October’s Focus = KNOWLEDGE
My goal for October was to become more knowledgeable [to gain a greater understanding of God and the world He has created in order to make wise decisions that please Him]. I did this by asking God to grow me in the grace and knowledge of Him daily, reviewing all the verses I’d memorized in the past year, reading several books, listening to podcasts weekly, and asking personal questions to acquaintances in order to get to know them better. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.
1. Faith- (I) Pray daily that God would increase my knowledge of Him and His Word, as well as the world around me, (II) Daily review the verses I’ve memorized over the past year, (III) Read at least two faith-based non-fiction books, (IV) Listen to at least two sermon podcasts per week, (V) Meditate on at least one attribute of God daily, (VI) and Daily spend time sitting silently in God’s presence, listening to Him.
(I) I did make this my daily prayer, and was especially mindful to ask God to open my eyes to His Word every time I read it.
(II) Unfortunately, I was not as diligent about this goal as I would have liked to be. Some days I didn’t review a single verse. Other days I went through a pile of verses. I should have been far more intentional about this, but I prioritized other things, instead.
(III) I didn’t read nearly as many books as I wanted to this month, either. I did finish Jesus Freaks Vol. II by D.C. Talk. This wasn’t an easy book to read- I had to go through it slowly and prayerfully. It was good to be reminded of my brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering. One quote I wrote down was:
“Without His life flowing through us, we bear no better fruit than those who despise His name.”
(IV) I enjoyed listening to different sermon podcasts throughout the month. I started a series by Chip Ingram called “Uncovering Counterfeit Christianity” and enjoyed it so much I ended up repeating a couple of the podcasts. I also listened to a sermon by John Piper called, Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of our Lord which I found insightful, as well as a “Java with Julie” podcast titled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Listening to podcasts such as these are so profitable for the soul.
(V) There were 11 days when I failed to meditate on an attribute of God this month. Some days I spent more time than others thinking about God’s character, but I always tried to look up at least one verse pertaining to each attribute. Below is the sheet I made and used throughout the month.
(VI) What a privilege to be able to approach the throne of God and silently listen and wait at His feet. I don’t do it enough. I didn’t even do it enough this past month despite my goal to make it a daily habit. I’m ashamed to admit that I only followed through with this on 10 different occasions throughout the month of October. Why is listening prayer so difficult? I found myself praying on more than one occasion, “Lord, my spirit is willing, but my flesh is SO weak… help!”
2. Marriage– (I) Read and complete The Love Dare, (II) Read at least one additional Christian book on the topic of marriage, and (III) Ask John at least one question about himself per day (make a list ahead of time).
(I) Since this book was a 40 day challenge, I am still in the process of completing it. I did not complete the Love Dare challenge every single day of the month, but it was still an admirable goal. Some of the challenges didn’t seem very applicable to our marriage, while other days I simply didn’t carve out the time to make the challenge a priority.
Ironically, I failed miserably on the very first day. The challenge was to withhold all negative comments toward your spouse. I remember setting the book down and thinking, “Oh, that will be easy.” Ha! That afternoon we had a date. All through lunch and bookstore browsing things were great, but then my attitude began to sour after searching in two different stores for stevia-sweetened chocolate to no avail. I had gotten my hopes up that I’d be able to enjoy this treat for dessert, but was then sorely disappointed. Unfortunately, I let my frustration out on John during the second half of our date. He was innocently walking ahead of me (rather than next to me) and I blurted out, “You’re a miserable date!” As soon as I said it I could see the flicker of hurt in his eyes and was immediately sorry. I was then convicted that it was me who was being the miserable date. Thankfully my husband was a good sport and was able to get some laughs out of me and our date ended on a good note.
My favorite was day of the love dare challenge was day number 18: “Desire to know this person even better than you do now.” It was quite fitting, given my focus for the month.
I found that simply deciding to make my marriage a priority impacted my marriage for the better. I found myself serving him through simple tasks, even when I could have been doing other things. And I think those acts of service were reciprocated by John through his exceptionally loving words this month.
(II) Unfortunately I never got around to reading a second book on marriage. However, I’ve read 12 new books on marriage this year, so I’m not too upset at myself for slacking on this goal.
(III) This was probably the most enjoyable goal of the month. After five years of marriage, I’m amazed how much there is yet to learn about my husband. Some of the questions I asked him are questions I’d asked years ago but forgot the answers to, such as: “how many broken bones have you had?” and “what was your fastest time competing in cross country?” I also asked questions about his childhood, like “What were your favorite movies growing up?” and “What were your favorite games to play as a child?” Additional questions focused on personal preferences which have likely changed over the years, such as his favorite kind of salad dressing or whether he prefers to sleep with or without socks on at night.
3. Health- (I) Read at least two books about health and wellness and (II) Listen to at least one health podcast per week.
(I) I only finished one book on the topic of health and wellness this month: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. It’s a very thick book and it taught me a lot, however. Now that I’m tracking my fertility signs, I shouldn’t need to waste money on negative pregnancy tests ever again.
(II) I only listened to two health podcasts total throughout the entire month of October. The first was about healthy foods on the Janet Parshall show and the second was from Steve Carmichael’s RunBuzz podcast titled, How to Build Mental Toughness Part III. The latter was really helpful in my marathon prep. Up to that point I hadn’t really trained in bad weather, but I realized this was an important aspect of my training since I wouldn’t know until the day of the race what adverse conditions I’d have to face. So, a few days later I forced myself to go out in the freezing cold rain and ran for an hour and 40 minutes. (You can read more about this experience below in the “What I learned” section).
4. Homemaking- (I) Read at least one book on the topic of homemaking this month and (II) Read at least one article or blogpost about homemaking per week.
(I) I read two books about cleaning during the month of October. I didn’t learn anything revolutionary, but there were some helpful tips that I can use not only at home, but in my workplace, too.
(II) I never did get around to reading any blogposts this past month, though I may have read an article from a magazine that relates to homemaking- if I did, however, I don’t recall what it was.
5. Interactions– (I) Read at least one book about connecting/interacting with others and (II) Get together with a friend at least once a week and ask meaningful and personal questions to get to know them on a deeper level.
(I) I started reading the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, but I didn’t get very far into it. I’ll have to finish it in November.
(II) This final goal helped me cultivate meaningful conversations this past month. It’s so easy to get into the rut of “small talk,” but during October I tried to be intentional about getting to know my acquaintances and friends better. To help with this undertaking, I compiled a list of conversation starters ahead of time:
- What vacation do you dream about taking some day?
- What fun activity do you dream about doing?
- What place do you dream about seeing?
- If I could meet only one of your needs, which would you like me to meet?
- What do I do that makes you feel adored?
- What is your favorite activity we do together?
- If we had an extra $10,000 what would you want to do with it?
- In what areas of your life are you struggling right now?
- How can I pray for you?
- Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?
- If you were to be famous, what would you want to be famous for?
- What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
- If you were to live to 90 and retain either the mind or the body of a 30-year-old the final 60 years of your life, which would you choose?
- If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
- If you could wake up tomorrow and have gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
- What would you consider to be the biggest accomplishment of your life so far? Why?
- What is your most terrible memory?
- If you knew you had one year to live, would you change anything about the way you’re currently living? If so, what?
- What do you value most in a friendship?
- When was the last time you cried?
- What was your greatest challenge this past week?
- Name something you’ve never done but would like to try.
- If you could only spend $10 on a date, what would you do?
- What is the perfect sandwich?
- What is your least favorite chore?
- What’s the best advice you ever received?
- If you were to die in an hour, what would your last meal be?
- What was great about today?
- If you could go back and relive one day of your life, what day would it be? Would you change anything about that day?
- If you could only keep two things out of everything you own, what would they be?
- If you could trade places with anyone, who would it be?
- What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
- Who inspires you most and why?
- What is the one song you could listen to non-stop?
- If you got an extra hour a day, what would you do with it?
- What did you admire about the way your parents treated each other?
- If you could press a button and change one thing about our marriage, what would it be?
- When did you first realize you loved me and wanted to marry me?
- How has our marriage been different than you originally thought it’d be?
- What has been your favorite passage of Scripture lately?
- What things discourage or depress you?
- What books are at the top of your “want to read” list?
- What’s one thing your parents taught you that you are grateful for now?
- How do you feel you’ve changed since we first got married?
- If you could’ve picked your own name, what would it have been?
- What character in a book/movie best depicts who you are?
- If you were granted three wishes, what would they be?
- What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
WHAT I LEARNED
Not only was it wet and cold, but I was also experiencing pelvic pain that I had to push through during my 9.5 mile run on October 28th. I remember it like it was yesterday because it was the worst marathon training day I experienced in four months. Only 15 minutes into the run I was already soaked to the bone and my hands were so cold they were beginning to go numb. Every time I landed on my right leg I experienced a sharp, stabbing pain in my pelvis that protruded half-way down my thigh. Every part of me wanted to turn around and “call it a day,” but I couldn’t quit. I knew the adversity would only serve to make me stronger as I counted the days leading up to the marathon.
Remembering the podcast I’d listened to just days earlier, I used positive self-talk to encourage myself to keep-on-keeping-on despite how I was feeling. At the four mile mark I told myself, “Wow, you’ve already gone four miles! Piece of cake! Keep it up!” and when I wanted to slow down I’d remind myself, “The faster you go, the sooner you’ll get home and the sooner you can jump into the shower. Come on, you can do it!”
On this same run I also pushed my boundaries. My training schedule required me to run for 30 minutes at an easy pace, then for 15 at a hard pace and then to repeat the cycle. Since I had run this same route dozens of times, I knew about how far I could realistically run in 15 minutes, but this time, I set my sights to run farther than usual in the same amount of time. See that mailbox up ahead? You’re not going to look at the time until you reach it. Sometimes I’d set an additional boundary line for myself upon reaching the first and discover I still had enough energy left to continue on.
The third tactic I used from the RunBuzz podcast was “Distract yourself from the hard situation.” When the pain was too much to bear or I felt like giving up and walking, I would try to distract my mind by praying for whoever God brought to my mind or by thinking about what I was going to do later that day or by taking in the scenery around me. And it worked! I endured the difficult run and came out stronger in the end.
So what does all that have to do with knowledge or wisdom? Well, as I studied and meditated on the Book of Proverbs throughout October I saw a few common themes:
#1: Listening to Wisdom Involves Acting on What You Know
#2: Walking in Wisdom Provides Great Benefits
#3: Knowing God = Wisdom
#1: Listening to Wisdom Involves Acting on What You Know
“…keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul…” Proverbs 3:21
“Bind them continually on your heart…” Proverbs 6:21a
“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” Proverbs 19:20
“Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” Proverbs 19:27
“Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 23:19
I’ll start with this first theme I picked up from the Book of Proverbs. Referring back to my marathon training, I realized I would’ve fallen into the “foolish” category if I were to have listened to the RunBuzz podcast yet not done anything about it. Unfortunately, many of us do this very thing every single day. We’re like the women the Apostle Paul refers to in the Bible, “always learning but never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (see 2 Timothy 3:7). Or like the man the Apostle James talks about who looks into a mirror and immediately forgets what he looks like (see James 1:24). I know that within their contexts both authors are alluding to spiritual knowledge, but I think it is also applicable to any area of life in which we acquire knowledge but don’t allow it to impact how we live.
When you hear about a helpful and new cooking technique but never implement it, did you grow in your knowledge of cooking when you heard about the technique? Some may argue yes, but I would counter by saying you’d be foolish to continue cooking the same way as before if the technique you’d heard about could improve your cooking skills.
The same can be said about your health habits, finances, duties at work, parenting skills, etc. We read blog-posts, articles, and books, receive tips and pointers from co-workers or friends, listen to the radio or news channel and are overloaded with information almost daily. Yet, how often do we change a habit after obtaining new knowledge?
All this to say, I believe it is imperative for us to act on what we already know if we desire to be wise. This is why I decided early on during the month of October to implement the things I already knew rather than striving to fill my mind with additional knowledge that probably would never impact my life.
So, when God continually convicted me about a sin I had committed against a fellow believer back in June, I finally sat down and wrote this individual a letter of apology, asking for their forgiveness. I had confessed the sin to God months ago, but clearly the Holy Spirit had wanted me to come clean before this individual, as well. I had learned as a child the importance of confessing and forsaking sin, as well as asking anyone you’d wronged to forgive you, yet it took me months in this particular situation to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
On another occasion this past month I had to make a very difficult decision regarding my health and the future health of my unborn child. I’d been praying fervently for wisdom as to whether I should go back on antibiotics during pregnancy to reduce the risk of passing Lyme on to my unborn child, or to be medication-free throughout the duration of my first pregnancy. (No, I’m not pregnant yet, but we are praying I will be soon!)
After having a preconception appointment with a midwife, I realized God had made the answer to my dilemma very clear in the Book of Proverbs. Over and over I found that those who are wise listen to counsel. And all the doctors I had talked to and researched said being on amoxicillin during pregnancy is not only safe, but also encouraged for individuals such as myself. I’ve been kicking and screaming about it inwardly because selfishly, I don’t want to go back on medication, but I prayed for wisdom and God has made it known to me, so now all I need to do is walk in obedience. Once I do, I know that God will be true to His Word and bless me. Which leads to the second theme I found throughout Proverbs:
#2: Walking in Wisdom Provides Great Benefits
“[Wise words]… are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.” Proverbs 4:22
“Blessed is the man who listens to [wisdom]…” Proverbs 8:34a
“…he who [reverently] fears and respects the commandment [of God] is rewarded.” Proverbs 13:13b
“…he who keeps understanding shall prosper and find good.” Proverbs 19:8b
The second theme, Walking in Wisdom Provides Great Benefits, is pretty self-evident. It’s probably most clearly seen when observing various groups of teenagers. Those who wisely avoid alcohol, drugs, promiscuous behaviors, etc. don’t have to deal with the consequences of such bad choices and thus, things often go smoother for them. Wisdom leads to good choices and helps one navigate away from harmful decisions.
I experienced blessing when I was obedient to the Holy Spirit and asked the individual I had wronged for forgiveness. I had sent the letter in the mail but I had to face this individual about a week later. I was nervous and even dreaded seeing them for fear of what they probably thought of me now that they knew what I’d done. But this person extended grace and kindness and even gave me a card in return, complimenting me rather than tearing me down! We often listen to the lies of the enemy, which prevents us from walking in wisdom and doing what is right, but if we’d just listen to the Holy Spirit instead, we’d save ourselves so much heartache. I’m so thankful I finally acted on what I knew I should do- God has truly blessed me through it.
#3: Knowing God = Wisdom
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Proverbs 1:7a
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
“The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord brings instruction in Wisdom…” Proverbs 15:33a
“…those who seek the Lord understand all things.” Proverbs 28:5b
Finally, the last theme I picked up on from the Book of Proverbs was, Knowing God = Wisdom. I believe you cannot be wise unless you walk close with God. Sure, you can be intelligent and maybe even make good decisions, but in order for you to be truly wise, you must know and love the One who created you. Wisdom comes from the Lord and as several verses emphasize, fearing Him is the beginning of wisdom.
As I mentioned above, one of the podcasts I listened to this past month was Java with Julie. The host, Julie Slatterly, spoke with Joanna Weaver and Linda Dillow about the precious intimacy they’ve discovered and experienced with the Lord. For many years they approached their quiet times as either an intellectual exercise or to-do list task to check off rather than simply having no other agenda apart from spending time with Jesus.
It was no coincidence that I “stumbled” upon this podcast. I too struggle with laying aside my expectations and agendas in order to simply connect with my Lord. I have faithfully read and studied my Bible for over 10 years, yet when it comes to communicating with God, I feel like I hit a brick wall nearly every time.
I’m ashamed to even admit this, but I have the attitude of, “Well, I’ve spent 30+ minutes reading my Bible and I’ve got other things I need to get done…” Then I say a quick prayer and get on with my day. But is this really pleasing to God? Especially when I skip over the essentially step of asking God what He wants me to do in light of what I’ve just studied? I think not. I’ve merely been getting puffed up with knowledge and deceiving myself in the matter of spiritual growth.
Proverbs 12:8 says, “A man shall be commended according to his Wisdom…” (NASB). The Amplified Version translates “Wisdom” in this verse as, “comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God.” This is not something you learn intellectually. It’s experiential knowledge that is gained through many years of faithfully walking with the Lord.
Did you do better than I did with your goals in October? What did you learn this past month?