Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The SOAP method of Bible study

Vintage graphic from The Graphics Fairy
I've written about this in passing before, but haven't really put together a specific post about this wonderful method of meditating on God's Word.  I can't remember where I first read about the SOAP method, but have seen it many places since then.  One example may be found here: SOAP Bible study method.  It has certainly revitalized my quiet time, and I recommend this to anyone interested in digging into God's Word on their own. There are a few cautions with using this method, so I'll just be sharing the way that I go about using it.

Simply reading Scripture is wonderful, and of course I highly recommend it. But for digging a little deeper and  learning to apply it to one's life, something more is needed.  You will find with this method that you start seeing things in familiar verses that you never noticed before, mostly because you didn't previously slow down enough to really read every word or think about what you were reading.  Sadly, many times we just read a portion of the Bible to cross "Bible reading" off our daily to-do list.  And yes, I've been guilty of that!

One concern that some people have expressed about this method of Bible study is that sometimes verses will simply be chosen at random.  You know -- sort of like opening the Bible anywhere and just picking a verse to study.  I don't recommend that.  God is a God of order, and I believe we will get more out of His Word if we are less random with it.  So, in choosing your verses, I recommend that you either read through a chapter or a book, or your daily Bible reading, and choose a few verses from there,  or use a reading plan for a Bible study (like the ones from Love God Greatly, for example).  I am currently finishing up with their Made for Community reading plan.  I believe their study of Galatians is ongoing now. Any of their reading guides would be a great place to start with the SOAP method, and you can download any of them for free.  There are many other good Bible study plans out there as well.

Another concern that I've read about the SOAP method is that in your observation of the verse (see below) it's very easy to take the verse out of context -- and that can change the meaning completely from what the writer intended.  So as you will see, when I make my observations of the verses, I do all that I can to be sure I have the context right.  I've never been to Bible school or taken any Bible classes, so I want to be extra careful.  And also, it is very interesting to consider when the verses were written, who the intended audience is, and so on.

So, if you've never done this before, you are probably wondering -- What exactly does S.O.A.P. mean?  It's a simple acrostic.  Here it is:

S- The S stands for Scripture.  For this first step, you take up your Bible and a pen and notebook and actually write out the Scripture verses you are studying that day.  Sometimes it's truly amazing what you notice when you take the time to slow down enough to write out what you are reading.  You may well see things that you never noticed before.

O- The O stands for observation.   Write down what you see in the verses you’re reading. I like to use a study Bible and I will often go back to the summary of the book to see who wrote it and what his intended purpose was.  I note too who he was writing to -- who his intended audience was and what was going on in their lives right then.  I also like to read the relevant verses on either side of the ones I'm studying to really get the context.   Is there a repetition of words? Do some words stand out?  There are certain words that prompt me to ask questions.  If a verse begins with "but" or has the word "but" in it, there will be some change of direction in the thinking or teaching, so I note what that is.  Another word prompt is "therefore".  I always ask myself what it is "there for".  Because of something that went before, "therefore" something else is happening or needs to happen.  Again, I need to be a detective and find out what that is.

I often summarize the main points of the verses I'm reading.  Other times I try to restate them in simpler terms.  If I am reading several verses or if my verse has several points, I might state the main points in a bulleted list or in the form of an outline.  My goal is to get at the meaning of the verses as much as possible.  Once in awhile I will even turn to a commentary, a Bible dictionary, or a Bible study of a particular book to help me understand a little bit more.

A- The A stands for application.   This is making God’s Word personal.  How can I apply what I just read to my own personal life? Are there changes that I need to make? Is there an action that I need to take?  Sometimes it's a sin or character flaw I see being addressed in the Scripture and need to address in my own life.  Other times it might be a principle I need to put into practice.  There is always some way I can apply what I just read. 

It might not be something I need to change, but instead might be something I need to thank or praise God for.   Sometimes, in the psalms, for instance, I will read something the psalmist is praising God for which may echo something God has done in my own life, and I will want to praise Him for that.  Or I may read about an attribute of God that I can see at work in my own life -- His mercy, for example, or His love -- and again, I will want to praise Him for that. 

(And never forget that without applying God's Word to your life, anything you study is just reading and learning -- it is not spiritual growth.  Application must be happening for real spiritual growth to take place.)

P- The P stands for prayer. Here's where you pray about applying what you have learned.  If He has revealed something to you during this time in His Word, that you need to change,  pray about it. Confess if He has revealed some sin that is in your life.  Ask Him to help you make the necessary changes.  Pray God’s Word back to Him. If it is a matter of praising God for one of His attributes or for something specific He has done in your life, spend some time in praise and thanksgiving.  I usually write out a simple prayer for this point so that I don't forget what I prayed about.  I most often do this SOAP journaling just before my prayer time, so when I pray I simply incorporate this written-out prayer into my time for that day.

For journaling Scripture using the SOAP method, what has worked well for me is a simple composition book like this:
You can find them in many different colors and patterns.  I've had this pink and orange argyle one for awhile.  These can often be found at Walmart or the dollar store for $1, but recently, for back to school, Walmart had them for 50¢!  You will be surprised at how much journaling you can fit into a book like this.  I have notes from two retreats, a study of planning/time management, and two Bible studies in this one!  I also like that this size of notebook allows space for me to glue in (well, I use double stick tape; less messy) my reading guides for the particular study I am doing:
Made for Community -- the study I am just finishing up
Psalm 119 study that I have finished
I have used smaller journals, but have found that this size works best for me all the way around.

I also like to use two alternating colors of ink to help me see which point of the SOAP I am on.  For example, I will write out the Scripture in black ink, and my observations in blue ink, then the application in black, and finally the prayer in blue ink.   It's just easier for me that way.  You could choose any colors of ink you prefer; just make sure whatever you choose is easily readable, because you will likely want to go back and re-read your journaling over time.

Studying God’s Word like this can take as little as 15-20 minutes, but I find that most days it takes me somewhat longer.  Whatever the amount of time it takes, it's well worth it to me for the learning and growth that results.

How do you study God's Word for yourself?  Have you tried the SOAP method?  What do you think?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Recent crocheting efforts

Recently I completed two small crochet projects.  I have made many of these Scalloped Potholders over the years since first discovering the pattern. I don't add the hanging loop because to my mind, these come out too thick to use easily as a potholder.  Those I've gifted with these pieces use them as hot mats (or trivets, if you will) to hold hot dishes on the table.  The actual pattern shows the piece done all in one color, but I've had lots of fun with the colors and color changes in these. 

I believe that I first found the link on Tipnut, and that these were shown with many changes of solid bright colors.  They looked a bit like kaleidoscope designs and just really caught my eye.  But I've truly enjoyed incorporating some ombre colors in there.  Endless variations, really.  

The ombre yarn you see in the middle rows of these hot mats is by Peaches'n'Creme and is called Ahoy Ombre.  I thought it looked so pretty -- the perfect colors for summer and crocheting at the beach.  My daughter saw me working on these and suggested she could use more hot pads for Christmas.  They also make great hostess gifts.
Sea Mist is the the outside color on this one.
This looks larger than the top one, but really they are exactly the same size. 
Hope you have enjoyed this vintage-style craft.  These are so much fun to make, and easy, too!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Last installment of September decorating and other fall photos

Well, I have just put the last elements in place for my September decorating.  In October I'll factor in more pumpkins and leaves, but right now the leaves are just beginning to turn here.  I don't know if it's because the weather has been so warm lately, but that must be part of it since a frost is necessary to bring out the colors.  Most of our leaves are still green.
These are some of the first red leaves I've seen this year.  They are so pretty I just had to scan them.
A couple of years ago I made two window panels with some autumn leaf fabric that had been in my stash for a long time.
One of the completed curtain panels.
This is a close-up of the fabric for the top part of the panel.
And this is the smaller print that I trimmed the panel with.
Then I wanted some autumn banners to go above my windows, so the grandkids and I got to work.  I made the one you see at the top of the post, and then I just turned them loose with materials to design their own.

Kindly disregard the laundry hanging in the background!
This leafy garland is over my kitchen sink.  I liked the way the sun was hitting these leaves.
I will leave you with a picture of one of my dad's apple trees.  They are loaded with apples this year.
These apple trees have been neglected over the years, but their apples are beautiful!
 More fall photos to follow in October!

Friday, September 25, 2015

A wonderful weekend

I went to an area like this for my God and I time -- so serene and quiet!
One week ago today, I was en route to a ladies' retreat at The Wilds of New England.  I want to quickly post about it before I forget.  The pictures were taken with my Kindle, so are not the top quality, but still it gives you an idea.
This picture is taken as one walks from the cabin area to the courtyard.  As you look to the buildings in the background, the Sweet Shoppe is to the left and the coffee shop just to the right of the flagpole.
Only two other ladies from my church were going to the retreat, and they both had work responsibilities that had them traveling to The Wilds from other directions.  So I traveled there with a vanload of ladies from another area church.  We all knew one another already and had some great fellowship en route.  Their entire group ended up in a tent, so I was very happy to find myself and my friends from church assigned to a cabin:
Most years it has been very, very cold in the cabins.  This year they have propane heaters, but the evening was so warm that we didn't need to use them.  In fact, when we were getting things settled in the cabin at around 5 pm, we had to open all the windows!  Still, I was glad I had brought warm bedding and warm clothes to sleep in.  It is September, and things do cool down in the evenings no matter how warm the day has been.

We had two ladies from Massachusetts (one being a dear friend, so it was a blessing to have her assigned to our cabin) and two ladies from Maine in our cabin as well.  

The meals were all wonderful -- think blueberry French toast bake for breakfast, with sausages and sliced peaches on the side and plenty of good coffee.  Supper on Saturday was an amazing chicken dish in a basil sauce (I think) served over spaghetti squash.   The fellowship among 140 women and teen girls was wonderful, the music was great, and the sessions by Reba Bowman were fantastic.  She spoke on "Gravel Road Growth" and lessons Jesus taught the disciples prior to going to the cross, from John chapters 13, 14, and 15.  What an encouragement to "listen in" as He taught these lessons to these men who were soon going to need all the courage and comfort they could get.   It fit right in with lessons I've been teaching in Sunday School and was just so good.

One terrific thing about these retreats is that even though you are busy and taking in a lot of information, there is also plenty of free time.  Breakfast is not until 8;15, so there is plenty of time to get up early and have a quiet time, or even to sleep later if one is so inclined.  I began my Saturday morning in the coffee shop, sipping a large hazelnut coffee and reading my Bible.   There is another seating area upstairs and I was able to slip up there for a good time of prayer -- taking a large maple coffee (so delicious!) along with me.  The coffee prices are so reasonable.
This was taken inside Cool Beans at night, with my tablet, so it is not the best quality.  But you get the idea.
On Saturday afternoon there are several hours of free time when we can be as relaxed or as active as we like.  Energetic types can zipline or play laser tag; those who just want some rest can take a nap, sit by a campfire, enjoy coffee or ice cream in Cool Beans or the Sweet Shoppe, read,  or do needlework.  If you are more of an in-between type, you can go on a hike or a hayride or play board games with friends.  This year they also had a wreath-making activity where the participants decorated twig wreaths for fall. 

I went on a hayride with my friend Ruth and also spent time in Cool Beans enjoying an Italian cream soda and working on a cross-stitch project -- that is, until the lens fell out of my bifocals!  I turned to crochet instead.
The landscaping and gardening around the various buildings is just so pretty.  This is one of the staff homes.
This is a closer look at the pallet planter at left in the above photo.
It's so nice because while you are there, you don't have any of your daily responsibilities to tend to.  No cooking, no dishes to wash, no housework, no childcare or eldercare -- you just get to enjoy fantastic fellowship and pay attention to what God is teaching you.  If you live in or near New England, you owe it to yourself to check out a retreat for next fall!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A favorite fall recipe: Apple Crisp Pizza

Photo from Taste of Home
The other day I was thinking about some of our favorite fall desserts.  This Apple Crisp Pizza is probably our top favorite.  I've posted this recipe in the past, but it's been a few years.  This is a must-make recipe in the fall; I will often bake it several times (usually for get-togethers or potlucks) during the season.  You might like to try it, too!


Pastry for a single crust pie
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 medium apples, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup old-fashioned (or quick-cooking) oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 to 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

Roll out pastry to fit a 12-inch pizza pan; fold under or flute edges of pastry.

Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl; add apples and toss mixture together well. Arrange apple slices in a single layer over pastry in a circular pattern to completely cover pastry.

Combine the first five topping ingredients in a bowl; mix well and sprinkle over apples. Bake at 350º for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle caramel topping over apples. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 servings

This is a wonderful dessert and makes your kitchen smell so good while it is baking!  Let me know how your family and friends like this dessert if you try it!

What is your family's favorite fall dessert?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

September decorating, installment 2

Please understand that I am in no way an expert decorator.  I'm just a homemaker with a very humble home (which I am duly thankful for in this world in which many do not have a home) which I enjoy decorating seasonally.  I read a few decorating-type blogs and feel somewhat embarrassed to even post pictures of what I do.  However, I believe I'm called to encourage other women, and this is one way of doing that.  So, a few days ago I posted about my transitional fall wreath and noted that I would be gradually doing a bit of fall decorating throughout this week.  I'm almost done with that for September; I have one more element to add.

The picture at top shows my little kitchen island (actually a tall, formica-topped desk made by my dad when I was a teen).  I usually display the black and white transferware tureen, a family heirloom, on my hutch, but often in fall it ends up on the island.  I had found some nice checked dishtowels in my late mother's linen closet and chose a brown one to place on the island.

I realize that I am very, very late to the party when it comes to decorating with books.  I will often display some of my pretty Christmas books and/or Gooseberry Patch books (you will see some on the hutch) but never with stacks of books or even books between bookends as many talented decorators do.  But I thought books would be pretty here.  My husband had left an apple on the island and I thought it might look nice on top of fall-colored books.  So I chose a couple from my shelf.  The leaves are not real but almost look it.  If the apple starts looking tired, I have a very realistic faux apple I can replace it with.

I went with extremely simple for now on the dining room table.  It will get prettier as time goes on.

I made this apple-themed table square out of a repurposed calendar towel,  years ago.  You can read about it here: Slightly Crafty.  At left you can just glimpse one of my simple green plaid place mats, snipped out of a length of dollar-store plastic shelf liner.  The little cranberry candle lamp was a gift from a good friend.
 This shows the entire hutch.  I went with a rather spare (though pretty) arrangement for now.  Some of these things will be moved for October's display, but the teapot and the fall mugs on the top shelf will definitely remain.
 A bit of a closer look.  As always, you can click on a picture to make it larger.  The cup and saucer on the top shelf have leaves decorating them.  I got it at a yard sale!
 The Hometown Harvest book is one I got free for having a recipe published in it.  The Fiestaware salt and pepper shakers are family heirlooms.  The "Thankful" sign was purchased at The Wilds of New England last year and I have displayed it somewhere ever since.  Because I am thankful!  The little sunflower is a cute craft made with a spool, ribbon, and a cinnamon stick.  I got it as a favor at a ladies' event many years ago.

Hope you have enjoyed this second installment of my September decorating! October will involve much more red and orange, leaves, gourds, and pumpkins.

Are you finished with your fall decorating?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Pesto Vegetable Pizza

Photo from Taste of Home
I've mentioned how Mr. T and I are trying to eat more vegetables, less meat, etc.  One of his big concerns about this has been that he would still like to enjoy pizza.  Then he remembered how when we ate at Subway regularly a few years back, I would often order a veggie pizza.

I turned to my 2005 Light & Tasty Annual Recipes book and sure enough, they had this wonderful recipe: Pesto Vegetable Pizza.  This is far better than the one I used to order at Subway!

I haven't yet made this exactly according to the recipe as far as the vegetables go -- I've just used what I had on hand, which has been no mushrooms, sometimes grape tomatoes (sliced),  baby spinach or kale, and red peppers rather than yellow.  So far I've used homemade pesto because I had some in the freezer.  But that's almost gone, so I bought a jar of Classico®.  Much less expensive than the fresh pesto in the deli.

I used a homemade gluten free crust made according to this recipe: Best Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Ever.  I made this crust in a jelly roll pan (approximately 10x15") and  baked it for about ten minutes at 400º before adding the toppings and baking it according to the recipe. 

But you could also use a Boboli® pre-baked crust as the pizza recipe calls for -- or, use this recipe: Homemade Italian bread shells like Boboli®.

This pizza is so delicious!  We highly recommend it.  Mr. T does not miss the pepperoni one bit! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A transitional fall wreath

I love fall!  It is very easily my favorite season!  In fact, I even have a Pinterest board called I Love Fall!.  And another about pumpkin, and another about apples ... but I digress.

I was recently inspired by this post: Transitioning Fall into Your Home by Denise at RefreshHer. It's well worth your read!  You will find some fun and doable fall decorating ideas.  Denise expressed the thought that fall comes gradually, not all at once, and so it's fun to do your fall decorating gradually,  as well.  I quite often do this, adding a judicious amount of fall decor in September, then more in October (I do not decorate for Halloween, however).  Then at the beginning of  November I will add in some Thanksgiving touches.

Often, though, for my front door wreath -- I have a grapevine wreath which is wound with silk ivy and change the trims with the seasons -- I simply tuck in some colorful fall leaves and it stays that way for the entire three months of fall. 

This time, inspired by Denise's post, I decided to do something just a little different for September.
The above photo was taken with my Kindle, so it isn't as good as I'd have liked.  But you get the idea!  Oh, and our door is not maroon as it looks in the picture.  Just weathered wood.
I tucked in some faux sunflowers and a few leaves I had in my stash that are more yellow-green with a touch of orange -- more like real leaves that are just beginning to turn.  I would ordinarily write a chalkboard message like "Happy Fall!" but since fall is not yet here I went with "Welcome Fall".  I am going to work on my first installment of fall decorating throughout the week, but wanted to get the front door taken care of first thing.

Have fun with your fall decorating!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cocoa-dusted almonds ~ a healthy success!

All you need to make your own cocoa-dusted almonds.  Photo from Happy Healthy Mama.
A couple of months ago, friends invited us over for supper.  After a delicious meal, my friend brought out some amazing cocoa-dusted almonds to enjoy with coffee.  What a treat!  Mr. T and I had never tasted them before, and we surely did enjoy them.

Later, I spotted cocoa-dusted almonds in the bulk food section of our local supermarket, but I am just too frugal to buy them.  I went on an internet search to see if I could find a recipe for these treats without the use of refined sugar.  Sure enough, I found this one: Cocoa-Dusted Almonds which required only four ingredients.  I had been given a large bag of whole almonds by my sister-in-law and had been using them in trail mix, etc, and I was pretty sure there were a couple of cups of almonds left in the bag that I could use for the recipe.

The only problem has been that the weather has been just too hot and humid and I haven't wanted to turn the oven on.  This morning, however, the weather was nice and cool and I turned the oven on to make granola.  I decided to go ahead and make the cocoa-dusted almonds.  They turned out perfectly.  Just like the purchased ones my friend had served.

The only caution I have is to be sure you do as the recipe instructs and use parchment paper to line the baking sheet.  I was out of parchment paper so I used foil -- and the nuts did tend to stick a bit.  Also, my almonds did not seem roasted enough after ten minutes, so I think I cooked them for around fifteen, stirring every three or four minutes.

What a deliciously healthy snack!  They would make a wonderful kitchen gift, too.  I will be making these again!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday spiritual sustenance

On a fall or summer Saturday
Probably Saturday is a favorite day of the week for many of us.  It surely is one of my favorites.  My hubby is usually home, and we don't need to get up at our usual 4:30 or 4:45 a.m.  We might even sleep in until 5:30 or 6 a.m.!  We might do something a little different like going out for breakfast or enjoying a treat like homemade coffeecake or muffins.  Sometimes I will fix a flavored coffee on Saturday mornings for a nice treat.

But Saturdays are also very busy.  It's usually the only day Mr. T can find time to get to the dump, and he nearly always has some tasks he wants to attend to at home or around our church building or grounds, or at one of our parents' homes.  I'm often busy cooking and baking for Sunday, and often have household tasks or laundry to catch up with as well.

So I like to begin my Saturdays as I do every other day,  by having a good quiet time with the Lord.  In summer or fall, as pictured above, I love having my quiet time outdoors.  And on a Saturday, my hubby can do so as well.

My Saturday quiet times differ a bit from my weekday ones, and just feel a little special because of that.  It all started when I began doing some online Bible study plans from Love God Greatly.  Several of the studies I did only had readings for the weekdays.  So I would read and use the SOAP method of Bible study to work through the verses for each weekday. 

On Saturdays, I would need to do something different.  One thing I have sometimes done is to answer any study questions for the particular study I am doing.  I've been finding with the Love God Greatly studies that I end up answering most of the questions in my SOAPing of the verses, so in the past few studies I've done I skipped the questions.

One activity that's been a constant for at least the past year or two during my Saturday quiet times is adding to my Scripture journal. My friend Susan did a wonderful post about her journal and it is well worth your attention.  Find it here: Building an Effective Scripture Journal.  I usually add one page to my Scripture journal on Saturday and another on Sunday.  This practice is such a blessing for getting to know our God well!

I usually will also spend some of my quiet time on Saturday reviewing Scripture memory verses.

Another thing I will frequently do on a Saturday is add a page or two to my prayer journal.  If you don't have a prayer journal or the one you have isn't working for you, check out this post:  How to Make a Prayer Journal (which, interestingly, is the second most popular post of all time on my blog!).  You will probably also want to read this one: Using a Prayer Journal.  I find that there's pretty much an endless list of things I want to pray about regularly, like specific character flaws in my life, for example, so I am frequently adding to my prayer journal.  The posts I've linked to will show you how to do that.

Then I finish up my Saturday quiet time with a good time of prayer.  I'm ready for whatever else a Saturday might bring!

Friday, September 11, 2015

2015's superhero capers

For some time now I have been meaning to write about the most recent superhero capers among our grandkids.  Longtime readers will recall that my superhero cape adventures began some years ago when these two in Nevada invented their own alter egos -- Super Gromit and Super Emily Cat.  This is the pattern I found to use, and continue to use: This pattern -- Clever Little Cape 
 -- is so easy and comes out so cute.  I've made it larger or smaller over time for various sizes of kids.  I have several size patterns by now, made out of newspaper.  The various emblems, I sort of made up on my own.

Inside each cape I embroidered a little symbol.  Here is Gromit ...

... and here is a kitty.
Time went by and I was asked to make capes for my local grandkids.  I didn't even start with embroidered animals for them, since they are just "regular" superheroes.  Sort of an oxymoron there.

Then along came a couple more in Nevada:
The emblem for Super Elliott-Mouse.
And his embroidered mouse.

This photo shoot was the last time the Nevadans came out for a visit, in 2012.  You can see Micah, in his tiny blue cape, sitting beside Sam on the big rock in the middle.

Josiah, Elliott, Julia, Micah, Sam, Darrin, Emily
Darrin and Sam in action
You can see why Sam needed a new cape!
As I've mentioned, this summer our five grandkids from Nevada (plus their parents, of course) came to visit for three weeks!  Prior to their arrival, a few things happened:
1)  Sam requested a new, bigger and longer cape.
2)  Micah needed a new cape so his could be passed on to his little brother Nathan.
3) We needed an emblem for Nathan's cape.
4) Baby Arielle needed her own superhero cape for photo shoots and such.

And so I got busy.

Sam's new cape
Ari's princess emblem
Ari's baby-sized cape
Sam's outgrown cape turned into a new cape for Micah-Moose.  I wasn't able to embroider a moose inside but I found a cute moose applique to use.
We did a photo shoot on the property of friends.  You can see Nathan at the far left in Micah's outgrown cape, with an "N" emblem now.
Perfect place for it!
Micah in action!
One of my favorite shots.  Love the action!
Our local superheroes got to wear their capes in a parade in early August.  Their summer reading program theme was super heroes.  Perfect!
If you look closely, you can see baby Ari in her little cape, being "worn" by Mommy just past the building, to the right.

That's it ... a summary of our superhero capers so far.  I have a feeling Super Gromit and Super Emily-Cat will be outgrowing their capes any day now.