Top Ten: B90Days So you’re behind, now what?

Top Ten {Tuesday}

I saw a lot of tweets during last night’s chat about being behind. Some are behind a day or so and some are a week or more behind. I am currently four days behind myself (last week was not a good week nor a kind one). So, what suggestions do I have about getting behind and catching up. Well here are ten of them:

1. Don’t panic. No matter how far behind you are, you can catch up. It is totally doable. Totally possible. DO NOT PANIC!

2. Look at the next few days and find some additional pockets of time and plan to read. If you have an even vaguely supportive spouse, talk to him (her) and ask if s/he can put the kids to bed or make dinner or something to give you additional time to read.

3. Be creative about your reading times and places. The bath tub? Your kid’s swim or soccer or other whatever practice? Riding in the car with your spouse/so as you’re going somewhere? The toilet? Seriously. Any and all of those will work as reading places/spaces and help you find time to read.

4. Figure out how far behind you are and then figure out how you can add an addition four or five pages to your reading each day. That’s about all you’d need to catch up in even the most dire of circumstances.

5. Play school with your kids. Or office. Or anything else where you can legitimately get away with sitting and reading while they’re doing their thing around you. Will you have perfect concentration? No. Will you still be able to read, yes. If you’re one of those people who needs perfect silence to read and the perfect environment, you probably won’t find this tip useful, but perhaps you should try learning to concentrate in different kinds of environments.

6. Take a break from your regular activities. Take the kids to a park or something like that in order to give them a place to play and you a place to read. No you can’t concentrate fully on the reading. Yes, you need to keep an eye on the kids, but most kids can play reasonably independently in a secure park.

7. Grab every free pocket of time that you can. Are you going to be waiting for pasta water to boil? Read. Rocking a baby, read (admittedly, works better with a digital version than with a hardcover book).

8. Get the kids involved. My son recently has become obsessed with responsibility charts. I’ve shown him my Bible in 90 Days book mark and he is all over me to get my boxes checked off. So, I’m reading and he’s making sure I read.

9. Let go of some other things. Use the DVR and get that show you wanted to watch (Rizzoli and Isles, I’m looking at you) for later. Admit that the 31 craft projects aren’t going to get done right now. Avoid taking on new responsibilities. Make this the priority for right now and accept what that means for the other things that you’re doing.

10. When all else fails, read. The more you read, the closer you’ll get to catching up. There are two grace days built into the program. If you’re determined, if you’ve committed, then you will finish.

Now, head on over to Amanda’s to see some great gift ideas and a bunch of other Top Ten lists that are probably not B90days focused.

B90days: Check in Week 2

And what a week it has been. I’ve met most of my mentees, which is great, and I’ve been praying for them daily. I have the right number of them to use my prayer beads (Anglican rosary) and think on each person for a minute or so before moving beads and thinking about the next person. It’s a nice, quiet rhythm and works for me.

Since I decided to start reading along with the group, it’s good to know that I’m staying on top of the reading so far. I’ve found a flaw, if you will, with the Kindle plan. Apparently, it always remembers when you’re reading a book that you finished. This is problematic because it always wants to sync you to the end, when I would rather it remember and sync me to the places that I am now. Makes reading from different devices a tad more complex than I would have preferred.

A difference from my reading the last time is that I am highlighting passages that grab me and I’ve noticed a pattern. I’m highlighting passages about strength, not being afraid, and sharing the load. Those of you who are new around here may not be aware that we’ve gone through a great deal of stress in our household over the last twenty months. The things that I needed to learn, and still need to learn, is that I don’t have to fear things and I can trust that God has my back. The answer and results may not always be what I want, but I know that he’s going to be there. I also know that I can pitch a fit, throw a tantrum, and say all manner of nasty things, but God is still going to be there. When you look at all the legalism in this part of the Bible, you think that His love is conditional, but really, it’s not. Even when Aaron creates that idol, God still loves him.

The Israelites and God remind me greatly of a parent/child relationship. God says I’m going to punish you. The Israelites say give us one more chance and he does. Ultimately, he sometimes has to discipline his people, but there are many, many times when he chooses to offer another chance rather than punish. I think that’s important to remember, too. Especially when we’re faced with so much legalism and so many people who don’t want to offer chances.

My thought for today is this: you were called or felt the urge to do this reading for a reason. Be as loving and forgiving of yourself as God is. If you’re behind, don’t stomp your foot and say, “I can’t do this!” Instead, choose to believe in yourself and the power that drew you here. Believe that you can do it and get back to your reading. A few extra pages each day will get you caught up or keep you on track. Do not give up. God wants you here with us!

Top Ten: B90Days Tips

Here are my reading “survival tips” from the last time I completed the Bible in 90 Days challenge:

1. Always, always have your Bible with you. You never know when you’ll have an open moment in your schedule for reading.

2. To facilitate #1, if you have the ability to have a Kindle app on your phone, get it, and buy the Bible in 90 Days for it. Easily the best investment I ever made.

3. Do not get caught up in the worry that you’re not absorbing everything or that you’re not meditating on the reading. That’s not the point. The point is to find the big picture; the over-arching themes.

4. Check in every Monday, without fail. Talk to your mentor if you’re struggling. Don’t let anxiety over not being caught up get to you. Everyone falls behind. You’ll catch up. You can make the time to read.

5. Children are not an excuse not to read. I homeschool my kids. I work from home. I have two demanding dogs. Three not well parents/inlaws and a health problem of my own that is just not getting worked out, even though we’re trying. More on that after Wednesday. My point is if you prioritize it, you can do it. But it means you won’t be doing everything.

6. Sign up for the emails. I found those the most useful thing in the world. I signed up about a week in last time and it frustrated me greatly that I didn’t have them earlier. This time. I’m signed up from the beginning.

7. Talk to your mentor. Ask for help and guidance. Ask her how she gets everything done and finds time to read. Remember, every one of the mentors has completed this challenge already. We know how hard some days can be and how easy it is to want to give up. We’re here for you, so please, talk to us!

8. Start planning your finish prize now. I don’t know what I’ll do this time. Last time, I ordered a beautiful cross charm for a favorite necklace of mine from: The Vintage Pearl. Her stuff is absolutely gorgeous and a good value. I love that they’re handmade as well. It feels like my gold medal for finishing a challenge I wasn’t sure I could complete. You can do it, too, just decide what you’re “medal” is going to be!

9. Twitter chats. Go to the Twitter chats. Use TweetChat or TweetGrid and follow along even if you don’t feel comfortable jumping into the discussion. Twitter Chats make this experience come alive. Every Monday, 8p-9p CT.

10. Don’t get caught up in the drama. There’s always going to be drama. In the first challenge, someone came in when we were at day 60 (or thereabouts) and said that the way we were reading wasn’t meaningful, that it had no value. She suggested that the only value was in slow, meditative reading or you shouldn’t bother to do it. Ironically, she wasn’t doing the challenge, just caught sight of the hashtag and had to create some drama I guess.

There are going to be days you think that you can’t do this. There are going to be days when you’d rather do anything than read another page of the Bible. We all have those days and it’s okay. Just read anyway. There will be times when someone says something disparaging about your efforts (see above) and you’ll want to quit. Don’t do it.

Final point, and one worth remembering for everybody, all kinds of people are doing this challenge. Do not make assumptions about the religiosity of anyone doing this. Do not assume that only a certain type of person or Christian would take this challenge. Part of the point of Cooper’s ministry is to meet people where they are, so don’t be the discourager for someone else. We’re here to encourage EVERYBODY regardless of their purpose or reasons for being here.

Now, head on over to Amanda’s blog where you’ll find a lot of Top Ten lists, most of which will have nothing to do with the Blogging the Bible in 90 Days challenge. If you’re interested in the challenge, check out the link.

Welcome to the Bible in 90 Days!

I know that I have a couple of friends who have decided to give this a try. I hope that you’ve been over to Mom’s Toolbox and signed up for the challenge. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Today is the start.

I know I said I wasn’t going to read this time. I was just going to mentor.

I know I said it.

I know I talked about priorities and how I really felt that this wasn’t something I could make a priority this time.

And then this morning I woke up and I felt a strong tug to pull out my Bible and read. The kind that normally I would question and ignore. Today, I decided not to ignore it. I’m going with it. I’m not sure why I’m doing it this time except I feel like I need to do it.

Rationally, this doesn’t make sense. I know what my schedule looks like. I know this is going to consume time that I had earmarked for other things, but I guess something bigger than me is pulling me back in. So, I’m in with y’all.

I look forward to mentoring folks and to reading. It should be a lot of fun and remember, we’re all in it together.

And . . . I have finished day one. What I noted today was this line in Genesis: “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward” (15.1). I wonder if that, of all the things that could have struck me, doesn’t explain the reason that I feel pulled to do this again. Maybe I need to be reminded that someone is there to protect me and help me even when I can’t necessarily feel it or see it. I think I need that reminder as I flounder through this time before my birthday trying to figure out where I need to go from here and what I need to do. Maybe I need the reminder that I’m never truly alone. Maybe that’s it.

B90Days: Have You Considered It?

The next Bible in 90 days group starts on July 5th. If you’ve thought about it or were interested when I did it, I can’t encourage you enough to go over to Amy’s blog, read about how to do it, and then consider signing up for the challenge.

For me, it allowed me to accomplish something that I’ve never been able to do before. I can now, honestly say, that I have read every word of the Bible and that I feel more connected to it and to the Christian experience overall as a result. If you go back and read my B90Days posts from the first time around, you’ll see that I was conflicted through the whole process. I have a hard time, still do, putting my brain and my literary analysis self in park and just read, but I really tried to do that. I’ve about decided that I’m going to read again this time, and I’m definitely mentoring.

What I found, from this experience, is that community is important to understanding the Bible. Amy runs a great challenge. There’s the reading, the Twitter chats, the emails from the Bible in 90 Days organization. All of those things helped me to stay on top of the reading and to feel accountable to someone.

The addition of mentors to this challenge will allow the challenge to be a bit deeper and a bit more personal because you will have one specific person you can go to for additional encouragement, for support, for guidance. You’ll have someone who knows just how tough reading Numbers is and who will sympathize even while pushing you to keep reading and to keep going forward.

The Twitter chats were a phenomenal experience for me. Due to health concerns I’ve discussed here many times, it is difficult for me to regularly attend church. The Twitter chats gave me that sense of community that the Bible talks about and that I often feel is missing from my own religious experience. I liken the Twitter chats to a casual service while I think the mentor groups will function more like a small Bible study group or support group.

I’m really excited to be mentoring this time around and I hope to see many of my blog readers on the roster for participating in this. If you want to do this (and I know you do), go here to find all the tools and to sign up for the challenge.

It is challenging, and there will be moments where you question my sanity/hate me for encouraging you to do this, but you’ll get an amazing sense of accomplishment from it and you’ll feel better for having done it. Really, you will. Please join me and the rest of the folks who are going to tackle this challenge this summer!

Bible in 90 Days: I Finished…

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of goals. Top on the list was to read the Bible in 90 days. This was a challenge that I heard about from a friend and I followed her link to Amy’s blog which in turn led me to Bible in 90 Days website. I debated with myself for a bit and then decided to go “all in” and see if I could do it. I have tried at least ten times in the last decade to read the whole Bible, but I never made it. This time, I did.

What made the difference?

In my opinion, it was the community of readers. There was/is a vibrant community of men and women who were reading along with me. When they stumbled, I tried to encourage them to pick up and keep going. When I stumbled, they did the same for me. We had great discussions on Monday nights. Over the course of three months, I missed one discussion because of illness. Those discussions were part encouragement, part Bible study, and part check in, and I found them invaluable to my reading and my feelings about what I was doing.

What Have I Learned?

I’m struggling with what I learned from the experience and how I feel now. I know that some folks consider me fairly religious and others consider me one step away from totally lapsed, so it’s probably not surprising that I’m conflicted still. I know that I’m not going to be spouting Bible verses at dinner or offering a Biblical response to any and all questions asked of me (I’ll say you’re welcome in advance to those who are going to see me in late April and in June).

I still believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, not the inerrant word of God. That hasn’t changed. I believe that people wrote what they believed to be true based on their experiences, but my reason tells me that humans are fallible reporters and that events may not have occurred precisely as they’re described in the Bible. And I’m okay with that even though I know a lot of people aren’t. I’m not saying it’s fiction, more like memoir. When you’re relying on the memory of people, you’re dealing with faulty devices that work to about 70% capacity at the best of times.

I keep asking myself if my faith has changed. Is it deeper? Do I feel like God spoke to me during this or compelled me to keep reading or, alternatively, did I feel a Satanic influence to stop at any point? On the first point, I don’t think so. If faith is a swimming pool, then I’m probably the one you see dipping her big toe in a thousand times to check the temperature before deciding to get in. And now I’ll go for 1001. I wondered if immersing myself in Bible reading for three months would have a significant impact, and I’m not sure that it did. I forced myself to read and not analyze. I didn’t let myself take notes or do any of the 101 other ways I know to create stronger connections with something that I’m reading (based on the whole, I’m an English professor in “real” life thing). I don’t know if that would have made a difference or not. It’s something for me to think about as I continue my journey.

I don’t know if I felt God pushing me to read, but I definitely felt negative influences trying to get me to stop reading. Illness got in the way a couple of times. There was a person who came in about halfway through to comment that she felt reading fast didn’t allow for serious study and if you weren’t doing serious study then why would you bother at all. There were people who came in each week to the Twitter chats to complain about the speed and how it wasn’t allowing for connection and true immersion, and those attempts struck me as attempts to stop others from pursuing this specific goal in this specific way. Honestly, yes, close textual reading provides a much richer experience, but it also takes an extremely long time and I would not have stuck it out if I had to commit to a year or more to do it “right.”

I think, ultimately, what I’ve learned is that I still have a great deal to learn. What I’ve learned so far is that God is far more patient with us than I had ever been led to believe by the comments and statements of others. I’ve learned that judgment doesn’t belong in our hands, and that we should not be casting judgment on others unless we’re sure that we are blameless ourselves.

I’ve also learned that there are parts of faith that need to be in community that need a public “face” and there are parts of faith that need to be private and belong between God and me. I think where that point is may be different for each person, but that every person likely has private and public aspects of their faith.

Where do I go from here?

This is where I think we can see the biggest change in me. If asked at the beginning, I would have said that once I finished this I’d move on to my regular reading and put this behind me. Now? I’m going to read through Proverbs in the month of April with Amy and work through my rector’s Bible reading challenge. Fr. Doug’s challenge is far less intense than the one that I just completed, but I’m going to use his M.A.P journal technique and see if that adds to my experience since the reading schedule is less intense.

I also know that I want to keep working with the Bible in 90 Days challenge group in some way. One way is that I hope to serve as a mentor in the July group. I plan to try to read and post during that. We’ll see what happens.

It’s been a good experience and one a strongly encourage others to try. There is a group starting July 5th. I’d love to see you there.

B90Days: Tired

It’s been a very long week in adjunctmom land. Yes, I know it’s Monday, but it’s been a week since my last check in on this project and during the course of that week, I wrapped up a term; started a new term; worked on getting a new mentee up to speed (I mentor new faculty as part of my job); had a house guest for the weekend; went to a sewing/quilting expo; and, tried to keep up with my Bible reading.

The amazing news, to me, is that I am current. I am reading day 52 today, so that means I’m precisely where I’m supposed to be. It’s been rough going as I knew Isaiah would be. This is such a hard book of the Bible and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way based on Amy’s warnings at the end of the chat last week.

Compared to the books that precede it, Isaiah feels arid and oppressive and dark, but it also gives us the vision of the future. It shows us that faithfulness in the face of great trauma and pain will be rewarded, but it takes patience.

I think that’s what I most connect with in this week’s reading: the feeling that great patience is required of people of God. If you’re following him, life won’t suddenly be full of sunshine, rainbows, and candy sprinkles. There will be dark days. There will be hard days. We have to be prepared for those and trust in our faith rather than assume that this is in some way God’s assessment and judgment that we’re experiencing. In some ways Isaiah wraps back around to Job. Instead of testing a single person, a whole tribe is tested and warned of the coming darkness and given the tools needed to survive.

I was also interested that Isaiah is the source of the “your ways are not My ways” and “only the good die young” ideas. It’s interesting how much of our culture, at large, derives from this one book even when we don’t realize it. Weird.

At least, that’s how I read it. You can find out other perspectives by going over to Mom’s Toolbox and checking out the other guys and gals talking about this.