As I stepped into the new year, one of the things I decided to do was to spend more deliberate time studying the Bible.
Although I’ve enjoyed using various devotionals, those aren’t typically geared for in-depth study.
Rather, they’re more focused on encouraging a regular time with the Lord each day.
The same is true for the Bibles & Bathrobes™ devotionals I offer here.
But I wanted something more in depth.
So, I decided to start from the beginning, using a study Bible and insights from another Bible scholar to give me an additional perspective.
In this case, I’m using The Jeremiah Study Bible—which has extensive commentary and resources from Dr. David Jeremiah and his team of experts—and With the Word: A Devotional Commentary by Warren Wiersbe.
The former provides detailed notes on individual verses (along with a lot of additional insights) and the latter provides a very brief synopsis of each chapter of the Bible, sometimes combining more than one chapter.
And when I sat down to start, I did so with Genesis 1:1.
Each day, I read a single chapter and all of the notes and commentary from both experts, underlining verses and adding my own notes and thoughts in the margins as I go.
It wasn’t long before I realized how long it would take to get to the New Testament at that pace, and I didn’t think I could stand to be away from it for that long.
So, I added a chapter from the New Testament to my study time, beginning with Matthew 1:1.
There are so many wonderful things I love about this process—and one I really enjoy is when I’ve just read something in the Old Testament that I then read about in the New Testament, too.
Although that connection is made in the New Testament writings, I just love it when it happens in “real-time” during my studies.
Another thing I cherish that I figured might happen if I really got serious about spending focused time in prayer and study of the Word was that God would deepen my relationship with Him.
And that’s happening.
Happening to the extent that I’ve been doing some drastic stuff as a result.
Like giving up my lists.
Oh, how I love lists
Let me start by saying how much I love lists.
I love the order they provide and the organizing required when I sit down to create them.
And doing that with my favorite pen: a black fine point Sharpie® and the perfect size paper or journal to write them out and bullet them just so.
Even better if a calendar is involved and I can set deadlines for getting them done.
Or some efficient technology tool that allows me to sit with my phone and upload them to the cloud so they’ll be available on any device from which I want to access them.
(If you read my recent post about turning off the tech, that last statement may confuse you, but bear with me.)
In fact, a friend told me about such a tool, a productivity app that creates bulleted lists you can move around to create priorities and hierarchies and all the orderly stuff I love.
And during that weird week of the year between Christmas and New Year’s when I love to take time to reflect and plan, I spent two whole days doing exactly that.
Reflecting, planning, and creating bulleted lists about my business and writing goals for the year ahead—all within the neat and organized efficiency of that technology app so conveniently located on my smartphone.
Then I gave the whole thing a suitable title: “Sue’s 2021 Strategic Planning”—after which I printed it out, tapped the pages together into a neat stack, and paper-clipped them to the inside front cover of my new 2021 business calendar I keep on my desk.
When lists get in the way
After all that, you can imagine my dismay when, during time in prayer last week, I distinctly (not audibly, mind you, but distinctly) heard God say, “Give me your lists.”
My lists, Lord?
But what about all my planning?
What about all the things I need to do in the year ahead?
How will I stay organized and on track?
How will I get things done and know what to do next?
Now, that may have been about the time when I was reading about Abraham being way too attached to his son Isaac and God dealing with him about that (Genesis 22).
Which made it pretty clear that if God was telling me to let go of something, I’d better do it.
As I considered this divine request, I realized how much my lists can get in the way.
After all, if they’ve been concocted from my agenda instead of God’s, that’s certainly not a good thing.
And if I’m so focused on crossing the next thing off my list instead of listening closely for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I may totally miss what God had planned, instead.
Listening for the tap of God
All that reminded me of how closely I used to listen for my mom’s tap on the little desk bell she kept on her walker when she lived with us.
When she got to the point that she needed more help, I worried about her falling.
So if I wasn’t within earshot, I always had a monitor on me so I wouldn’t miss the ding of that little bell.
And I need to be the same way with God.
Paying such close attention to His promptings that I know exactly what I need to do next.
And the thing I did next after I heard His directive about my lists was to eliminate them all.
Yep, I deleted them all from that app and then removed the app from my phone.
Then I got up from the couch in my study, tugged that tidy 2021 planning packet from my calendar, and fed it into the shredder.
I have to be honest that my heart sank a bit as I watched the last remnants of my agenda for the year ahead being systematically chewed into oblivion.
But overall, I’ve been much more peaceful since I let go of my lists.
No longer do I have all those things waiting for me to do and making me feel like I’m falling behind.
Instead, I finish one thing and then stop to spend time in prayer, asking, “What’s next, Lord?”
Today, that next thing was to write this post.
And I’m so glad I got to spend this time with you as I did.