How to read your Bible

How To Read Your BibleI was raised to know Jesus from a very young age, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that someone took me under their wing and taught me how to study my Bible. Before that, I mostly just randomly opened it up and started reading. Or, I’d start in the beginning and make it as far as I could (like Leviticus) before losing motivation. LEVITICUS IS HARD, Y’ALL.

I knew a lot about Jesus from sitting in church every time the doors were open. I heard 1,000 sermons as a child, attended VBS and Sunday School and even a few prayer rallies. I knew Jesus, and I knew about the Bible… but mostly from osmosis.

Jesus wants so much more than osmosis. He wants us to know his voice. He wants intimacy. He wants to speak to us in the hushed early part of the morning while we sip our cup of coffee. Or at night after the kids go to bed. He wants his words to come to mind during a crisis or a time of great joy. When we speak to our children, our spouse,  our neighbor. When we speak to ourselves.

Especially to ourselves.

I’ve heard the story many times about how bank employees learn to spot counterfeit dollars by handling nothing but REAL money. They get to where they know the real thing so well, that a counterfeit bill just doesn’t FEEL right.

That’s how God’s word is. He wants us to know it so intimately, to know the sound of his voice so clearly, that when we encounter a counterfeit – which comes at us from every direction – it just SOUNDS wrong.

I have the privilege of leading an online bible study for ladies across the country. We’re digging into the first half of Romans, and more than learning Romans, I’m trying to help them learn to hear – and love – God’s voice. To start building an understanding of who God is, why we need him, why he loves us, verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book.

If you’re a newbie like I was, back at age 23, here are some tips for learning to read your bible:

Don’t start at the beginning.

If you’ve never read your Bible before, you’re probably going to have a hard time starting with the Old Testament. It’s not that the Old Testament isn’t super important. It is. It teaches us so much about God’s character, and it continuously points toward our need for a savior – Jesus. And, it’s also really dense, full of history, and is easy to get stuck in. Read it… but don’t start with it.

I’ve heard Bible scholars say that you could read John and Romans and get a full understanding of who Jesus is and what salvation looks like. I tell people to start with Romans first, to learn about our need for a savior, and to gain a basic understanding of Christian beliefs. Then head to John to meet your savior.

After that, I’d work my way through 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. Then I’d start over and begin at the beginning of the New Testament, and read straight through. That’s me – there are a bazillion ways to skin the cat. The only requirement is that you READ it.

Have a Plan.

As you come close to finishing a book of the Bible, have a plan of what you’re going to read next. It’s easy to get stuck in a transition and lose the rhythm you’ve created. So follow my plan, or one of the MANY available online. (A great resource is YouVersion, a free app download that offers reading plans). You can use a Bible study book to help you as a resource, but don’t let that be your crutch. You don’t want to know some random author’s voice. You want to know God’s voice. So read chapter by chapter, and feel free to use a book as a commentary – but if your’e new to this, avoid a topical resource. Learn to fish… don’t let someone simply feed you.

Take it one chapter at a time.

It’s a great practice to start with just one chapter a day. As you go through, follow these steps:

Read for Understanding

What does the text say? Is any of it hard? Look up the cross-references in the margin of your Bible. These are passages that will give you more context, or more insight, into what you’re reading. Don’t be afraid to make notes in your Bible about what you’re learning.

If you read the whole chapter, finish, and have no idea what you just read… guess what. You’re normal. It happens to me ALL THE TIME. Just read it again. And again. And again. You can also try reading it in another translation (I use this website to look up a passage in various versions to compare).

Gods Character

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. It’s hard to love someone you don’t know. It’s hard not to place our own ideas of what a father or a king or a savior looks like, when we haven’t gone back to the original source. In anything you read, first ask yourself what it teaches you about God’s character.


I have to ask myself this question all the time. If what the Bible says is true, then what? If the text tells me that God is a God of love, then how does that change the way you pray to him? The way I worship him? The way I honor him? If he is a God who is just, then what does that mean for my situation? Sometimes what I read in the bible doesn’t FEEL true. Sometimes I don’t WANT what I read to be true. And that’s okay. But if I believe that the Bible is the word of God, and that every word of it is TRUE, then what? What does that mean for my situation today? Can I trust God with this hard thing I’m walking through? Is God big enough for me to wrestle with this hard thing until it finally FEELS true? (The answer is YES!)


This is a big deal. If you’re new to studying the Bible, then remember that the Bible is a complete work of 66 books. You can’t nail all of your beliefs on one verse. If you did, then reading Romans 2:7-8 might teach you that you are saved by works. But then, if you flipped over just one chapter, you would see in Romans 3:21-24 that Paul says we are saved by faith, not works. Then in his letter to the Ephesians, he reinforces that we are saved by faith – not works (Ephesians 2:8-10). So, as you study, write down those truths, but keep reading, just to confirm that you understand the fullness of scripture.

And, when in doubt, that’s when reaching out to someone a little further along in their study is key. If something is confusing, or seems contradictory, that’s when it’s good to seek out “wise counsel.” Basically, just find someone who has studied the Bible and ask them your questions. A church leader. A friend you trust. Then, take what they say, and measure it against scripture.

Always go back to scripture for the final word. That’s our north star. Our authority.

My final encouragement: DON’T. GIVE. UP.

New things are hard. It’s easy to quit. Keep going. It will be worth it. I promise you. There is nothing sweeter than hearing straight from the heart of Jesus. It’s a treasure that brings hope. It’s like water – you need it to LIVE. To truly live. Go spend some time with your creator… and then tell me how it goes.

A weekend away with my tribe


When Mr. Right and I sit down with couples who are planning to get married, we always tell them that finding good couple friends is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. I’m not kidding – research supports it, and my heart can attest to it. It takes awhile – when we got married, most of our friends were single, and so we had my friends and his friends and a few “our” friends, but very few couples that we could do life with.

And so we prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And man, has God blessed us richly. If you haven’t found “your” people yet, may I suggest looking at church? Church is messy and I’ll admit, there are some people there who are hard to love. But there are also some people – just like you – who are willing to do life with you, to know your junk and love you anyway, to be there when your “I just had a baby” hormones are out of control and you need someone to talk you down off the ledge, to pray for you, to see you without any makeup on and not care one bit, to laugh with you – and at you – so life seems less serious.

We found our tribe at church, in our Sunday School class. They are a bunch of messy people with J-U-N-K, and I absolutely adore them. ADORE.


This past weekend six couples from our class headed down to a lake house with just one rule: NO KIDS ALLOWED. Grownups only. It was awesome.

Here’s how our weekend went down:

Friday night:

  • Drive two hours out of town, listening to podcasts and enjoying great shoulder-to-shoulder time with the spouse.
  • Eat dinner at a restaurant at 8:00 (y’all, if we eat past 6:00 these days, we feel like we’re living on the edge). It was CRAZY.
  • Stay up super late playing games.
  • Laugh and laugh and laugh and (maybe sort of) binge on cookies.


  • Sleep late. Like, really late. Like, until almost 8:00. Feel like a million bucks.
  • Sit around and make breakfast.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Sit in rocking chairs in a screened-in porch and stare at the lake.
  • Watch your crazy husband jump into the crazy cold lake. Because he’s THE BEST.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Discuss doing something productive, like going into town to shop. Then decide to ditch the plans and take naps. OH GLORIOUS NAPS.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Sit around a campfire eating s’mores and laughing ’til our cheeks hurt.
  • Stay up late playing games, and (maybe sort of) binge on cake balls, chocolate cake, and leftover cookies.


  • Sleep late. Again. Like rockstars.
  • Sit around and make breakfast.
  • Talk. Laugh. Eat.
  • Go home. Get kiddos. Go back to reality.


To my tribe: thank you for refreshing my soul. For being good listeners and encouragers. For giving me so many “me, too” moments. For being awesome and laid back and FUNNY and really good cooks. And for making me feel loved.

Let’s do it again, okay? #standingroomonly

Women’s Dinner

My sweet church hosted a women’s dinner for 600+ women this week.  Here’s the recap of this wonderful, chocolate and big-jewelry-filled evening:
1. The men of our church served the women. They dressed up, donned black aprons and acted as waiters, graciously serving their women so that we could feel doted on. Mr. Right volunteered, and I may be a bit biased, but I think he looked mighty handsome carrying that pitcher of ice tea.
2. Our church invited my ESL ladies to attend. For free. And so many of our members came by to welcome them and tell them how happy they were that they chose to join us. 
3. Some of our ESL students come from cultures where a man would NEVER serve a woman. So this dinner blew their mind. It was a great testimony, and they felt so very special. It’s nights like this, where they feel loved on, that softens their hearts to hear and accept the gospel.
4. Our church took up a collection to pay for textbooks for our English students for next semester. We almost cried when we found out – they had kept it as a surprise from us. Textbooks are very expensive and most of our students have very little money – so this is a huge deal.
Thanks to First Euless for investing in women. And thanks to the women who chose last night to invest in our English students. 
“And I pray that you… may have power… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  – Ephesians 3:18-19

Three more days of thankful

I have been trying to eat from the salad bar at work every day, and it has helped me to lose five pounds. (insert back flip here) Of course, I have gained and lost those five pounds several times over the last few months, but I’m hoping that my diligence in eating a healthy lunch every single day can help make that move permanent.

Then again, week-after-next I’m going to have a birthday date, a birthday girlfriend lunch, two family birthday dinners, and two Thanksgiving celebrations in a seven-day period (not to mention we bought 2-dozen cake balls from the lady who did our wedding cake!). I’m going to assume those five extra pounds will find their way back to me by the end of that week, but maybe my salad-eating ways will help chase them away the following week. I’m thinking optimistically.

Instead of opting for one of the high-calorie salad dressings from our salad bar, I bought my own bottles of own olive oil and basalmic vinegar and keep them stashed in one of my cabinets at work. Every day at noon I go to pull out these two glass bottles and something inside me feels a little naughty – like I’m really pulling out a bottle of gin for an afternoon happy hour at my desk, like they do in the movies… or Mad Men. At least, I think they do that on Mad Men… I’ve never actually seen the show. But that’s what I would suspect, based off what I’ve read about it in US Weekly.

Confession… I ended my 10-year US Weekly subscription right before Mr. Right and I got married because it seemed like a frivolous spend during a time when we were pinching every penny. But I did download the App on my iPhone, so I’m still in the know.

Yes, that’s a bottle of Lysol wipes and a hammer next to my oil and vinegar. There would be more randoms in there, but I’m about to move my office (temporarily) and so the rest of my junk is already packed… these are the only essentials that remain. 
So that brings me to what I’m thankful for:

Day 12 – I am thankful for those random moments in every day that delight me, entertain me, or bring an unexpected treat. Whether it’s a sweet comment from a coworker or getting hopelessly tickled over something that nobody else will ever understand, I am thankful for the little things that bring me unexpected joy.

Day 13 – I am thankful for late night walks around the lake with Mr. Right. We took one last night–it was unseasonably warm and provided such a calming end to our weekend–watching as the light danced off the lake and taking in the sound of… quiet.

Day 14 – I am thankful for my old Sunday School class. I dearly miss them, and they have been nice enough to let me visit them for the past few weeks as my own class covers something I’ve already studied twice this year. I am thankful for Katie and Amy and the sacrifices they make to teach us every week, and to the other girls who pray for each other (and for me). It’s a good reminder, over and over and over, that I’m not alone

I am thankful for my church

6. I am thankful for my church. It, and the people in it, feel like home. They have been there for me since I was a wide-eyed 23-year-old, six months in to working at my first “big girl” job in a new town, back when I didn’t own any furniture, when the thought of being an adult was totally foreign and when I could count the number of friends I had on one hand. I am thankful for the women who invested in my life, for the pastor who first handed me the reigns to teach, and for the people who have walked with me through struggles, illnesses, death and breakups, and also celebrated with me in some of my very best moments, who have traveled the world with me, who cheered for me as I walked the aisle to marry Mr. Right, and who continue to encourage us now as newlyweds.

I have made my sweetest friendships at church. With those friends I have cruised to Mexico, floated the river in Gruene, run a half marathon, hiked mountains in Colorado, and visited Italy, Greece, Spain and Croatia (along with napped in the airport in Brussels). I have found friends who were willing to live an adventure with me, who helped me decorate my Christmas tree and who taught me how to throw a football.

I met my husband at our church… fittingly, it was in the coffee area before Sunday School. So I’m also grateful for those who serve behind the scenes taking care of silly details like coffee, which happened to change my life.

My church and the people in it have changed my life, and I am grateful. I am grateful for our head pastor and his team of ministers who give of their time and energy to love and lead the rest of us. And I am grateful that my church chose to hire Mr. Right and provide him with a huge blessing and learning opportunity as he plugs away on that seminary degree. I can say that I love my church even more after hearing through my husband just how committed our church workers are, and watching with a front-row seat how they love Jesus through loving his people.

May I encourage you that if you don’t have a church family, if you’ve felt distant from your church, or you feel like you’re alone – be brave and try again. We were not created to be silos, we weren’t created to serve alone, or to suffer alone, or to celebrate alone.

If you come to mine, I’ll save you a seat.

English class


My entire life I wanted to be an English teacher. As a little girl I played school with my poor, helpless, bossed-around younger sisters, and as a college student I wavered between majoring in English and journalism, changing my major five times as I tried to decide between a career as a teacher and joining the world of communications.

I picked communications. 
But a small part of me has always dreamed of someday being an English teacher. And now I am, although in a classroom I never expected.
Mr. Right and I are working with an ESL (English as a Second Language) class at our church. Will is the organized guru who makes sure teachers have their lessons, classrooms are set up, kids are returned to their parents, and tummies are full with pizza each week.
I teach the beginner’s class with one of my best girlfriends, and I have fallen in love with my students.
In the past six weeks I’ve taught people from DR Congo, Burundi, the Ivory Coast, Jordan, Egypt, Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. In our other classes we have folks from South Korea, the Ukraine, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia, and several other countries that I can’t seem to remember now. 
I have refugees. I have a physician. I have people who need to learn English to find work. I have the very old and the very young. One of my students has seven children. I have people who speak Swahili, French, Spanish, Arabic, Nepali, and Bangla. I have muslims and Christians, and I suspect I probably have some hindus and buddhists. I have a child who told me that in his country, if you convert to Christianity, you will be killed. My students have lived such brave lives.
I have never met a more fascinating group of people. My beginner students are passionate about learning English – many are searching out additional programs so they can get more practice. They ask questions and work hard to grasp the concepts, they help each other, and they do every last bit of the homework I assign them. They are a dream class to teach.
Even better, they’re learning English at my church. Every week as we celebrate the end of a lesson with pizza, we tell them about Jesus, and about how incredibly loved they are by Him. And by us. 
It’s rewarding to teach someone English. To open a new world of possibilities, of freedom, of independence. It’s even more rewarding to share with them the source of my hope, and my peace, and my motivation for loving them.

For this man I have prayed…

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is of Hannah, a young woman who in total desperation after years of infertility pleaded to the Lord to give her a child.

And He gave her Samuel.

I can relate to Hannah. For so many years, I got on my knees and prayed that the Lord would bring me a partner that I could serve alongside.

And he answered my prayer.

It took Him what seemed like forever to answer my prayer. Years of what seemed like unanswered prayers, years of feeling like I was forgotten, like I missed my opportunity. Years of praying that I could find contentment in the now.  where so many that seemed to go unanswered, and at times (okay, most of the time) I was so impatient.

And then Mr. Right came, and I didn’t have to do a single thing. He was such an answer to prayer.

Maybe that’s why I get so overwhelmed when I hear him preach. For this man I prayed so many years. I hoped and hoped that I would someday find a man of God who could lead our family, encourage me in my ministry, and set an example of love. So yesterday, when Mr. Right preached to a group of seniors, and I could see his love pouring out for these widows and people forgotten, I felt a welling of emotion. It was a special opportunity to hear my man preach, and to know that his words were authentic, lived out in private as much as they are in public.

I wonder if I will ever get used to hearing him preach.

I hope I never do.


I want to go to Africa in 2010. More specifically, I want to go on a mission trip to Tanzania with my church. I had a few things that I worried might hinder my traveling (first and foremost, my annoying and currently uncontrollable asthma issues) but I have started finding solutions to what I thought were closed doors. I’m a bit terrified of the idea of traveling to the wilderness for two weeks, but my heart is aching to go.

Last night I had dinner with my wonderful Christian parents–both leaders in their church and big advocates for spreading the gospel. Here is what our conversation looked like:
Dad – So you really want to go to Africa, huh?
Me – Yep. I really want to go.
Dad – You know what happens to folks who go to Africa… they all come home wanting to adopt an African orphan.
Me – Oh really? Would that be so horrible?
Dad – Nah. I’d watch him for you.
Me – Well it’s settled then. Africa, here I come!


My favorite Sunday afternoon activity used to be taking naps. It takes something pretty important to get me to sacrifice my beloved two-hour Sunday nap. But then I learned to play football… and everything changed.

Now, you can find me, along with my sweet church friends, up at the park, playing a serious game of flag football. Okay, not really serious. Some people are serious. I’m not one of them. I’ve been known to miss a play because I was chatting with an opponent (you’re shocked, I know). But it’s still a great way to get exercise, enjoy some sunshine, and hang out with some cool people.

Speaking of which… time to go get ready for today’s game.

Out of hiding

I decided to play hooky over the weekend. Instead of hanging out with my friends, or doing homework, or really doing anything I was “supposed” to do, I hid out for 24 hours and had a “Bethe Day” all to myself. It was glorious. Not necessarily exciting… I did all of those things I never do… I vacuumed underneath my bed, cleaned floorboards, organized my closet, hooked up a printer (okay, friend Kevin stopped by to do that), went to the grocery store, and I even finally bought the hardware to hang the curtains that I bought back on January 1. From Friday night (when I watched Twilight… while eating Parisian chocolates… my perfect evening) until Saturday night, I did my best to regain control of my out-of-control life. I de-stressed, recharged my batteries, and it was fantastic. Today, I was ready to face the world once again, with a new energy, a revitalized spirit, and a positive attitude.

And thanks to everyone who checked in on me to make sure I was okay. I’m absolutely fine. I love to live a life filled with adrenaline and projects and “stuff,” and it only takes me a day or so to recharge my batteries for quite awhile. Oh yeah, and I’m getting a massage tomorrow night, which means I’m good for another month or two.

Today I played flag football with my friends from church and enjoyed an absolutely beautiful afternoon at the park. Have I mentioned how fantastic my church is? Really… it’s pretty darn special.  

I also wanted to post a photo from my neighborhood supper club, which met last Thursday at Sister Sarah’s house. At the moment I feel like my life is one long episode of Friends (except my life is G-rated)… there are a few moments in life that I wish I could bottle, or take a photo of, and freeze forever. My current group of friends are one of those… I have been inundated with cool people to hang out with, and I realize that it’s an absolute blessing. Just last year I was praying fervently for God to bring me a few close friends, and instead he decided to open up the floodgates. I am so blessed. Here’s a photo of just a few of the folks who came to our monthly neighborhood dinner last week.

Okay, enough rambling for one night. I’m off to tackle a 300 page book that I need to read by Thursday (does anybody know if there’s a Cliffs Notes for The Razor’s Edge? Because that book is B-O-R-I-N-G). Time to dust off those rusty speed reading skills.