how i read the bible in less than 6 months

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I did it. The thing that I started this blog to record. I read the entire Bible, and it took me less than six months.

What was that? How did I do it? I’m glad you asked.

Over the years, I cycled through a lot of excuses for not reading the Bible. One was that I felt like I didn’t have time. (“Lol OK,” says God, who if you recall created the entire universe.) Another was that I couldn’t decide what plan to use.

I’m a very structure-dependent person. I like having routines and spreadsheets and to-dos to check off. I write my grocery lists in order by aisle. But in this area, structure had become an obstacle instead of a support. I would agonize over which plan was perfect, try one for a few weeks, feel bad about skimming passages that didn’t appeal to me, forget a few days, and then give up. I was holding myself too much to reading an arbitrary number of chapters and meeting arbitrary deadlines.

When I picked up the Bible this summer, I decided to just go with the flow. I did some cursory Googling to gather ideas on which books I should read first. From there I hopped around between the New and Old Testaments as I felt like it. Though jumping around might seem uncomfortable to someone like me who likes point-A-to-point-B solutions, I found I was actually experiencing a pretty cohesive story.

I’m sharing this plan so anyone who wants to read the Bible but has struggled to keep up before has a loose framework they can start with.

But before we get to the plan, here are three things that you should know you have permission to do.

1. It’s fine to stop after just a few minutes.

This plan does not prescribe a certain number of chapters per day. In my view, the important thing is to be filled up with God’s word as you read, not to get through a certain amount each day. If you’re not feeling it, it’s fine to just read one or two chapters. If you are, go ahead and read a whole darn book in one sitting. It’s totally up to you.

2. It’s fine to skim, every now and then.

I read a some of the Old Testament books pretty quickly. Generally you should avoid skimming, but let me be the first to tell you that you don’t have to memorize every single requirement for sacrificing sheep or pigeons or whatever. Especially if this is your first time through the Bible, the point is to learn about God and invite him into your daily life, not to get bogged down in details.

3. It’s fine to skip a day here and there.

Don’t beat yourself up. Just pick it back up when you can. Over the course of my study, I read at least every other day.

So, without further ado, here’s my ultimate not-a-Bible-plan Bible plan.

The Beginning

  • To learn about Jesus’ life: Two Gospels (I picked Mark and John)
  • To learn about the early church: Acts and Romans
  • To learn about prayer: The first book of Psalms
  • To learn about God’s first followers: Genesis and Exodus
  • To learn about the law: Galatians and Leviticus

(Why Galatians before Leviticus? Here’s why.)

About Halfway Through

  • To refocus on Jesus: Another Gospel (I picked Luke)

The End

  • For wisdom: Proverbs
  • Because it’s the end: Revalation
  • Jesus again: The last Gospel (Matthew)
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merry christmas, and a fun announcement!

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Hooray! It’s Christmas Eve!

I love Christmas. Love love love it. I’ve never understood the question “What’s your favorite holiday?” How could it be anything but Christmas? I love the quiet family time, the yummy food, picking out gifts for my favorite people, the joy and excitement that’s in the air.

Ok, I like getting gifts too. There, I said it. Let’s all just admit that we like this part, no matter how holy we pretend to be, and move on.

I’ve never been one to get caught up in the stress and consumerism many of us struggle with during this season. That said, I haven’t always done a great job of keeping my focus on “the reason for the season.”

This year I’m proud to announce: I FINISHED THE BIBLE.

The whole shebang. All 66 books, 31,102 verses, 695 pages.

It took me just under five months, from July 30 to today, December 24. And I did it with no Bible-in-X-months plan, no predetermined order, no accountability partner (other than this friendly little blog). I think I could have just as easily finished it in four months at the same reading pace had I not taken a few multiple-day breaks here and there.

Folks who either haven’t read the Bible or have struggled to do it, take heart! It’s possible!

I’ll post more in-depth later about how I tackled this project. But for now I just wanted to pop in and say Merry Christmas to all!

I hope you and your family have a delightful day celebrating with family and friends.

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on cows and contentment

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My husband’s intern lives on a farm in what you could reasonably call the middle of nowhere. It’s a good 20-minute drive down windy county roads, some of which aren’t even paved, from the nearest grocery store. It’s the kind of place where you can stop and listen and hear nothing. Nothing human, anyway — just the wind rustling the trees and a duck call here and there.

Among their menagerie of farm animals is a small herd of beef cows — big, burly mamas and tiny, fuzzy babies in varying shades of chestnut with long, luxurious eyelashes.

The weird thing about being in a field of cattle is the overwhelming sense of contentment that washes over you. These cows are perfectly happy to munch on grass and wander wide-open fields and snuggle their young day in and day out. If they get a few extra alfalfa cubes, they’re pleased as punch. But they never moan and groan about what they might be missing. They’re just cows, doing their cow thing.

I think we could learn a thing or two from cows.

As I write this, my Bible is open to Numbers 11. So here are the Israelites, getting ready to go on a journey to the promised land. Not just anywhere. The promised land. They need food along the way, so God provides them with manna — which is reportedly both delicious and nutritious.

But after a few days, the Israelites get unbearably bored. And they start whining about not having the exact kind of food they want as they are on their way to the special place that God set aside just for them.

Typical.

It’s easy to laugh at the Israelites and to think that, if we were in their position, we would be so much more grateful to God for all the help he provided us. But would we?

I don’t know about you, but even as a routine-oriented person who enjoys a quiet and largely predictable life, I too get bored. I see the sparkly, impressive parts of other people’s lives selectively shared on the Internet and itch to have what they have. I frequently daydream about throwing my responsibilities off onto someone else.

As humans, we crave adventure. We yearn for excitement. It seems our biggest fear is monotony.

But it’s in the day-to-day of life that real joy and contentment can be found. In embracing our role and our place and finding contentment in every moment.

Maybe your place is in an office cubicle or at home with a gaggle of children around you. Maybe it’s in a field of beef cattle.

Wherever you are, remember:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:4-8

May we each embrace our place today and every day — a place we’ve been set in for a purpose unlike any other’s — and may we do it cheerfully.

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disciple of all nations // flawed and chosen

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This blog has only been around for two months, but there’s already a common thread running through it: That although we may feel like we’re not something enough for God to approve of — not faithful enough, not spiritual enough, not knowledgeable enough about the Bible, not prayerful enough, just not good enough — these feelings are absolutely not true.

So I want to close out my mini-series on the disciples with a final reminder: The disciples were fundamentally flawed people. And still Jesus chose them to walk with him.

It’s so easy to skim through the gospels focusing on Jesus (which is in itself a good thing) but forgetting about the people around him. Thinking, “Man, those guys were so cool. They healed people and drove out demons and got to hang out with Jesus all the time. I wish I was like that.”

But the disciples were not perfect people.

Peter’s faith wavered when Jesus asked him to walk on water. Judas fell victim to greed and betrayed Jesus for money. And all twelve wasted most of the last supper arguing about which one of them was better than the others. They questioned whether Jesus was really the Messiah all throughout their journey with him. 

Jesus got a little frustrated with them sometimes. And still he chose them.

They weren’t theological scholars. They were fishermen and tax collectors — blue collar folks with no formal training whatsoever. They didn’t have any special knowledge or expertise. Luke says they were “unschooled, ordinary men.”

And still Jesus chose them.

In the same way he chooses us, even though we fail him day by day, even though we’re not qualified.

So for those of you like me who have suffered from what I call Christian Impostor Syndrome, cut it out. He made us — and he called his creation “very good.” And that’s all the qualification we need.

We are flawed and chosen.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20


This post is part three of a series on the disciples. Read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

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ask away

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So, let’s say you’ve become a Christian. Jesus is your bestest best friend and you’re just overflowing with all the blessings in your life. Life is all puppies and rainbows from here on out, right?

Nope.

Even with God on our side, life is going to have rough patches. When we have fears and struggles and doubts, it’s so easy to feel like bad Christian. If you really loved God, you wouldn’t have these feelings! And if you did, you’d just ignore them and push on through without batting an eye, right?

Also nope.

I recently finished reading Judges, and Gideon’s story stuck with me. God appears to Gideon in Judges 6 and tells him he’s going to lead an army to defeat the bad guys, the Midianites.

But Gideon’s not sure about all this. He has some pretty tough questions for God, and he comes right out with them:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Judges 6:13-16

Gideon is pretty blunt here. He comes right out and accuses God of abandoning his people. An angry god would’ve condemned Gideon or struck him down for his boldness. But our God takes the time to both address his accusations and reassure him about his ability to lead the army to victory.

But Gideon still isn’t sure. What if this wasn’t really God? What if he had been out in the sun too long and was going a little bonkers? So he asks God for a sign that it was really him and that he would really lead his army to victory — not once, not twice, but three times! (See Judges 6:17-22, Judges 6:36-38, and Judges 6:39-40.)

And God did exactly as he asked. Three times. This blew me away.

I have a tendency to think I’m inconveniencing God with my prayers, especially when they’re about problems that seem trivial in the grand scheme of things. But God took the time to prove to Gideon three times that he was real and had set a plan in motion — a plan that needed Gideon to succeed. God’s patience in the face of Gideon’s criticism and fear is revolutionary for my own feelings of inadequacy.

It’s ok to have questions. We might feel like quitting, but God doesn’t quit on us. And if we ask him, he’ll sit patiently with us and help us work through whatever’s on our minds. He wants to be real with us, if we’ll commit to being real with him.

So that thing that’s been sitting on your heart, weighing you down? Ask away.

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disciples of all nations // dividing and conquering

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Christians are called to love and serve others and to make this world a better place until we enter the next.

I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed by all that responsibility. Between disease and poverty and lack of clean water and suicide and violence and oppression of women and child abuse and homelessness and drug addiction, there is a lot to fix. And there’s no way you can fix it all.

It’s hard to think about, so it’s easier to just check out. To send a donation here and there for tax purposes but not get emotionally invested. To be honest, that’s been me for a while. I usually enjoy service projects while I’m doing them, but I often get depressed later on about the grand scheme of things.

But the thing is, we’re not called to fix everything. We’re called to fix something.

Acts of the Apostles records the very earliest days of Christianity. This passage gave me a swift kick in the pants and reinvigorated my interest in serving:

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Acts 6:1-5

Even the disciples — the people Jesus personally chose to walk with him and carry on his legacy — couldn’t take care of all the challenges their community faced. What a relief!

Only God has the power to fix the entire world. We play just one small part of that. But it’s an important part.

So get out there and find your something.


This post is part three of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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leviticus doesn’t have to suck

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The Bible is in the wrong order.

Genesis is pretty interesting. It folds nicely into Exodus, where the story of God’s creation and chosen people continues, leading up to the lineage of Jesus. Then comes Leviticus — and you’re first bored to tears and then, wham, smacked in the face with a list of punishments and ceremonial cleansing rituals that, to modern eyes, seem arbitrary and unnecessarily harsh.

A lot of the cherry-picked verses that are exploited as “proof” that Christianity is backward, misogynist, hateful, etc., come from Leviticus. Putting people to death for saying something mean about their parents doesn’t quite seem to jive with our goal of spreading the unconditional love of Christ. Even as a believer, it’s pretty hard to get through Leviticus without some serious questions — unless you have the proper historical and spiritual context.

I’m approaching my Bible study without any accompanying historical data or commentary, at least this first time around. It feels a little reckless and contrary to what pretty much every how-to blog post will tell you, but I know myself. I don’t want to get bogged down in dates and maps and miss the message.

But for Leviticus, context is absolutely necessary. My advice? Regardless of how you choose to read the Bible, read Galatians first, then Leviticus.

Galatians is one of Paul’s most powerful epistles and explains clearly and succinctly why Jewish law is no longer followed. Galatians 3 gets a little metaphysical, but the gist is that the law was created by God to govern his followers until such a time as Christ could come and release us from the burden of sin. A brief excerpt:

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Galatians 3:23-26

Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, we can now be saved by our faith, rather than our allegiance to a strict set of rules and regulations.

Once that was settled, my next question was: Why would the compilers of the Bible bother including a book of laws that no one is required to follow any more? For perspective.

If you have a Bible handy, flip to Leviticus and glance through the sections about ceremonial cleansing for people with leprosy (in my translation, “contagious skin diseases”) and bleeding or discharges.

Now think about how truly radical it was for Jesus to surround himself with lepers or heal the hemorrhaging woman who touched his cloak. By touching these people, Jesus under the law would have also become unclean and held to a strict schedule and series of baths. Nobody wanted to be near them for fear of becoming unclean themselves.

But Jesus kicked the law over and said, “Nope.” Love is all that matters.

By associating with lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, Jesus broke preconceived notions about what God is and isn’t like wide open. And that’s what he calls us to do every day — to break down the obstacles holding us back and to share God’s love and our love freely.

It’s our job as believers not to skim over the parts of the Bible that challenge us or cause us to question God, but to tackle those questions head-on. So, yes, Leviticus is kind of a drag. But it’s there for a reason. And dense as it may be, even Leviticus has something important to teach us.

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disciples of all nations // flipping quarters

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I suffer from analysis paralysis on a regular basis.

The incredible technology we have at our fingertips with Google and smartphones and pages upon pages of customer reviews is often a blessing, but when we use it as a crutch, even the most unimportant decisions seem mountainous.

I spent at least five minutes in the tea section at HomeGoods last weekend.

Should I buy the blueberry elderflower white tea that I’ve never had before for $2.99? Or should I buy the plain old black tea I know I’ll like for $3.99? Is certainty in enjoying the tea worth an extra dollar? Or should I live a little and try something new? Surely I can give the rest of the box to someone else if I don’t like it? What is an elderflower anyway? But do I even need more tea at all? If I pick up this box of tea, will I then be more likely to buy other superfluous things I also don’t need?

I probably looked like a crazy woman standing there waffling over boxes of tea.

There’s a psychological phenomenon known as “ego depletion,” which states that we only have a finite amount of willpower. The more decisions have to we make, the poorer the outcomes will be as we run out of energy. It’s the scientific backing for laying out clothes and packing lunches the night before you need them.

Despite being responsible for much more life-changing decisions than I deal with on a regular basis, Jesus’ disciples didn’t suffer from analysis paralysis. When the disciples needed to select a candidate to replace Judas, they prayed about it…and then they cast lots.

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. They they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:23-26

They didn’t sit around deliberating for hours on end. They didn’t consult their friends or family or Google or experts who had a certain number of years of experience. They just relied on God to show them the right candidate. That’s it.

Can you imagine having that much trust in God that you would flip a freaking quarter next time you need to make a life-changing decision? Not praying as a backup to all your research and contingency planning — guilty here — trusting completely that God will make that 50/50 split fall in just the right way.

It’s scary, but also incredibly liberating, to relinquish the burden of overthinking and let God guide your decisions. I wouldn’t bet on 50/50 odds, but with God, we know that everything will turn out according to his plan.

If the disciples could trust God so fully when picking the one who would join them to carry on Jesus’ commands, then so can I. That trust is growing in me, a little at a time.


This post is part two of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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4 tips for studying the bible

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A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend out of the blue. She shared that was in a similar place as I was: wanting to know God more and dig deeper but not knowing where to start. She had read my first post and wanted to make the same leap I did into the Bible. (That text made me feel incredibly humbled and invigorated at the same time and made this blog thing worth it already!)

I think a lot of Christians — at least Christian women — are in the same boat. We go to church, go to Bible studies and small groups, and hang out with our Christian friends but rarely pick up a Bible in our few moments of quiet. This world is so busy, and it’s hard to choose the Bible — an incredibly complex and challenging book — over the other zillion things calling our names.

But you can do it. I did, and I’m still doing it.

As I’ve made my way down this path of studying God’s word for the first time, I’ve found a couple of things that help me keep at it.

1. Pray before you start.

I’m really bad at praying. Most of the time I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall. But the more I study, the more I find that praying before I start is so important to clear my mind and center myself around God.

Usually I just pray in my head, but sometimes I find it helpful to write down my prayer in my notes.

And be honest with your prayers. One day when I was feeling frustrated by some particularly dense section of the Old Testament, I just wrote, “God, make this make sense, please. Amen.” He wants to know what’s on your mind — and he’ll understand exactly what you mean even if you don’t have the energy to come up with long, eloquent prayers. Just ask him to reveal the wisdom he wants you to know and give you the strength and clarity to apply it in your life. He’ll handle the rest.

2. Find a quiet place.

You can’t really sink your teeth into anything if you’ve got the TV on, kids running around screaming, or your phone blowing up with notifications.

I usually do my reading in my guest room. It’s in a quiet part of the house where I can’t hear the TV if my husband has it on or the neighbors’ kids playing in the back yard. It’s bright and neat and clutter-free and comfortingly silent.

I settle into my wingback seagrass chair (one of my favorite pieces of furniture, which I took off a friend’s hands for a ridiculously low price) with a notebook and colorful pens and my pups curled up at my feet. I keep a glass of water or tea nearby so I don’t have to get up if I get thirsty. Sometimes I light a candle. I leave my phone in another room.

The goal before you sit down should be to minimize as many distractions as possible.

3. Take notes.

I underline verses that stick out to me and write down any important thoughts or questions that come to mind in a spiral notebook. Taking notes not only helps you remember what you write, it also helps you process what you’re studying more thoroughly — good news all around. Bonus: You can always flip back through your notes when you need inspiration or encouragement or need to find a particular passage you remember.

I rotate between brightly colored pens so my Bible and my notes are full of life and color and make me smile when I open them.

4. Don’t pressure yourself. (This is the most important part.)

Before I got off my lazy butt and started reading the Bible, I spent a lot of time agonizing over what order to read it in. None of the plans I reviewed seemed just right. I was never sure how many chapters I could comfortably read per day. So I just wouldn’t read at all.

I rarely say this, because I’m very much a planner: Don’t have a plan. Or at least not one that you can’t modify as you go.

I don’t hold myself to a certain number of pages or chapters per day. I read however much I’m comfortable reading. It’s strangely liberating and, I find, more conducive to growth to not be restricted by a to-do list.

In the day-to-day, my most important advice is that if you’re not feeling it, it’s fine to set the Bible down and come back later. If you are feeling it, go ahead and power through a whole book (or two)! If you miss a day here and there, it’s not the end of the world. In my view, God would rather you dig deep into a few verses and see him than read the whole Bible begrudgingly because you feel like you have to do it a certain way.

Just remember that the point is not to check off a certain number of chapters or pages — the point is to get to know God and his story and breathe in his word. So settle into a comfortable pace and enjoy the ride.


I hope that helps! If there are more of you out there who want to start this journey but haven’t quite gotten yourself there yet, let me be the first to invite you to just jump in!

If you need advice or encouragement, hit me up. It’s my hope that this blog will spur others to open their Bible and join me on this crazy journey to getting to know God.

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disciples of all nations // at once

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When Jesus met Simon and Andrew on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and asked them to become his first disciples, Mark 1:18 tells us that they dropped their nets “at once” and followed him.

When was the last time you felt God tug at your heart and dropped what you were doing “at once”?

Nah, I’m busy.

I need to fix this other thing first.

I’m not good enough. Someone else will do that.

What? Nope, I didn’t hear anything. La la la, I hear nothing!

Now think about the times you’ve been “called” by your job, your need for acceptance or approval, your friends, your obligations. Do you find it easier, as I do, to drop everything when you know the tangible benefit you’ll get from changing plans?

As a planner who loves to-do lists and checkboxes and brand new notebooks and Google Calendar, I know that not being able to see God’s whole plan is way scary. But we’re told that all things work together for the good of those who love God. No asterisk.

Next time we feel that little tug at our heart, let’s be like Simon and Andrew and go at once. And not begrudgingly — with excitement and anticipation for what God has put in our path. He had some pretty cool stuff in store for the disciples, and I bet he does for us too.


This post is part one of a series on the disciples. Read part two here and part three here.

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