The Bible reading goal I don’t have

Some of you astute observers may have noticed that I have no goals about Bible reading when I shared my goals for 2013. A few of you may have even been slightly horrified.

How could I overlook such an important goal? Well, truth be told, I knew I was going to write this post.

I know you are wondering, so I’ll share the goal I don’t have.

I don’t have a goal of reading through the Bible in a year.

In fact, I don’t have a goal of reading through any certain number of chapters in the year.

I do have a Bible reading plan. I think a plan is helpful because it helps me work through the Bible systematically reading in various parts of both the old an new testaments.

But I don’t worry about the little date box next to the day’s reading. In fact, I didn’t start over fresh on January 1st with a new plan. I am reading systematically through my Bible little bit, by little bit and I don’t worry about whether it takes me a year or three to finish.

Why, you say?

I’m a mom of little people.

Little people that need me nearly every hour of the day and night. I’m often up several times a night. I have children with me constantly throughout the day. I rarely have moments to myself, let alone time to read several chapters a day.

Some of you may wonder how I can find time to read, and yet say I can’t read through the Bible in a year. I do read a lot. But as much as I read, it may surprise you to know that I rarely read for more than 15 minutes in one sitting. Most of the time I grab 3, 5, or 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. Some days, like today, I don’t have time to read at all.  Eventually, though it just adds up.

Bible reading isn’t exactly conducive to that type of reading because it requires not only my mind to be active, but my heart and soul.

And that takes time and focus.

I also know my heart.

And I know that I find it much more difficult to–

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight.” Ps. 19:14

–than to read a chapter from my Bible.

I found it more difficult to–

” meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” Josh. 1:8

–than read a few chapters in the Bible.

I find it more difficult to–

“meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Ps. 119:15

Or

“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil. 1:8

–than to read any number of verses or chapters.

Bible reading goals are good, and certainly appropriate.

But for me, this year, this is my goal:

To meditate on one truth from Scripture each day.

If you are part of our Facebook community you may have seen me post this picture.

What you don’t know is that before I shared it with you, I had printed that little box off and stuck it above the sink where I spend countless minutes washing dishes.

Usually I’m not that fancy. I simply scribble a verse or a truth from God’s word on an index card and put it where I can see it regularly throughout the day. It’s in this meditating on truth that I see my heart change.

C.H. Spurgeon, the well-known British minister from the late 19th century said,

“Set your whole heart on the Word of God! Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul soaking in half a dozen verses all day than I would, as it were, rinse my hands in several chapters.

Oh, to bathe in a text of Scripture and to let it be sucked up into your very soul till it saturates your heart!” (emphasis mine)

Mom’s, if you are feeling discouraged  because you can’t seem to find two minutes to yourself when kids are not tugging at your pants needing something, I understand. I’m right there with you.

If you have been exhorted to get up earlier, but your child just gets up earlier right with you, I understand. I’m right there with you.

Don’t worry about the chapters and verses, but don’t neglect the Word.

Grasp one verse or passage each day. Hold on to one truth in the middle of diaper changes, and whining, dumped bookshelves, ripped books, and chaotic messes, (all of which I had today) and let it change your heart.

Bathe yourself in the truth of God’s word.

For me, this year, in this season, that means fewer chapters read.

But I pray that by God’s grace I will see it begin to truly saturate my heart, my words, and my very life.

Photo Credit

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Comments

  1. Love this!!! Such a great reminder. Before I had my son I read a book by Janet Pope called His Word in My Heart and she talked about memorizing and meditating on the Word and how by doing so she was able to “be in the Word” even on the days she just plain didn’t have the time to sit down and read. Enjoyed this post : )

    • Johanna says:

      My sister-in-law recently mentioned that book to me, too! I’ll have to read it soon. :)

      • Naomi says:

        Oh yes, its a GREAT book! Though I admit I’m not able to do things they way she did it was VERY inspiring and I’ve gotten through several chapters since reading it. And now I’m almost finished with 1 Peter. You will love it!

        • Kristen says:

          Yes, I too really found the basic concept of Pope’s book helpful: using memorization not as an end in itself but as a means to meditation. For a while I followed her method loosely and found it did help me both memorize whole chapters (which I hadn’t really done since high school) and always have something at my fingertips to meditate on during the day.

          The basic idea (write one verse on a card each day and say it so many times per day, then add another the next day) served me well during a season when finding time to write a verse down on a card was about the most I could find for my “quiet time.” :) And honestly, I’m not too far removed from that season… ;)

          • Johanna says:

            You all have me wanting to read the book asap! And Kristen, thanks for the details, that already gives me some great ideas!

  2. Rachel says:

    “Don’t worry about the chapters and verses, but don’t neglect the Word.”–LOVED this! Your post is such a great reminder and I couldn’t agree more.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sarah Beals says:

    Loved this. I had a younger mom ask me this question about devotions two weeks ago and I posted my response yesterday. :) I didn’t want to be long and drawn out in my post, but wanted to share something a wiser, older saint told me. Reading the Bible through in a year is like doing plow work. When a farmer plows, he skims over the surface of the entire field. But digging into a few verses, with a commentary is “spade” word. It is digging beneath the surface to find something hidden under the surface. When my kids were young, spade work is what helped me, and gave me something to ponder and change during my day. :)

    • Johanna says:

      Ha! too funny. I’ll have to go read as soon as soon as I get a moment! Great analogy! Although, most of the time, there isn’t even time for commentary type study, simply thinking, meditating, and praying through verses. Thanks, Sarah. :)

    • Naomi says:

      Pastor always talks about the importance of both plow work and spade work at the beginning of each year. So helpful! And of course, he always gives a word of grace to young moms :) encouraging them to remember their season of life.
      I’m excited about reading through the BIble this year (last year I did *only* spade work and realized that though it was exceedingly beneficial I missed the plow work:) )on a slower schedule than most of our church. I’m loving it so far! Still getting through the whole Bible, but in smaller portions that are totally doable for a mom of one. Also loving extra time to meditate.

  4. Sarah Beals says:

    should say “digging into a few verses is spade WORK, not word. ;)

  5. Love this, Johanna!

  6. Steph says:

    This is what I do too. And I get so much more out of it than if I sat down and tried to rush through a few chapters for a mark on my checklist. Plus, meditation brings memorization which brings God’s Word rushing back to me at very opportune times.

  7. Lou Ann says:

    Good, thorough thinking. I especially appreciated the emphasis on reading with the heart and the mind, the quote from Spurgeon, and your emphasis on meditation. I’ve watched Becky grab a few minutes here and there for the Word as she juggles full-time work, a busy toddler, and being a wife. God bless you both!

  8. Rebecca says:

    Exactly! You put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling the past few months. This past year, our church read through the Bible as a congregation and I couldn’t keep up. One of our missionaries asked why I was trying. She pointed out that the Lord has put me in charge of caring for and discipling three(at the time- we added #4 in July!) little ones and that is demanding of my time and energy. She suggested it would be much more fruitful and encouraging for me to meditate on one or two verses a day. And it has been!

    • Johanna says:

      Ah! I love when another mom comes and says “don’t stress about that.” It just makes me want to give a big ole sigh of relief! So good to hear how you have been making meditation happen in your home!

  9. Cynthia says:

    I’ve got a temptation to make a comment here that could easily be construed as snarky, but before I put my foot in my mouth, could you clarify something for me? However long it took you, or in whatever translation or reading order you selected, have you ever completed the entire Bible?

    (You have no idea how difficult it was for me not to actually take your invitation to speak my mind at face value. Maybe those resolutions are going to work after all! [Grin.]

    • Johanna says:

      Yes, I have, though it was before children!

      • Cynthia says:

        Oh, that’s great. I had been looking at all your other reading, and wondered how you were fitting ANYTHING in with the kids.

        One year, I decided I would read nothing BUT the Bible, until I was done with it, and nothing else. That year it was done in a couple of months.

        I think, really, your idea is a sound one. It’s far better to let the verses sink in and a rapid reading will never let that happen. I’m all for being familiar with the Bible, but the fascination of reading it through in a set period of time seems a little too much like the Spirituality-As-Checklist idea for me.

        Good for you. I’ll admit, I’ve never been here, but the post title caught my eye.

  10. Wonderful post and a truth that I’ve learned by experience. Some days, the verses I memorized as a kid in were the only bits I had to chew on–but they were always more than enough!

  11. Matt P says:

    Thanks for your authenticity and great writing here… I look forward to sharing this post with the moms of our church. I often hear about the frustration and struggles of moms trying to chisel away just a few moments for themselves. I know my wife (mother of three) wrestles with this daily as well…

    I love those word from Spurgeon.

  12. Great post. I think you’re right to prioritize the meditative reading over big chunks of reading when it comes to the Bible. I like to do a little of both, because I feel like it gives me a good overview perspective while also digging deeply. But the digging deeply is what changes the heart!

    • Johanna says:

      I totally agree. In fact, it was in reading through quickly that I finally understand the big redemptive story that Scripture is. There is definitely place for both. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Kelly says:

    This is so great Johanna. I read somewhere (I can’t remember where) about a mom who kept an open Bible in her kitchen, and throughout the day, she would stop and grab a couple of scriptures and hang on to them throughout the day. I need to start doing that, or take your suggestion and start pinning index cards of scripture in the kitchen.

    • Johanna says:

      That’s a great idea. Though with my limited counter space I can’t imagine not spilling something on it!

    • Cynthia says:

      I also did this with hymn verses, so I could sing in the kitchen. We all know the first verse of many hymns, but sometimes the second and third verses have real spiritual depth! As a church pianist, I had all I could do to play the songs sometimes. If I wanted to sing, I had to memorize the words. It also comes in really handy when you’re traveling through areas that have no good radio stations.

  14. Alba says:

    I feel you sis! We are in the same boat! :)

  15. Kristen says:

    Wonderful encouragement – especially the Spurgeon quote. Thanks, Johanna!

  16. Jeni says:

    I completely agree with you. The other thing is, for me, trying to do a bible-in-a-year type thing sets me up for failure and really sucks the joy out of coming to God’s word. My sister and I have partnered up for Ann Voskamp’s Romans Challenge this year; I’m excited to finally make some headway with some longer passages. Thanks for the reminder that there are seasons in our lives.

    BTW – are you going to Beech Retreat? If so, I can’t wait to meet you!

    • Johanna says:

      That’s such a great challenge!
      No, unfortunately I’m not going to Beech Retreat. I would have loved to, but the price and airfare make it out of the question right now! I’d love to meet you someday, though! :)

  17. Recently, I had someone approach my husband and me, concerned that we were not spending the same number of hours reading our Bibles as we were reading other books. (And that particular year, I did read through the entire Bible in much less than a year.) There are so many ways in which we can make up our own rules and then try to bind our own and other consciences by them.

    But, even in making, keeping, or promoting such rules we can end up missing the bigger point. In my first year of motherhood, I dismissed an entire book because it brought up many of the points you did here, and encouraged mothers not to obsess over having a set, specific devotional time. Of course, I now see the wisdom in that! :)

    Even within season, we go through various changes and seasons, and the larger season of motherhood contains many ever-changing seasons, rhythms and routines. God can teach us so much through these years, whether through continual exposure to the depths of His Word, or whether through bite-size morsels along the way. I also remind myself that He gave His Word to many people who would never even learn to read or own their own copies of His Word.

    And on another note, I also benefitted from reading His Word in My Heart. And, with my smart phone and computer, there are a lot of ways to listen to Scripture–even on a plan/schedule with the YouVersion app.

    • Johanna says:

      Great words, here, Keren. I agree, even within seasons you go through various stages. For instance, the intense schedule (due to the speed we are taking) of our lives in Seminary right now has been a stress on the entire family that I didn’t really anticipate. It has definitely called for some major adjustments on nearly every front.
      Brian has done a significant amount of Bible listening on his ipod touch. I don’t have one, but I know it is such a great tool!

  18. Nicole says:

    I think spending meaningful time in God’s word, even if it is only one verse, and meditating on that throughout a day can be way more challenging to our spiritual lives than cramming several chapters in. Quality, not quantity!

  19. Jessica says:

    Starting several months ago, I decided to read one chapter a day instead of “limiting” myself to the three or four to get me through the Bible in a year. I found myself having to get up and take care of something ever chapter or so, and it really broke my concentration. (Even reading one chapter all at once doesn’t work most of the time!) Starting this month, I am still reading a chapter a day, but I am writing down little things I notice as I read, so that when I get called away by my kid, I can ruminate on what I just wrote down until I make it back to my reading. I have found that this has greatly improved my spiritual attitude throughout the day.

    • Naomi says:

      I have also found writing something down very helpful! I always have a 3×5 card with me as I read to jot down a verse or idea. And sometimes I never get back to the reading, but I keep the thought with me all day. So grateful the Lord “gently leads those with young.”

    • Johanna says:

      I also think writing down is beneficial which is why I often have an index card by my sick or something like that. And you are SO right–sometimes just glancing up and seeing/reading the verse helps me adjust my spirit. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  20. Mimi says:

    Excellent post! I’ve always thought that a little was better than none at all :)

  21. Lisa says:

    I am on the same page with you. I tried to do a Bible plan last year and miserably failed. I am just not in a season of life where I can do that right now.

    • Johanna says:

      Remembering seasons is so important ….Now if I could just not forget that when I’m in the middle of it and feeling frustrated! :)

  22. Darcy Wiley says:

    Amen! I’ve been going through the Message Remix bit by bit since my first baby was born 5 1/2 years ago and I’m only about 3/4 of the way through. We just started doing a 2-year M’Cheyne plan as a family (nightly readings) and I’m excited about that, but you are so right that there’s nothing like meditating on a small passage and letting the Word do the work of transformation.

    • Johanna says:

      I’ve done the 2 year plan and that was actually a pretty nice pace. I felt like I was progressing without feeling completely overwhelmed each day!

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