The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Tag Archives: Bible study

Renewal Road

There’s nothing I love more than sitting across from another woman and hearing what God is doing in her life. We may be hovered over hot mugs in a coffee shop or curled up on a couch in our yoga pants. We may be sidled up beside each other on the bleachers, leaning over our shopping carts in the grocery store aisle, or swapping emails in the midnight hours. It doesn’t matter where we are or how we share our tales; it just matters that we do! Because when we take time to point out what God is doing in our lives, we point one another to God.

Jill Beran is one of those women who points me to God whenever we share a conversation. Jill is an Iowa farmer’s wife and a mom of five, an author, a speaker and a student of God’s Word. But what I love most about Jill is her passion for connecting women with God and with one another. Jill knows that this journey of faith is best when it’s shared. And that’s why I’m so excited to tell you about Jill’s new Bible study, ReNEWal Road. Because I think this beautiful new book will spur you on to find God afresh in your own story. And, hopefully, to invite another women to do the same.

Not long ago, I had a moment to chat with Jill, and today I’m going to let you eavesdrop on our conversation. And when we’re done, you’ll have the chance to  win a copy of ReNEWal Road for yourself. I hope you’ll gather a few friends and get in the Word together. After all, there’s no better conversation starter than an open Bible and an open heart.


Jill, would you tell us a bit about ReNEWal Road?

The book is a six session Bible study that has you searching the Scriptures, which equips you to walk more intentionally with Jesus. It is filled with truth, personal stories, prayers and questions that help you examine your heart.

What led you to write this study?

I like to tell people the study is really a documentary of my journey with God as I sought renewal. I didn’t initially set out with the goal of writing a book, but instead dug into God’s Word seeking transformation. He answered my prayer as He changed me from the inside out and then blessed me as He wove the study together and is now using it to bless others.


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When You Just Want a Glimpse of the Best You

photo 1Laughter rises above the dirty dishes that have been shoved to the center of our dinner table.

Cold spaghetti noodles dangle down the side of the big red pasta bowl like snakes slithering from their nest. A blue-flowered napkin covers the puddle of chocolate milk that was spilled when a certain five-year-old reached for the last piece of garlic bread, and an untouched bowl of lettuce offers proof that someone didn’t eat his greens.

But for a moment, we’ve cast aside our lectures on healthy eating and quieted the clank of porcelain dishes, and we’re lingering long in the middle of the mess.All seven of us are home for the evening, no track meets or baseball practices, no band concerts or church events; so we’re seizing the moment and giving Jesus room to roam between the splats of spaghetti sauce and pools of spilled milk. We’re opening the Word and inviting the Word made Flesh to make Himself comfortable in our clutter.

I’ve handed every child a self-portrait covered in clear contact paper, a dry-erase marker, and the artistic license to decorate their photo as they wish.

The boys are hunched side by side in a conspiratorial huddle. Luke’s head is tilted toward Joshua’s, my firstborn’s cheekbone aligned with the top of  his little brother’s tousled crown. Joshua’s shoulders are quivering with a steady stream of giggles, squeaks and spittle slipping from his pink pursed lips like air exiting a balloon with a slow leak.  I can’t see the artwork  beneath the shield of their shoulders and the tower of dinner plates that block my view, but I’m certain that, in the end, my boys’ pictures will be garnished with a masculine mixture of hilarious and gross.

Lizzy sets down her marker and raises her eyebrows at her chortling brothers. However, just beneath her wrinkled brow is an unadulterated look of adoration. I breathe a short prayer of thanks for teenagers who still indulge their mother’s crazy antics, and I try to ignore the stomach-lurching twist that reminds me that our time around this table as a family of seven is growing short. 

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The youngest girls are lost in creativity, their heads bowed low over their squiggly creations. Hannah hums as she draws. Maggie scribbles. Erases. Scribbles. Erases. She knocks over a bottle of ranch dressing as she reaches for a blue marker and looks up just long enough to give me an apologetic shrug. 

Rob pushes his chair back from the dirty table and stretches his legs straight out in front of him. He clasps his hands behind his head and waits patiently for our unconventional Bible lesson to unfold. Fifteen years of parenting with his right-brained wife have grown my husband accustomed to quirky mealtime moments such as these.

Finally, our artists are finished, and with much gala, their embellished portraits are revealed.  

We holler and point, comment and cackle.

Maggie tries to add earrings to her brother’s photo, and he retaliates by drawing a baseball hat atop of her golden curls. Maggie begins to cry and Josh spews a quick defense over his little sister’s drama.  As usual, my great idea spirals into utter chaos. 

Eventually, the theatrics dwindle, and I try to steer the conversation toward the truth that has been simmering in my mind since I opened my Bible at daybreak.

“It was fun to alter your own image,” I say as I sweep my hand across the silly photos lined up on the table. “But what if these photos represented the way other people actually see you?”

I pause as the kids instinctively glance down at the pictures. 


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Just Ask: The Prayer God LOVES to Answer

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 When I was buried deep in diapers and sleep-deprivation, I secretly believed that setting aside more than five minutes to linger with the Lord was impossible. 
In–depth Bible study? Prolonged prayer times? Maybe at 3 A.M.—after I strip the bed sheets that my potty–trainee wet in the middle of the night and pace the halls with my squealing baby. 
I hadn’t secured an uninterrupted night of sleep for more than a decade. How could I possibly arrange an uninterrupted date with God?  
Then a friend challenged my cynical assumptions with her simple strategy. 
“When I’m feeling empty, I just ask God to carve out time for us to be together,” my girlfriend shared as we plodded along the bike path behind double strollers one morning. 
I bit my tongue before rudely responding, “Yeah and when I start feeling flabby I just ask Him for new stomach muscles.” 
But the more we talked, the more I wondered if this mom of four knew something I didn’t. 
“Think about it,” she said as she intercepted an airborne sippy cup and quickened her pace to keep up with her young biker in the lead, “It’s a prayer He loves to answer.” 
That evening, I watched four-year-old Hannah climb on her Daddy’s lap, bat her baby blues, and ask, “Daddy, when can we have a date?” 
Her Daddy’s green eyes glowed and he whispered an agreeable answer in my daughter’s ear.
Once again, I thought about my girlfriend’s advice. 
My husband moves mountains of obligations to linger with his girls over pancakes at the local café. He leaves mounds of paperwork on his desk so he can make it home in time to share a late night dinner with the ones he loves. He surrenders his leisure time, his work time, his alone time, to give our children the hours they need with their Daddy. 
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Why would my Heavenly Father, who is not bound by time, respond differently? 
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:9-10). 
Still doubtful, I decided to try my friend’s strategy.
Before I collapsed into bed that night, I told God how much I wanted a Daddy date.
“Lord, I REALLY want to spend some time with you. Could you make a way for us to be alone together?”
 My ever–spinning world did not stop on its axis, but my Heavenly Father did answer my plea.
Three days after I’d “just asked,” my children slept past dawn, and I savored an unexpected hour with God.
 I lingered in the Word, confessed my latest parenting flop and recorded a favorite Bible verse in my journal. When the baby’s cry ended my Daddy date, I felt as revitalized as a woman who had just enjoyed a whole night’s sleep. 
 God may not always answer my request immediately, but I am discovering that my friend’s recommendation rings true. If I am willing just to ask, God is faithful to respond. 
     The key to securing time with my the Lover of my soul lies in recognizing the moments He gives when I ask for more of Him. And then protecting that time from all the things that can keep me from showing up for my Daddy date.
     Since the job of motherhood never ends, I am often tempted to take the time God clears and fill it with tangible tasks. If a friend offers to take my kids to the park for an hour, I am prone to vacuum my floors before I pick up my Bible. If I coordinate my children’s rest times, I am quick to read my email before I talk to God.
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     In the words of Charles Hummel, I fall prey to “the tyranny of the urgent.”
     As Hummel wisely reminds us, “We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important.  The problem is the important task rarely must be done today or even this week.  Extra hours of prayer and Bible study can wait.  But the urgent tasks call for instant action- endless demands pressure every hour and day.”
  If we want to stop running on empty, we must choose to fight for the important.  It’s time to acknowledge that folded laundry and clean dishes don’t rejuvenate our souls. Or restore our peace. 
If we want to be women who overflow with joy, we need to let some things—even urgent things—take a back seat to Daddy time.
Empty laundry baskets may be enticing, but empty souls are not. We were made to be filled. 
Though dirty socks seem to regenerate by themselves, we must choose to be renewed. What if in the midst of grocery–shopping, potty–training, and finger painting, we took time to drink deeply from our Father’s cup? 
What if we refused to settle for the daily drain and chose, instead, to let the challenges of motherhood thrust us toward brilliant bounty? 
Perhaps we would discover strength in unlikely places. 
Better yet, like the weary woman at the well, we might never go thirsty again. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).

The Overflow:
  Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time…  -James 4:8a, The Message    
Sharing in community with Jennifer aGetting Down With Jesus
and with Ann for Walk with Him Wednesdays. 



Multitude Mondays: How A Daddy Makes Stones Dance

We spent the afternoon skipping stones.  Or trying to.

The kids dirtied fingernails digging for the perfect skippers. They unearthed the flat ones buried deep beneath the grainy ground.

They flung rocks by the dozens and squinted in the sun as they watched their tosses soar above the murky waves.

 They threw overhand and underhand, side-armed and straight-on; experimented with strategies that might make those rocks skip and spin across the lake.

But more often than not, their best efforts just sunk with a watery plop. 

Only their Daddy could make those stones dance.  

Drab rocks sparkled silver when Dad released them from his hand.  

With a flick of his wrist, he sent those old river rocks soaring, shimmying over that wet blanket of blue until the lake swallowed them whole.

We watched with whoops and hollers, delighted by the show.

Eventually my little ones surrendered their trying and just carried all of their rocks to Daddy. 

They dumped their muddy treasures in a pile at his feet and settled onto the sand to witness the waltz upon water.

My husband smiled at me and reached for a rock.

The kids clapped in anticipation.

And I thought about those Israelites I’d read about this morning, God’s children lingering long in the barren desert.  

And of those rocks they’d hauled out of the muddy river bottom when they were finally allowed to enter the Promised Land.

 After the whole nation had gone across the Jordan River, the Lord spoke to Joshua. He said,  “Choose 12 men from among the people. Choose one from each tribe. Tell them to get 12 stones from the middle of the river. They must pick them up from right where the priests stood. They must carry the stones over with all of you. And they must put them down at the place where you will stay tonight.”

 So Joshua called together the 12 men he had appointed from among the people of Israel. There was one man from each tribe. He said to them, “Go back to the middle of the Jordan River. Go to where the ark of the Lord your God is. Each one of you must pick up a stone. You must carry it on your shoulder… The stones will serve as a reminder to you. In days to come, your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Tell them that the Lord cut off the flow of water in the Jordan River. Tell them its water stopped flowing when the ark of the covenant of the Lord went across. The stones will always remind the Israelites of what happened there. (Joshua 4:1-7)


 I’ve lived in a desert, too, that dry and barren place of frustration. 

I’ve been stuck on the wrong side of the river because I didn’t believe there was anything better on the other side. 

And like those children of God before me, it was my own ingratitude that dimmed my eyes of faith and left me stumbling in the sand.

“Joshua set up the 12 stones at Gilgal.   Then he spoke to the people of Israel. He said, ‘In days to come, your children after you will ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Their parents must tell them, ‘Israel went across the Jordan River on dry ground.’  The Lord your God dried up the Jordan for you until you had gone across it. He did to the Jordan River the same thing he had done to the Red Sea. He dried up the Red Sea ahead of us until we had gone across it. He did it so that all of the nations on earth would know that he is powerful. He did it so that you would always have respect for the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

I might have stayed in that desert  forever if it weren’t for this little book and one woman’s challenge to pick up some stones and remember.

I might have wilted there in the scorching heat of my own grumbly heart if I hadn’t finally bent low and began to unearth the gifts that had been there all along. 

I don’t remember the exact day I first picked up my pencil and began to count, the moment I  turned my pen into a trowel and started to dig for grace.  

But I do remember this, how the digging changed my eyes. 

Giving thanks improved my vision. The more I counted, the more I saw Him. 

Not far out on the waters of tomorrow, but right here in the grit and grains of today. Immanuel. God  with us. 

Gratitude lifted my eyes from the gifts to the Giver. 
Shifted my vision from the mud to the Majesty. 

Giving thanks is how I began to build my own Gilgal, one stone of grace at a time. 

The sun is beating hot, the breeze jumping off the water to kiss our sweaty cheeks.

My husband flings another rock, his green eyes shimmering. 

The stone catches the sun, sparkles, pirhouettes upon the waves and disappears. 

But those smiles–they stay plastered on my children’s faces. 

Ten dirty hands clap in giddy glee.

And I stand at the water’s edge, counting these moments as grace and offering them back to my Father, the only One who can take my stones of thanks  and make them dance! 

The Overflow: Lord, I will remember what you did. Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
 -Psalm 77:11

Counting these stones as grace…
1094. 3 little ones chasing chipmunks at the park- the glories of the first day of summer!

1095. Saturday morning sleep-in and coffee from the Perk

1096. Picnic by the lake with shade keeping us cool.

1097. Maggie jumping the waves and laughing with delight

1098. Five kids digging for skipping stones- summer’s simple pleasures.

1099. Rob making those stones soar across the water. Applause and dances on the sand.

1100. A late night date while the kids sleep.

1101. The smell of supper cooking on the grill- all seven of us gathered around the picnic table as the sun sets.

Linking again with  Ann and these lovely grace seekers:  l.l. for on, in, and around mondayslaura for playdates with god, ruth at the better mom, and jen for soli deo gloria 


The Ministry of Interruptions

Dawn’s watery light had just painted the cloudy sky when I settled into my favorite chair with my Bible this morning. I hadn’t wanted to crawl out of bed, but the rumbles of my hungry soul had pushed me from out of the warm covers. I couldn’t face another day on empty. Summer fun may fill our memory banks, but it tends to drain my soul. The constant clatter and chatter, the endless cooking and clean-up, the countless ideas that demand assistance as five creative children forge adventures and plans each day– all consume more of me than I have to give.  (Which, of course, is exactly how God reminds me of my vast need for Him). At risk of sounding like a Scrooge, I’ll just say it: Summer is exhausting. 

I was savoring my first sip of coffee and flipping to the gospel of John when I heard the pitter-patter of small feet padding down the hall. My heart sunk as the tousled-haired-head of my four -year- old peeked around the corner. I had already walked him back to bed three times since  four A.M. And each time as I’d pulled his blankies to his chin, I’d pleaded, “Just close your eyes and sleep until the sun comes up.”  
“Mommy?” He peeked around the corner, his green eyes casting me a hopeful glance.
“Yes,” I murmured while I let the hot steam from my coffee cup warm my cheeks.
“The sun is up.”
I glanced out the window at the luminescent streaks of morning.
“Yes, it is,” I reluctantly agreed. 
A relieved smile spread across my little buddy’s face and he skipped gratefully to my side and shimmied up onto my lap. I wrapped my arms around his slender frame and tried to quiet the sigh within my soul. 
“Mommy, I love it when nobody else needs your lap,” my littlest boy declared as he snuggled his sleepy-smelling head to my heart. 
“Lord, I need your strength,” I prayed while I rubbed my young one’s back and peered over his shoulder to read a few verses from the opened page of my Bible that balanced on the arm of the big leather chair.  “Fill me with your Holy Spirit anew this morning,” I pleaded. “So I can be generous with my lap and my time today.”
In her book Real Moms… Real Jesus, Jill Savage writes, “Jesus understands my life and my frustrations. He, too, was interrupted as He went about His daily activities.” She tells of a trip Jesus took from Judea to Galilee. On the way to his destination, he had to pass through Samaria. “Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon. A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water,” (Read the story in John 4:1-26). 
     For a rare moment, Jesus had been alone. He had sent his disciples off to buy food and had settled his weary limbs next to the well. And then he heard her footsteps: a needy woman approaching the well. Though He was exhausted and simply seeking a little quiet time for himself, Jesus engaged this water-seeker in conversation and spoke truth to her thirsty soul. His choice to welcome the interruption rather than ignore it changed not just the woman’s life, but many others as well. Jesus had a plan that day- to get to Galilee- but as Jill says, “life happened,” and Christ Savior embraced the intrusion, thus changing the course of an entire town’s life 
Jill reminds us, “Ministry for Jesus was the person standing in front of Him: the woman at the well, a tax collector, someone who needed healing, someone who had a question for HIm. 
Ministry for you and me is the same. It’s the people standing in front of us: our husbands, our children, friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers at times.”
ill calls what we do every day as moms ‘the ministry of availability,’ but admits that more often it feels like the ‘ministry of interruptions.’
Today, my prayer is that I will have a heart that embraces this ministry called motherhood, beginning with the person standing right in front of me- an early-rising little boy who simply wants Mommy’s lap all to himself.
The Overflow:  “But Jesus called for the children, saying, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these children.” Luke 18:6