April McGowan

A Psalm a Night – Journal Through the Bible

Journal through the Bible

20160322_080551-1I’ve kept a journal for years (my favorite are the Leuchtturm 1917 for paper quality and construction). I would jot down my rambling thoughts, things that had happened throughout the day and finish with a prayer time. Before I sit down to write anything on my blog or on my latest novel, I always prayer journal. I want to make sure my motives are right, my words come from a place of honesty and point back to the Word Himself. Writing is my prayer language. I know for some it’s worship music and singing; for others, their prayers are spoken aloud; for another, theirs are quiet and said mentally. There’s no one way to pray, just as there’s not one right way to carry on a conversation. As long as we come humbly and respectfully, it’s all good. God calls us all into a relationship with Him–and we can’t go further in that relationship if we don’t spend time with Him. It’s like I’ve taught my kids: how well do you think you’d know me if we only spent five minutes or less a day together? Not very well. How much more does God want to know you and want you to know Him? You’ve got to spend time with each other to do that.

About ten months ago, I felt the Lord calling me to get to know Him on a deeper level. Reflecting on a couple Bible studies I’d done where I’d copied the chapter of the Bible being studied, I thought that would be a good way to refocus my journal ramblings. So after much prayer, I began with the book where the authors were praying, singing, and crying out to the Lord in very honest and transparent ways: Psalm. Who wrote the Psalms? The most prolific author was David, who wrote over 75. The rest were penned by Asaph, The sons of Korah, Solomon, and Moses.

Little did I know, this would begin a new kind of prayer life for me. Since that first night in June 2015, I’ve filled some five journals, and just ordered my sixth. I would write a whole Psalm, if not too long. If it went over six verses, I’d break it up. The point wasn’t to rush through, but rather meditate on the words, the author, their intent and getting to know the heart of God on a more intimate level.

Have you ever watched a movie where the actors have a significant accent and walked way with you using that accent? Writing does that, too. And as I copied the Psalms, I found myself praying in the tonePsalm 6 2 to 9 of the author–and of the ultimate Author of them all. I learned how much our Father wants to hear from the depths of our hearts, how He longs for us to cry out to Him and rejoice with Him in a beautiful synchronicity of petition and worship.

I’m a lover of taking verses that mean something deeper to me and applying them to photos and keeping them on my phone for study and easy access. So, as I went, I made note of those. Before I knew it, I had so many I had trouble keeping track of them and was running out of memory on my phone, so I made a Pinterest page to gather them in one spot. Check them out here April’s Pinterest. Feel free to download them and save them to your phone.

Psalm 1

Since I began this journey with my Bible studies, I’ve copied James, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Now with my prayer journal, I’ve copied the Psalms, Ephesians and I’m currently prayer journaling through Philippians and Revelations (concurrently with a study I’m doing through Bible Study Fellowship). Through this, I’m getting to know the Lord on a deeper level, and see Him in yet another dimension of personality and intimacy than ever before.

Psalm 112 6 to7

Have you ever journaled through the Bible? What was your experience like? Did you keep up the habit of spending time regularly with your Lord? I’ve only missed once because of illness in the past ten months. This wasn’t out of a mundane routine–but because this time with Him has become so special to me. I find myself turning to Him more through the day, staying in that place of communication and worship so much easier than before. Because the more time I spend with Him, the more time I need to spend with Him. The more time I want to spend with Him.

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Games People Play

Walk with MeI’ve been thinking about vulnerability lately. Our society doesn’t like being vulnerable. We admire strong people, go-getters. We don’t gravitate toward the weak, to exposed underbellies or chinks in armor.

As babies, we come into the world trusting and ready to learn. Unfortunately, for many including myself, some of the first hard lessons we learn are that people let you down, betray you, hurt you, and you’d better face the world as a boxer–your guard up, ducking and weaving for cover.

There are all kinds of games people play to keep themselves safe. They build barriers, hiding behind forced smiles and platitudes. How are you? You’re fine. Even if you’re not. Then they go on to act one way with one person, and differently with another. They become evasive and non-committal. They only let a few in past the walls…and secretly they’re pretty certain those folks are going to let them down any minute. In fact, a lot of people are subconsciously waiting to be let down, and might even orchestrate events to prove it. In doing so, they get the result they were so worried about getting.

But being vulnerable doesn’t have to mean we’re weak. If you think about it, being vulnerable goes against our grain. It’s hard work to keep those barriers down. Now, I’m not talking about exposing yourself to people who have hurt you in the past, tossing your pearls before swine. On the contrary, I’m talking about going deeper, trusting more, sharing more honestly with those closest to us, and then branching out.

Does that make you edgy? Do lots of reasons not to let your guard down race through your mind? What about that last time you counted on someone and they let you down? But what about that last time someone didn’t?

That’s where the Lord has been taking me these past few weeks, and it made me plenty edgy. He’s been revealing this weakness in me, turning it to a strength through my submitting it to Him. It’s been hard, but very good, too. God’s pretty amazing that way, using all our brokenness to reveal His love and His glory. His amazing strength.

Jesus knew what it meant to be vulnerable. He made himself available to people of all walks, made himself approachable, and knew what it was like to have those closest to him forget him, deny him, even betray him unto death. But those he was vulnerable with, those he loved freely were changed forever. Imagine for a moment your Savior was unapproachable, closed off, unsympathetic–would you be be drawn to him for any length of time?

Thankfully we have a High Priest who has experienced every part of this life right along with us. Hebrews 4: 15-16 says:  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Is there someone in your life you need to let down your walls for, reach out to, walk closer with? I encourage you to do so. Our journey is much too short to spend it alone.

 

 

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Count Your Blessings

Here in the US it’s Thanksgiving week. It’s a time when a lot of people sit down and consider their lives and give thanks for what they have. I’ve struggled with this a lot since the diagnosis of my illness. It’s hard for me to thank the Lord for things that other people don’t have. Well-meaning people were telling me to be thankful I wasn’t sicker. But, when I joined support groups for my disease, there were plenty of people who were more ill than me. Did I feel I was more blessed than them?

People thank God for their houses and cars and their health. They thank Him for their secure job, their wonderful marriages, and their perfect kids. I mean, we’re told to count our blessings. But, what if what we think of as blessings aren’t limited to these things?

There are millions and billions of people who don’t have a laundry list of what the world would consider to be good things in their lives. They were just diagnosed with a scary disease, their spouses have betrayed them; they might be losing their homes, their jobs, their kids. Does this mean God doesn’t love them as much as the guy in the big house in the fancy neighborhood next to you?

Very simply: no. God’s Word says He loves His children and cares for them.

So, what if blessings aren’t all about these things; what if the Father’s ‘good’ is something different? His ultimate goal for us isn’t that we live in cushy houses and have everything we think we want. Rather, it’s having a personal, real, intimate relationship with Him.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not bad to thank God for all the good things in your life—our hearts are to be grateful. But, we’re told to be thankful in ALL things. Thankful for suffering? Yes. Thankful for heartache? That, too.

Think of this: if we’re only thankful for the things we like, then when we hit on hard times (and there will be plenty) then we’re going to be tempted to think that God is displeased with us. That maybe He doesn’t love us as His word promises. That maybe He even hates us.

I can stand here today and say I’m thankful for my illness. I mean it. It’s not easy to say—but it’s true. I’ve seen a lot of blessings come out of this. I’ve met some amazing, encouraging people. I’ve been astounded by their faith in the Lord. Most importantly, I’ve become more assured than ever in the reality of the Father and His hand in my life.

So, as the song says, when we count our many blessings—maybe you should be thinking about the friends you’ve made during your trials; about your ability to come alongside others in their sufferings; and ultimately about the closeness you feel to the Father when He carries you through another day.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (full text here)

John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (full text here)

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