the Mother of All Retailers ran out of stock. They say they have more, but I’m picturing (and praying for) their 120,000 new seasonal employees as they drive forklifts around big warehouses, looking for boxes marked “Berndt.”

In the meantime, I have my own stash of books and I’m itching to share! Post a comment on this blog–it can be a prayer request, a favorite Scripture promise, or just a Merry Christmas wish–and I’ll pick three winners at random, who will each get a copy of the new book. Whoop.

And there’s more.

My good friend Susan Alexander Yates (you’ve met her in this space) graciously offered to let me guest blog for her this week. I talked about praying for your child’s marriage and created a Marriage Blessing from the collection of Scripture prayers you’ll find in the new book. If you want your own copy of this prayer, you can download it here.

(And P.S., the prayer card is two-sided, with the prayer on the front and the Scripture references on the back. If you want to frame it as a Christmas present for your spouse, your married children, or a even a new bride, Amazon offers a great selection of clear stand-alone frames; one of my favorite styles is here.)

(But don’t ALL of you order today. I don’t want to make those forklift people any more crazy than they already are.)

And finally… Maybe you saw this pic on Fox News.

Annesley says I blog about her too much (and lately, she’s right), but when I got the chance to write a post for the media moguls so that they could give folks some Good News this Christmas, I couldn’t help myself. Y’all know I’ve made some pretty jolly mistakes (the sweater, the posture brace), but money-wise, this one was the worst. If you missed it on the Fox News site, here’s the story.

And again, you all. Thank you. Thank you for your friendship, your encouragement, and your prayers. May the Lord continue to encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:17)

You are loved.

 

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Good News: He. Is. Here.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. photo I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

If you grew up going to Christmas pageants and candlelight services (or even if you just watched the Peanuts special every year), these words might be so familiar that you read right over them.  You know what’s coming:  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born.

In other words:  He. Is. Here.

But stop for a quick second and think about how the angel must have felt, announcing the news:  The One we’ve waited for. The One who will bring joy to the world.  The One who will change everything.  He is here!!!

Doesn’t that just make you want to, I don’t know, fall down?  He is Emmanuel, God with us.  And he is here.

Wherever this Christmas finds you–rejoicing in certainty of God’s presence, yearning to experience his love, or anywhere in between, may you know the good news:  He. Is. Here.  And may these words, from Isaiah 60, allow the good news to color your life afresh each morning, both today and throughout the new year.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

photo

 

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Jodie

 

 

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