Word Wednesday! Today we are kicking off the very first Gracefully Collected Bible Study on Zoom (of course, because social distancing). I am so excited! It is an honor to get to lead women through God's word! This will be an introduction for some, and a review for others, which is so amazing--even the most experienced Bible readers can get a fresh message with a well-trod passage of scripture. That's the supernatural aspect of God's word. Reading the bible is different than your typical book--it is living and active, and God himself will speak to you through it. It’s okay if that sounds weird to you, but I assure you, it is true. Read this and then go try it out.

Bible Basics

In order to give you some foundation as we continue with Word Wednesday, here are a few basics about the Bible:

+ It is not just one book--it is a volume comprised of 66 different books, written by more than 40 authors.

+ The books were written over the course of 1500 years.

+ Parts of the Bible were written by kings. Half of the Psalms, a good chunk of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes seem to be penned by royalty. But other parts of the Bible are written by farmers, fishermen, a tentmaker, homeless prophets, a doctor, a professional scribe, vocational musicians, pastors, etc. (from overviewbible.com)

+ Authors wrote in one of three languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic).

+ Split into two sections: Old Testament (also known to Jews as the Hebrew Bible, or the Tanakh), and the New Testament (Christian books and letters).

+ The time in between what is recorded in the Testaments is about 400 years.

+ It is the most verified, well documented piece of ancient literature in the world, based on number of manuscripts and non-religious historical attestations which support its veracity (reality/truth). (feel free to completely nerd out here with the details of manuscripts)

+ It is likely that the last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was written before 95AD, which is much too early for any legendary (read: inflated, false) information to be included. There were still eyewitnesses alive who could have contested the information which was being circulated. The earliest were written between 35AD and 50AD, and more than likely, all of the New Testament books were written and circulated prior to 70AD.

Fundamentals: Four Gospels, four views.

Let's say you have four close friends (and I hope you do!). If they were to write about you after your passing, they would each have a slightly different perspective ; there would be overlap and difference in their understanding of your personality and message, and nuance to how they view you, based on the lens through which they view the world. We would expect that each person might recall different events from your life which they believed were most pivotal and best illustrated your personality, your message, and your character. If you and your four friends had been at an event all together, each friend's memory of the specific details of the event (the details of setting, people in attendance, and words spoken) and HOW they describe what had happened would agree on the major points, but still have some granular differences. And don't worry--people much smarter than me have described this--it isn't my own invention.

This is true of the Biblical Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are harmonious in their agreement on the major points, but there are some granular differences, such as one gospel stating that there were two women at Jesus' tomb noticing the stone was rolled away and his body was gone, and another gospel noting only one woman. Well, if there were two women there, then there was one woman.

See how that can work? This is how investigators make sense of eyewitness testimony. Generally speaking when multiple witnesses give their testimony in a court of law, if there is exact, perfect agreement, most attorneys will agree that there is some sort of collusion involved, and that the witnesses are either lying or have been coached to keep a story consistent. Most attorneys want to see the individuals note the major points being the same, but variation in the fine details is appreciated in court. I hope that helps, and doesn't cloud the issue more. Anyway--

Some background on the Gospel of John

So for the next few weeks, we will be looking at John's testimony, which he graciously recorded for posterity. He focuses his biography on the establishing the divinity of Jesus, making the case that Jesus is the Son of God.

Most scholars over the years believed that the book of John was written between 85AD - 95AD, but more recently scholars believe it was likely written in the 50sAD, and definitely before 70AD, since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem occurred in 70AD, and there is no mention of this extraordinary event anywhere in the New Testament. It would have been a life altering event for all of the Jewish people in the region, and the omission is certainly notable. It would be like someone writing a biography of Rudy Giuliani during his time as mayor and his life in New York City, and not mentioning 9/11 and the fall of the Twin Towers. Sort of unthinkable, when we put it in those terms. Therefore, many scholars conclude that the fall of Jerusalem had not occurred before the time the New Testament was written.

I know this feels like a long way around. So here is where it nets out--John's entire book is focused on this point which he records in Chapter 20, verse 31. "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

It's that simple. John (and I daresay the whole Bible) is written as evidence that you may believe, and that your life may be changed.

There are a lot of friends out there who will discount what this means, and I get that. But, I promise, when you dive in to reading and understanding it, your life will be changed. For

the better.

Join our Zoom study, and find out for yourself! Details here

xo, Ann Marie

This is me thinking of running away. Just kidding.

I know. We're all still home. Nothing much has changed since we were here a few days ago. But I am glad you are back to visit. Popping in between homeschooling "classes" and your hide-in-the-laundry-room-time is perfectly ok. I feel you. We are all making it the best we can.

There will be moments of "I got this! This is amazing family time and we can't go back to our old ways at the end of this!" and "I am absolutely going to run away."

It's all about balance, right?

But can I recommend something? Don't waste your time.

I mean it.

And I am not trying you piss you off by telling you. Seriously.

To be fair, I am a person who is adaptable to situations. I recently took a the Gallup strengths test (using the Living Your Strengths book), and scored high on adaptability. Not bragging. Like, I normally don't freak out over things being disrupted in my life. That is not to say I don't have the hissy-fit-due-to-frustration/anger/hormones--I totally do. So if you are, say, my child who spills, I don't know...an entire full bowl of cereal and milk all over the place mere minutes before we have to leave the house, or something along those lines, I freak out. I tend to wig out over little things, but big things like a GLOBAL PANDEMIC and the threat of all that goes with it, I can take in stride. I don't fully understand it either, but that is the reality.

That aside, hear me out.

Any major difficulty is an opportunity to reevaluate and chart a new course. Or take time off. Just make a decision.

There is a very real problem that we find our generation dealing with, and that is a dearth of choices. It is a good problem to have, for most of us, but it is still a problem.

You get to make so many choices in a lifetime. What do do with your free time? What or whether to do anything on a day, or a weekend, what to watch, what to spend, who to talk to, what to buy, what to eat for breakfast/second breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner, what to study, where to study, where to work, who to date, what career path, who to marry, who to procreate with (fingers crossed you pick the person you married), whether to do so.... It is not something we think about often, that we have that so many choices in our lives. Never in the history of mankind (and by that I mean men and women, and MANkind as the species, just to preempt any hate mail) have we had so many options. It was unbelievable to someone in the middle ages, for example, to have agency in life, in particular for females. It would have been near madness, and utterly unheard of to have had even a couple of these options.

If you think I am headed out into left-field on some ridiculous tangent, you are correct, but please stick with me. It all heads somewhere.

In the US in 2020, some people find getting dressed such a chore that they make a uniform so they can eliminate that decision from their daily list of decisions (I'm looking at you, Mark Zuckerberg). While I can appreciate the sincerity of the person with that problem, it isn't one with which I wrestle.

So let's say you are a typical, not wealthy, young pioneer woman. Your family is responsible to cut all of your own firewood to heat and cook on; produce all of your own food (farming, hunting, butchering, milking, bread making, butter churning, cheese making, egg gathering) every day, since there is no reliable food storage; manufacture all of your clothing, starting with shearing wool from your sheep, turning it into thread with a spinning wheel and then cloth with a loom, making a clothing pattern and then sewing all of the family's clothing; procuring water from a well (which you may have had to help dig); and caring for siblings and livestock. You probably do not have prospects for your own higher learning beyond reading, writing and arithmetic in one room schoolhouse, nor much hope of a career except for being a wife and mother, primarily because there is no time left after having to produce all of your own food and clothing and so on.

Just FYI--Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's series as a mom is an entirely different perspective!! Try it, it is terrifying. And you will be full of awe-inspired respect for Ma. And you will feel tired on her behalf.

You only have one every day dress, and one church dress, and the style options were sorely limited. You only have one pair of shoes. You don't have shampoo and conditioner, or anti-frizz serum, or braces for your teeth or contact lenses (only me??? scary thoughts). I would have been pretty much unmarriage-able. Picture me knitting by my parent's fireplace--crazy crooked teeth, gigantic hair, and blind as a bat--as an old spinster without all of these wonderful personal care inventions.

Suffice it to say, choice is a more modern convention than we normally recognize. We forget that we have these decisions that we get to make about our time and our lives. Every. Single. Day. I reject the idea that modern women are penned in in any fashion. You get to choose most everything, and we live in a society that values that freedom. I don't mean that choosing is a selfish thing necessarily, but it can be. And I don't think every choice is equally "correct" because you get to make good choices that better your life, or choices that ultimately do NOT better your life. But you get to choose.

So here is where i am headed with all of this: Just decide.

Make a choice, and embrace it. Own it.

Whether you are choosing to spend the confinement time to relax and binge on Netflix, or you use this as a time to grow and learn, or some combination, you are making the choice.

You may normally live under insanely busy conditions, and this is a welcome break--choose to decompress and enjoy this time as much as you can.

Do not let the time pass without thinking how you want to use it.

Choose to take an online course. Whatever you want to know more about (business, marketing, investing, arts, photography, history, grad classes), you can find it on the internet. There are so many available right now! And at great prices! If this is your jam, I recommend checking out Skillshare, Domestika, The Great Courses, Banyan Hill.

Choose to learn to cook new food! I personally am tired of eating hot dogs, so this may help me.

Choose to read things you might not have read (ie., swap the beach reads for a classic you have been wanting to read, but haven't had the time).

Choose to nap as much as possible. (YAAAASSSSSS)

Choose to play games, do puzzles, learn dances for Tik-Tok, embarrass your kids and take over their social media for a day! Lot's of fun options out there.

A few years ago I heard the phrase, "don't slide, decide." My ears perked up, and I had a rush of thoughts. Not making a decision is in itself a decision. How many times I have slid, meaning that by not making a definite choice, I fell into what someone else wanted me to do? Or just wasted my time because I didn't really decide how to spend it. Honestly friend, more times than I would like to tell you today.

So my encouragement to you it to not waste your time. We are blessed (and often obsessed) with the opportunity to choose for ourselves, we just need to decide to do so. If you want to spend time doing nothing but scrolling Instagram, just make sure you choose it, pursue it with purpose, and enjoy it.

Stay healthy, friends.

xo, Ann Marie

PS: This is not an affiliate post. I am only making recommendations based on my experiences.