these are the days

(This post is inspired by Emily P. Freeman and her recent podcast episode, “Point and Call”.)

It’s September, suddenly - one of my favorite months of the year, and I’m concerned that today is already day three. Ten percent of the month is already behind us. The days go so fast, in a blur, so I feel the need to mark time here before it gets away from me.

These are the days of long, hard shadows in morning light, angled across all my flowers and filtering through their petals like tiny stained-glass windows. These are the days of cold nights, as evidenced by the chill in the lake water when we spent last week together at the cabin, and sometimes even a layer of fog to mute the world on my way to work in the morning.

They are days of learning many random things I never thought I’d need to know: how to stack russet potatoes, the best way to rotate the new produce in with the old, a hundred four-digit PLU codes. All those little things that make a shelf look nice? Someone does them - they don’t just happen by magic. I guess I knew that, but it didn’t mean anything until I became the one turning milk cartons to face the right way in the cooler.

And they’re days of learning many deeper things - the kind that have to be learned again and again, day in and day out. Like learning to set my eyes on Jesus, who has already endured and overcome every heartbreak and struggle I face. Learning to take refuge in who He says I am, and remember that He alone (not my feelings, not my mistakes, not my perceptions, not another person) gets to name me. Learning that He doesn’t always disclose the destination, or even the goal, but He does faithfully take the next step forward with me.

Welcome, September; don’t go too soon. I want to enjoy these days with you.

big, improbable ideas

This week I read a statistic that troubled me. On the YouVersion app, which populates different Bible reading plans and similar resources, a reading plan covering the theme of “justice” in the Bible has a 70% user completion rate.

The problem? It’s only a three-day plan.

That is, only 70% of people who sign up for a reading plan that will take three days can actually follow through on those three days.

It’s not surprising. We all know that our attention spans are shrinking, our lives are getting busier, and longform content is becoming less and less popular. We’d rather get the one-minute summary video with an eye-catching slideshow than take in the full depth and breadth of a topic. But it is still troubling.

One of the biggest projects I’ve created through this blog so far is a plan to read through the Bible in 180 days. If 30% of people won’t follow through for three days, how many will still be in it at the end of 180? One percent? Less?

Part of me fears that my vision is too big. It’s too much to expect of people, to read through the whole Bible. It takes too long. They don’t want to do it. They’re too busy. They’re too distracted. It’s one of those lovely, big ideas that I should probably pass off as improbable, if not impossible.

And I know that IT IS a hard task. I myself took this year off from Bible180, because it’s a big investment of time, energy, and brainspace to read through the whole Bible in such a concentrated amount of time. But whether you try to read the Bible in seven days, 180 days, or 365 days - it’s still going to be a really big book that requires really big commitment. We can’t distill it down to a one-minute video and still capture the beauty and complexity of who God is and what He has done.

And I know this, too: There are people that have completed Bible180 from beginning to end. Some of them within the 180-day timeframe, some of them taking a bit longer, but they’ve done it. I know who they are. They’ve shared with me how it has impacted them. Even the ones who made it to Deuteronomy, or to Jeremiah, or to the end of the Old Testament - they experienced transformation, too.

There is a pressure to make things easier. Faster. More bite-size, accessible, watered down. There are plenty of voices telling me I have too many big, improbable ideas - that nobody wants to do that much work.

But I contend that some of us are hungry to put in the work.

Some of us are hungry for the dense, nutritious meat of the Word. Some of us - probably more of us than anyone realizes - have been on a diluted diet for far too long, and we long to know God in His richness. His depth.

Maybe it isn’t about whether I can keep 500 people on task to read through the Bible that matters. Maybe it’s about whether the five or ten or twenty of them that were truly starving get fed.

The Bible school that I attended in Florida attracts one, maybe two dozen students every year. Not the hundreds or thousands that other institutions can boast. But the ones that uproot their lives to spend their days marinating in the fullness of the Bible, the ones that put dollars and hours behind their desire to learn from its every page whether they ever reap a tangible return on the investment or not - these are just one example of the truly hungry. And when the truly hungry seek after what can truly satisfy, they will be filled - even as their appetites are whetted for more.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6

We’re all in different places in our walks with Jesus. Some of us need the milk-based diet - we are babies and we need someone else to hold the spoon. Some of us have been stuck on milk for a bit too long, but haven’t yet identified our real need for something different. Some of us have long outgrown the liquid diet and our souls are crying out for more substantial nutrition - and the skills to feed ourselves - to fuel our growth.

There’s a good place for cutting things up into bite-size pieces. But to the fear that I have too many big, improbable ideas that “no one” will ever want to partake in, I say that’s not true. Because I am someone, and I am starving, and I know that I am not the only one.

Are you one of the hungry ones? I’d love to hear about your experience with the Bible and what you feel is missing from your current spiritual “diet.” Leave me a comment below!

(The photos in this post were taken on a recent hike to McCall Point, Columbia River Gorge.)

streams in the desert

Experiencing Israel in February versus May was like going to two different countries. The brilliant emerald green fields bejeweled with wildflowers bore no resemblance to the many shades of gold that characterized the entire landscape for my first visit. That time, whether we were in Galilee or the Negev, the color range was only as broad as warm beige to deep rust. I loved it, but the rainbow of color I got to see this time was simply beyond words.

But the wilderness around the Dead Sea looked just as I remembered: reddish-tinted rock mountains under a hazy-blue sky, reaching down to the crystalline edges of the Dead Sea. After several days in lush Galilee, this was an adjustment. I might even admit that I was underwhelmed.

But then I sat under the trees at Ein Gedi, an oasis in the middle of this wilderness - a place where the water runs crystal clear over a bed of smooth stones, cutting its way through the rough chalk mountains under the watchful eyes of many a cliffside cave. The birds were all but bursting with song over the sound of the humming brook.

And I thought of David, not yet crowned king, hiding there from jealous Saul. He was hated and hunted down for no legitimate reason, waiting for God to come through on His promise, afraid for his life.

So he wrote songs. Songs of pleading, lament, praise, and prayer.

The desert is a harsh place, and yet sometimes, hidden there in the rocks, God gives a lush abundance of Himself.

Galilee was beautiful, rich, familiar. But at the foot of the falls of Ein Gedi, I was reminded that God did transforming and eternal work there, too. I don’t have to restlessly search for the place that seems green and home-like because God is still working in the land that is lonely, monochrome, and difficult.

And the longer I spent in that wilderness, the more evident its loveliness became.

Psalm 57

For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave.

Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah.
God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.

My soul is among lions;
I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
And their tongue a sharp sword.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They dug a pit before me;
They themselves have fallen into the midst of it. Selah.

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.


Hallie Liening

Hallie grew up on a small farm in rural eastern Washington. At 18, she moved across the country to go to Bible school, and then married the Boy Next Door at 20. Now 22, she is a graduate of Great Commission Bible Institute with a Certificate in Biblical Studies and resides in Olympia with her husband and her two cats. She survives the claustrophobia of living near the city by making frequent trips back home to visit her family and her horse, writing sentimental blog posts about the countryside, and by filling her house with photographs of Mt. Adams sunsets.