Saturday, November 14, 2009

More about words to live by

Like my mother-in-law, Grandma Sugar, I don’t have one favorite Bible verse. At different stages of my life – or even on different days – specific verses have filled a need, prepped me for a challenge, applied a jolt of joy, given me spiritual food for thought and even tickled my funny bone.

In my early teens, though, Romans 12:1-2 was my favorite scripture. That passage took me through high school and into college. I experienced my share of teen angst and often felt like the oddball. But I was convinced that those verses were a roadmap God gave me for making moral choices. I could trust God to take care of my present and future. And he did.

Meeting the challenges of daily living was another matter. In the early years of marriage, raising a family and working, I continued my tendency of frequently becoming overwhelmed by circumstances, deadlines and just the challenges of living. It was not that I did not have faith; I just didn’t know how to exercise it. Growth in that area of the Christian walk first began to change thanks to Betty Milsted, bureau chief and fellow reporter at the Ocean Springs office of the Mississippi Press daily newspaper where I worked from about 1973 to 1977.

She loaned me books about prayer and mentored me. The big message was that faith is not a feeling, but an act of will. I learned that turning from my negative -- and intensely physical – feelings, even for a moment, was exercising faith, trusting God. I began jotting down verses and quotations that reminded me how to exercise faith, each one on a separate 3x5 index card or any handy scrap of paper. Those cards helped when feelings of panic, anger or resentment would start in my stomach and surge through me. I could not even summon the simplest verse or prayer that applied to those situations, but I could reach into my pocket, pull out a card and read what I had written earlier.

It worked for me. There were other individuals, especially my husband Walter, who helped me along the way to abandon crisis thinking and keep things in perspective. 

Nowadays I still have the habit of writing verses and thoughts on index cards. But now they serve a different purpose. Those verses I carry around provide a deep sense of wonder or joy.

One of my current favorites is Psalm 68:19, New International Version. That verse speaks to me of the unchanging character of God and how he cares about you and me personally. Here it is:

Psalm 68:19-20
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. Psalm 68:19-20


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