delighting in the names of Jesus

A few of you may remember the Advent devotional I created a couple of years ago called “Christ the Lord.” It included twenty-four short devotionals and their corresponding Bible readings regarding twenty-four different titles of the Messiah used in the Scriptures.

It was a joy to meditate on the significance of some of the many, many names used to describe my Jesus as I wrote that study. Then, this past February, I spent two lovely weeks meditating on Him in the very places He walked in the Holy Land. It’s so easy to get caught up in the distractions and overwhelm of everyday life, but these short times of simply delighting in Jesus have been oases of spiritual riches in a couple of rather difficult years.

Those oases inspired me to create something that, maybe, can recapture a taste of those riches and bring us back toward that rest. I’ve bound all twenty-four studies on all twenty-four names of Jesus into a beautiful softcover photo book filled with some of my favorite photographs of the Holy Land - just in time for another journey into the Advent season, but also perfect for any time you need to re-center yourself on who Jesus is and what He has done. It would make a lovely gift, too. In the back, there’s a directory of exactly where in Israel each photograph was taken so that you can take a miniature tour of the Land within these pages.

If you’d like to have one, you can purchase your copy here. I hope it blesses you.

Note: Any proceeds from this devotional will be attributed to the costs involved with keeping this blog up and running.

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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.

follow me: a testimony (part 2)

Over a year ago, I shared about the pivotal moment in my testimony of knowing Christ: the moment when He said, “Follow Me.”

But something I’ve always firmly believed about testimonies is that they are much more than nice stories with happy endings wrapped in bows. They are dynamic - they’re the stories God is actively writing with our lives, right now, evolving in real time as we take each step forward with Him. Every testimony really ends with “To be continued.” Every testimony, as long as the Lord tarries, will have a part two, three, or four.

When Jesus says to someone, “Follow Me,” it’s the beginning of a journey, not the end. And the invitation will, of necessity, be renewed daily. Sometimes hourly. The choice to obey is not once; it’s over and over again, one step at a time.

It would take pages to recount all the steps He has asked of me since that first invitation. I often took them without even knowing where my foot would land, and the course the path has taken is nothing like I expected. There have been moments when I let go of His hand and begged Him to go on without me because the next foothold looked so terrifying, but in His grace, He never left me there alone.

Today I’m standing in a pretty forest clearing, a place of rest. My Lord is not endlessly demanding and He knows I need to catch my breath. We have come a long way.

A year and a half ago, in April of 2018, He asked me to start writing a book. Together we stepped into a walk of solitude through a wild wood, the trail ill-defined and a bit lonely. I’ve written many thousands of words in my life, but I have never sat down to a project and vision of this size before. It was six months to put out the first draft, another six months to read it a dozen times over and make thousands of revisions to the manuscript, and yet another six months to design the layout and place it in the hands of people who can look at it with new eyes for me. Still to come, I am sure, will be yet more revisions based on their feedback.

Every step of this process has been an exercise in submitting to Christ’s call: “Follow Me.” He has brought inspiration, motivation, and accountability alongside me exactly when I’ve needed it. He has held my hand when I was scared to tell anyone about what I’ve been creating. And now He is slowly, bit by bit, revealing His vision for how He wants me to use and share this book with others.

With the fruit of this journey now in the hands of a few people I trust to provide sound criticism, I am taking a breather in this pretty little forest clearing, watching Jesus paint a picture of where the journey might lead from here. I doubt I’ll see the finished product before we start on our way again, but there is comfort in simply knowing that He knows, even when the path seems obscure.

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I can tell you what His work is stirring in me so far, though: an ever deeper desire to help other “ordinary” American Christians (like myself) know who He is by knowing His Word. My heart aches for my own nation, which has greater access to God’s Word and solid Biblical resources than any other, and yet largely doesn’t know how to use them, or even why they’re important. We are a nation of people who can easily find a Bible verse that supports nearly any ideology but have no idea how to respect the true intentions and origins of the text. In this place, we are terribly vulnerable to deception, legalism, and licentiousness; we are easily enslaved to cruel masters, like unnecessary guilt and our shifting emotions, and are deaf to the softness and tenderness of Jesus’ call.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). What a gift and a relief it is that we are known by God, and that He offers us the safety and care of the Good Shepherd. But we can’t rest fully in that truth, nor trust fully in His leadership, until we can hear His voice in the first place.

(By the way - if you want to be the first to know when this book becomes available to the public, you can drop your email address below.)

slow

This spring has been a little different for me.

In years past, I've taken some substantial trips around this time of year - a roadtrip through Utah and Arizona, a week in Virginia, a camping trip in the Canadian Rockies, to name a few. It's as if, after spending the first few months of the year in the hibernation of home, I like to take the first chance to get out and breathe again.

But this year that transition has been a bit slower, perhaps because this winter was so much darker.

The sun has been shining, and I've been slipping out of my house to spend my hours weeding, planting, and watering. I've been watching while tiny seedlings push up from the earth and while recent bare-root plantings begin to bud and blossom. It's long, slow, daily work and for some reason, it's exactly what I've been craving.

Weeks ago, when the weather was just beginning to shift toward spring, I was listening to a podcast in which the host made a point that stuck with me: We are forever innovating, forever looking for ways to do our work faster and easier - only to have so many hours left over that we must seek out empty entertainment to fill them. What if working faster and easier is not always the best thing? What if there's a purpose to the process of slow, deliberate work that allows us the opportunity to create, like God did in the beginning, especially during all those hours in which we might otherwise just consume?

These are the questions that have been at the forefront of my mind while I slowly come out of winter's hiding, and look out on the sunny world again - while I pull weeds and hand-water my freshly planted landscaping and watch for the signs of new life springing up all around me. I watch the cycle of the seasons and the evolution of a year, and it strikes me that God is not in a hurry. He doesn't rush to complete His to-do list in order to take His Sabbath rest sooner and longer. He just works long, slow, and daily, with spaces for true, satisfied rest in between.

And I don't think it's because He's not able to work faster. I think it's because He chooses not to.

For some reason, the One who spoke the world into existence chose to do so over six separate periods of time - not in a single instant, even though He was able. And then, satisfied, He rested.

Maybe He designed us to do our work in the same way, regardless of what technological advances and "time-savers" we come up with. What, after all, is the point of "saved" time, if it is then spent far more frivolously? 

Maybe He made us to live a bit slower than we are technically able, in order to let us bear His image a bit more beautifully - and accurately.

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.
Ecclesiastes 5:18
God is not in a hurry and it's okay to live slow.