How to Study the Bible Part 4 – Do a Formal Bible Study

***At the end of today’s post, I’m previewing next week’s article – a collaboration with a writer I’m excited to introduce to you. Don’t miss the “heads up” below.***


It is obvious, based on scripture, that God intended for His children to read His word. We are to learn from it, yield to it, proclaim it and share it. He intended for us to write His word on our hearts so it would be with us for eternity.

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By all means, open the Bible. Read the Bible. Study the Bible. Ask questions about the Bible. Allow it to be alive and active in your life, as the writer of Hebrews said it was. (Hebrews 4:12). Most importantly, allow it to reveal your sin and teach you to ask forgiveness and to turn back to God.

You can most definitely study the Bible on your own as I have described in the Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series. But you can also choose a formal Bible study as a vehicle through which to learn about God’s Word. There are a wealth of studies with sound doctrine that were written by credible believers. If you are flying solo, you may need to do research into unfamiliar authors. Search the internet to see if that author has his or her own page so you can read about others things he or she has done to promote the faith. You could ask a trusted Christian friend or visit the website of women’s ministries that list trusted Bible study authors.

Authors and collaborations of authors I personally recommend include Beth Moore, Priscilla Shrier, Jessie Allen, Jessie North, Mindy Kiker and Jenny Kochert (Flourish Gathering), Mary Kassian, Nancy Leigh (DeMoss) Wolgemuth, Asherita Ciuciu, and Sophron Studies. You can also usually trust studies found at DaySpring, Lifeway, etc. (This list is not exhaustive – just authors and publishers I have experience with).

Another option would be to join a group Bible study for added accountability, guidance, fellowship, and discipleship. The studies you do in these settings are typically curated in some way (people with past experience with the author or the study have recommended them). Group Bible studies are usually led by someone with experience in studying the Bible, in leading group studies, and in choosing studies with sound doctrine, and these people can answer your questions, lead you to other resources, help disciple you, etc.

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The benefit of having others to talk through material with is immeasurable. I have personally learned and grown so much from studies I’ve done over the past 16 years. These studies have helped deepen my faith. They’ve helped me develop my own Bible study methods that I use when I’m not doing a formal study. They’ve helped me learn to hear from God and to talk with God. They’ve led to life changes where God has broken through and put me on a different path. They’ve given me the confidence to go to the Bible on my own and read it for myself. They’ve helped me learn to follow God in general and have given me direction specifically as a women, as a mother, and as a wife.

Not sure how to join a small group Bible study?

Ask a friend where she goes and join her.

Check the women’s ministry pages of local churches to see when their next study starts up. (Here’s our women’s ministry page at Calvary. Our next formal group studies start in the fall, but you’re welcome to join one of our small groups as we continue to do informal studies during summer break. You do not have to be local to participate as some of these groups use Zoom or meet/talk virtually in other ways). The small group I’m in does plans through the YouVersion app, purchases bible studies to work through, or reads the Bible itself, focusing on a book, a person, or a concept to study.

Feeling a little intimidated? Reach out to me, and I can walk through a plan or study with you.

Whatever way you choose to study the Bible, start with prayer and continue to pray, pray, pray. Always be in conversation with God, asking for guidance so you can learn from His Word remain in His will.

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***Next week’s post, Interrupt Your Suffering by Serving Others, was co-authored with Lauri Hogle, fellow Christian blogger and music therapist who writes about “singing Christ’s hope into your suffering.” I first read Lauri’s posts as part of Flourish Writers, and I was instantly drawn to her use of music to interrupt our suffering with worship and focus instead on praising God. Each week, along with her devotional blog posts, she offers prayerfully selected playlists to lead us in worshiping God even in our suffering.

The idea that God calls us to focus on others resonates strongly with me, so I’ve explored it recently in my writing as well. As I became more familiar with Lauri’s writing through her weekly posts and playlists, I felt a nudge from God to reach out to her and ask her to co-author an article specifically about serving others as a way to interrupt our suffering. She graciously agreed to work with me on the article, but most importantly, to create a playlist to you through the article. I encourage you to visit Lauri’s site and check out her work, then join me again next week for our post and her playlist.

How to Study the Bible Part 2 – Dig Into the Words

Lost in Translation

“Je ne sais quoi”

(click here to hear this phrase pronounced – then click the blue “volume” icon to the left of the phrase in large, bold font near the top of the page).

Je ne sais quoi is a French phrase that doesn’t easily or directly translate into English. There’s something “lost in translation,” if you will. It translates directly as “I don’t know what,” but that doesn’t do the phrase justice. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it means “a pleasing quality that cannot be exactly named or described.”

Image Credit: PBS

And even that doesn’t fully explain the meaning. Many times, this phrase is used to describe someone that is physically attractive, but maybe not for conventional reasons. Maybe you wouldn’t look at this woman and think her beautiful in the typical sense, but there’s just something about her…something you can’t quite put your finger on. The “something” you can’t quite put your finger on… that is je ne sais quoi.

If you simply translate the phrase directly, you’ve done your job, but you miss the complete essence of what it means. You miss just a little more understanding that gives you the “a-ha” moment. The hidden understanding you can only get if you look deeper into the meaning.

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After I’d been studying the Bible a few years with the help of the commentaries, cross references, and concordances I had at my disposal, I felt a pull for more. I didn’t quite know what that “more” was, but I knew I wanted something else. Then, I started noticing places in sermons where pastors would explain what a word in a Bible verse meant in the original language. The pastor usually pointed out the original usage of the word when it was different from the way the word would be defined in our culture, when knowing the original usage would give us a deeper understanding of what the verse meant. I came to understand that, at times, when translating Greek or Hebrew to English, something vital was lost in translation. And I don’t want to miss anything.

I wanted to know how to look up scripture in its original language, but I wasn’t going to take a course in Greek or Hebrew any time soon, so I asked our life group teacher if there was access to such information for the laity – us “common folk” who aren’t pastors or theologians but who want to look deeper into what the Bible is saying. He pointed me to several online resources and smartphone apps. Two of those have become constant study tools for me. I want to share them with you because they have added richness to my time in God’s Word.

Blue Letter Bible

Blue Letter Bible was the first site my friend recommended. (I use the smartphone app nearly every day when I study the Bible, so I’ll walk you through using the app; I rarely go on the website itself, so I’m not as familiar with it).

Note: I don’t read the Bible as a whole from this app, (although you could if you wanted). I read it from my print Bible. I use this app when I want to study the scriptures deeper – such as looking up the meanings of words in their original language or looking at one verse in a variety of translations. (I’ll explain both exercises here).

Basics of Blue Letter Bible app

Once you’ve downloaded the app from the App Store and opened it on your phone, you’ll choose the translation you want to use (you can add a translation if you don’t see the one you want). I added the ESV because that’s the print version I have, and I am used to reading that translation.

You can switch between translations by clicking on the word “Bibles” in the top, right corner (see below). Do this anytime you use the app. You can also go back and add more translations later.

Once you’re ready to study verses using the app, toggle back and forth between Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) by clicking the button circled on the image below.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to the New Testament and choosing Matthew. You can see that the books are listed in order as they appear in the Bible. Click on a book to open it.

Next select the chapter you want. I’m going to select Chapter 4 to use as an example for our purposes here.

Scroll down and click on the verse you want to study. I’m using verse 17.

After you click on the verse, you get the menu below. I’ll come back and talk about some other features in this app, but for now, we’re going to focus on studying the words of scripture in their original language, so click on “Interlinear/Concordance.”

Below, you’re looking at Matthew 4:17 in ESV. The Greek text is at the top followed by the ESV translation. I click the “Reverse Interlinear” button to put the English words on the left side of the screen. Just makes better sense to my eyes and brain.

In this verse, let’s say we’re interested in the word “repent.” This is what Jesus preached once his ministry started. He began telling people to repent. So, I want to see what he really meant by that. To me, “repent” means being sorry for what you did. But I want to see if there is something deeper here. It seems like an important thing if it was the message Jesus began his ministry with. So, scroll down and click on the word “repent” (somewhere near the English word itself. If you click on the oval in the middle of the screen, it’ll take you somewhere else).

On this screen, you see what the Greek word looks like and can click on the blue speaker icon to hear it pronounced. (I LOVE to do that). You can see the part of speech and any root words. (The blue words are hyperlinks you can click on to go to the entry for the root word).

But, what I’m mostly interested in here is the “Outline of Biblical Usage” section just over half way down the screen. You can see that the definition of repent, as it is used in this verse, goes far beyond simply being sorry for what you did. And THAT is exactly why I encourage you to learn to use BLB app or some other tool to study the words in their original language. Having this understanding of how the word “repent” was used gives me richer insight into what Jesus meant in his message when he began to tell people to repent. In the highlighted section, you’ll note that repentance is when a person turns “from sin to God” {emphasis mine}. Jesus commanded that people turn away from their past sins and turn toward God. Literally, look at God rather than the sinful world. Man! That’s so rich!

Once you have a better understanding of the general definition of the word, you can go another step deeper: scroll down, and look at the Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – circled below. This portion of the Interlinear/Concordance shows you exactly how the word was used in that specific verse – rather than a simple, dictionary-type definition. So, click on the link that says “Tap to view the entire entry” to open the full lexicon for the word.

Then, scroll slowly and carefully, looking for the specific verse you’re studying. In the New Testament, the verses are easier to see because they are blue hyperlinks. The Old Testament lexicon looks like a PDF copy of an original writing, so nothing is a hyperlink and nothing stands out. It’s harder to find your specific verse. (I’ve also noticed that the lexicon isn’t exhaustive – it doesn’t list all the verses in the entire Bible that use the word in this specific way). I generally have better luck finding the verse I’m looking for in the New Testament lexicon although there have been times I couldn’t find it there either. Maybe I just missed it. Either way, you have the basic definition(s) to go off of to get a good enough idea of what’s being said.

The highlighted portion below shows you exactly how the word “repent” was used in Matthew 4:17.

If you find that you love studying the Bible this way, I encourage you to try rewording the verses based on the original meanings you uncover. To do this, go through the verse, using BLB app and look up each word in the scripture or each key word or each word that was important to you. Once you had a solid understanding of the deeper meaning of the word, reword the verse using the information you found in your study. This has been a favorite activity of mine for Bible study. I do it almost every time I read something whether I am studying a particular verse or focusing on a certain chapter in a book. When a verse catches my attention, I almost always study the original language (Hebrew for the OT and Greek for the NT) and then reword the verse to help me understand it more fully.

*However, be sure you aren’t changing the meaning of the verse when you reword it. To be sure this doesn’t happen, pray through the word study with God, carefully look up each word, read the verse in a variety of translations, read surrounding verses to get context, and read commentary on the verse. Really dig deep into the verse before attempting to reword it. When you feel confident you understand it enough to work with it, then reword it.

*A fun hint I’ve picked up along the way is personalizing scripture. You can add your name into the scripture where a personal address might fit. Here’s an example using Matthew 4:17 – From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, Heather, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Add your name in the place of mine. You can do this with many, many verses, and it helps drive home the idea that God is speaking directly to you through His words in the Bible, and that His Word is still relevant today.

I’ve mentioned reading different versions of the Bible several times in this post, and BLB app makes it simple to do that. Without leaving the app, you can read most of the major translations of the Bible. When you’re inside the verse you’re studying, click “Bible Comparison” to switch between different translations.

When you click “Bible Comparisons,” you start with the version you’re reading, but you can scroll down and read the verse in different translations. This has been such a helpful tool for me; I use it regularly to help me get a better understanding of the verse.

While you’re inside a specific verse, you can also click “Text Commentaries” (see highlighted below) and read commentaries on that specific verse, chapter, book, or the concept being discussed in that verse. A wealth of commentaries are loaded into the app.

I have come to enjoy David Guzik’s commentaries and will usually seek them out when I use this feature of BLB app.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary

Another app I use for studying original meanings of words in scripture is Vine’s Expository Dictionary app. It’s a more straight-forward and simpler to use than BLB. I use it when I already know the word I want to look up – I have a word in mind separate from a specific verse. (BLB is for studying specific verses then drilling down to individual words. Vine’s is for looking up the original language for a word you already know you want to study – not necessarily connected to a specific verse).

Below, the icon is circled, so you can find it in the App Store.

When you open the app, you have two choices for searching for the word – either type it in the search window at the top or click on the box with the corresponding letter of the alphabet and go from there.

I searched “righteous,” a word I often have to look up when I’m studying because I can’t get the meaning to stay in my brain 🙂 Once you find the word you want, click on it in the list.

Then, you can scroll through and read about all the varied meanings of the words in scripture. If you know a specific scripture, you can search the blue hyperlinks.

What helpful bible study hints have you picked up along the way? What tools help you most during your study time? Please share them here.

Live in Peace

“God allows the awareness of…distance [from Him] at times; it’s a wake-up call for the ones who care. It drives us back to Him.” Jessie North – Cultivating Holy Beauty Book 3: Walking in the New

Some friends and I recently finished Cultivating Holy Beauty Book 3: Walking in the New by Jessie North. It was part of a 3-book Bible study series that we started a year or so ago. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a group Bible study. North offers so many useful tools to help you gain intimacy with God; she teaches you a quiet time method as well as how to write Hurt Letters to God and how to hear Love Letters from Him.

Before we completed the last lesson in Book 3, my friends and I had already started to talk about what we would do after this book. Officially, our church’s women’s ministry, which heads our group Bible study, won’t start another study until the fall, but my friends and I wanted to keep something going. Many expressed worry over maintaining the closeness to God they felt while doing the group study once we were finished and headed into summer with nothing formal planned.

And God is so good! The last lesson in the book was titled “Sustaining Through Seasons”, and North addressed maintaining closeness with God during dry seasons, “off” seasons, dark seasons, etc. It was an answer to prayer.

We started with a 4-day bible study plan through Bible App/YouVersion called God’s Peace. Several of the ladies in our group had done individual studies through this app and suggested with try it as a group. There is a feature where you can post comments about what you’re learning during the study. We discovered once we started that our plan was from Focus on the Family and was meant to be completed with your children. However, we continued it together this past week focusing on the assigned Bible readings for each day. Some of us even used techniques we learned from the quiet time method Jessie North taught in Cultivating Holy Beauty Book 1: Intimacy with Jesus as we did the Bible readings each day.

My main takeaways from the 4-day plan were as follows:

  • Peace comes when you realize you are safe with God.
  • Peace comes “through following God’s rules.”
  • Peace comes when there is well being at home (when family members reflect the character of God).
  • Peace comes through a strong faith.

Here are some of the verses that stood out to me from the readings this week as well as some songs that came to mind when I meditated on the verses.

Isaiah 32:17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Romans 12:18 – Do all you can to live in peace with everyone.

Col 3:15 – and let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Psalm 4:3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

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https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=G2XtRuPfaAU


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You Gotta Read This Book

I just finished reading The Garden: A Spiritual Fable about Ways to Overcome Fear, Anxiety, and Stress by Jon Gordon, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Seriously. Go to Amazon or your favorite book seller right now, and order your copy. It is worth the $17 list price.

The Garden is for anybody experiencing fear, anxiety or stress or anyone who knows someone dealing with those issues. I would venture a guess to say…that’s pretty much all of us.

Gordon tells the story of the gospel through what he calls a “spiritual fable” – a narrative involving twin high-schoolers Jay and Kay and their neighbor Mr. Erwin.

Mr. Erwin befriends the siblings, and, using the garden he lovingly tends in his backyard, he helps them see how the enemy distracts people with lies and causes them to be fearful, anxious, and stressed. Then, Mr. Erwin reveals to the teens how God has already won the battle for them – all they have to do is avoid the 5 D’s which are the enemies tools for warfare.

I read this book because my son’s Sunday school teacher recommended it for parents of middle school or high school students, and I can see why. Everyone in my family will benefit from a discussion of the 5 D’s.

The copy I read actually belongs to my friend, but I will definitely purchase my own copy to reread and keep as a reference. I may even ask Ethan to read it himself since it reads like a narrative.

This book’s message is so timely because of the high-stress we’re living in right now with many still out of work due to the pandemic and school in an uproar. My son is most certainly experiencing some anxiety over starting middle school this year coupled with the challenges and frustrations of virtual learning. This, in turn is causing me fear, stress, and anxiety! I already feel more calm and confident after having read the book.

Buy it today and crack it open as soon as it arrives in the mail. It can’t come soon enough.

I’ve Found Your Next Bible Study

Deep. Challenging. Introspective.  Quiet.  Calming.

These are words I would use to describe Psalm 119: Walking in the Light – A Flourish Bible Study Journal.

This study is an in-depth look at scripture from Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible and the longest Psalm.  And I cannot recommend it highly enough to you for your next Bible study – either as an individual or with a small group.

One of the things that I love most about this study is that it challenges me to dig deeper into the Bible.  It focuses on a few verses of the Psalm and fosters thorough exploration of those verses.

The authors, Mindy Kiker and Jenny Kochert, co-creators of Flourish Writers, encourage the use of alternate translations, Bible commentaries, word studies, exploration of the context, an application to investigate and understand the scriptures.

There is not an excess of narrative in this study.  Instead, readers are directed to use the methods mentioned above to study and then to record our own thoughts, discoveries, journeys, and experiences with God as we explore the verses.  Journaling is a technique I enjoy using in my own study of the Bible, so the openness of this study appeals to me and encourages me to flex my writing muscles.

The writers realize that different people have varying amounts of time to devote to the study, so they’ve built in multiple options for investigations; you can complete as much as you can based on your available time.  The self-paced study is organized into 4 weeks with 5 days of work each week, but you can go through at your own speed.  If you end up spending two or three days on one section because of how God is speaking to you, there is room for that.  If you push through a couple of lessons in one sitting because you have the free time, that is ok, too.

I enthusiastically recommend this study.  God has already spoken to me so clearly about a current struggle in my life.  I am gaining understanding and confidence to walk through this time with the assurance that God’s word is and will continue to illuminate my path so that I do not stumble.

Based on the structure and organization of the study and how it has already challenged me to investigate in greater depth, I am confident this will not be my last Flourish Bible study.  I will definitely be on the look out for more materials from Mindy Kiker and Jenny Kochert.

A Giveaway and a Book Review

You definitely need to read Confident Moms Confident Daughters by Maria Furlough if you’re a woman who is influential in the life of a girl: a daughter, niece, granddaughter, student, church youth group member, etc. Maria makes it clear that the answer to the problem of how to be more confident for ourselves and our daughters lies in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  She supports her assertion with biblical scripture and her own life experiences.  She also uses expert testimony from various areas to support what she has to say about different aspects of identity and biblical confidence based on our identity in Christ.

As I read through the book, it felt like Maria and I were sitting across from each other having coffee and talking – the tone was so comfortable and conversational.  She truly shared her passion for God and family as she explored the topics of female body image, insecurity, and modeling godly confidence for the young women in our lives.

The book includes details from Maria’s own life experiences to help the reader see where she is coming from.  In addition, she discusses nutrition and physical activity among other topics related to body image.

I was concerned that the book wouldn’t be relevant for me at this time as my daughter is six.  Each chapter ends with a series of questions, and the readers are encouraged to discuss these with our daughters.  Upon first read-through of the questions for Chapter 1, for example, I felt they were over my daughter’s head – not age-appropriate.  However, I came to realize as I read further that I could adjust the wording of some and talk through a few with her right now.  Others, I can save for later.  Overall, because of my daughter’s young age, I am viewing the book as my preemptive strike!  I may not have these concerns with my daughter at this time, but they are certainly coming soon.  I can learn how to be more confident in my identity in Christ now so that I can begin modeling that for her immediately.  Some of the other information – such as Maria’s list of “Signs Your Daughter is Struggling (or Thinking about It)” – I’ll keep in my back pocket, so to speak, for when the time comes.

I honestly believe that every woman who has an influential relationship with a young woman would read this book.  It is so important to me, that I’m giving you the opportunity to win a FREE copy.

There are two ways to enter the giveaway –

  1. Like this post and leave a comment telling me about the girl or young lady in your life.
  2. Find me on Facebook at Heather Murdock Hooks and find the Facebook live video I posted about the book.  Like and share that post and leave a comment telling me about the girl of young lady in your life.

* Get your “name in the hat” twice if you complete one of the two ways explained above PLUS you subscribe to this blog by leaving me your email address (click on the “Follow” button to the right of this post).

Enter by 9pm Friday, August 30

The Quiet Advent Calendar (Repost)

It’s December 1.  Did you start your Quiet Advent Calendar?  (I’m a little old-fashioned, so I printed out a hard copy of mine 🙂 ) This is a repost of last week’s post, but I don’t want you to miss it.  Please join me:

The frenzy is already building.  Can you feel it?!  The frenzy that is the Christmas season – only 31 more shopping days to go!  Who’s left on my gift list?  What am I going to bake to take to my in-laws’ house on Christmas Eve?  I didn’t even start decorating yet!!!

Oh my goodness!  No wonder we rarely enjoy the season anymore.  It’s too crazy busy.

Let’s take back the holiday season this year.  Let’s focus on the real reason we celebrate – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Let’s prepare our hearts for the Advent season.

I’d like to invite you to “The Quiet Advent Calendar” from my friend, Julianne Gilchrist.  Join me in 24 days of delighting in this season of Advent.  I’m excited for this Advent Calendar because, as I’ve gotten to know Julianne over the past 6 months, I’ve discovered that she’s all about slowing down, breathing in, and just being with God.  Her concern is helping people learn to hear God’s voice above the hum-drum of life.  And I can see her desire for sacred space built into “The Quiet Advent Calendar.”

If you plan to join, let me know, and we can walk through it together.  Just click on “The Quiet Advent Calendar”, fill in your name and email address, click Send Me The Quiet Advent Calendar, and settle in and get ready.

I can’t wait to get started.

A Mountaintop Experience: Reflections from a Weekend at The Cove

Sit a spell in a rocking chair on the porch at the Training Center and watch the fog creep in until it completely covers all the blue-gray mountains in the distance.

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The “Back Porch” at the Training Center

Amble through the halls and take in the multitude of gifts given to Billy and Ruth Graham over the years as they traveled the world: the pin from Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Nesting Dolls from the Russian Delegation, or the Wooden Pestle from Romania, to list just a few.

If nature is your pleasure, choose a sturdy walking stick and follow the trail as it climbs and twists through the woods and past the creek up to the chapel. Those who are more adventurous can climb 3 miles up to the overlook.

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Porter’s Creek on the hiking trail

 

This past weekend, I passed a sweet time meeting with the Lord during a women’s retreat at The Cove in Asheville. Be Still Mama Women’s Ministry from FBCIT hosted the event and put together a dynamic line-up of godly women to encourage us to “Choose Joy” based on John 15:1-11.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Based on my observation, I heartily recommend that you go on a retreat the next time you have the opportunity. And, if that opportunity happens to take you to The Cove, I encourage you all the more.

To begin with, the venue is absolutely breathtaking, both the surrounding, natural environment as well as the inns, Training Center, and chapel themselves. Although we were there in the middle of winter, the weather was pleasant enough to venture outdoors, walk a few trails, and take in the beautiful mountain scenery. All around you’ll see glossy, smooth magnolia and hearty cedar. It was overcast while we were there, but the heavy clouds hanging low on the mountains and even lower in the trees epitomize the mountains to me.

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Imagine what the Graham home might have looked like when Ruth often stood at the door and kissed goodbye her evangelist husband as he went off yet again to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Do you see a cozy fire, creaking rocking chairs, soft rugs covering wooden floors, and shelves and shelves of books? That’s what I see, and I imagine that was the inspiration behind the homey, mountain decor that permeates the inns, the Training Center, and the chapel at The Cove.

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Suite sitting room in Shepherd’s Inn

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We were all crazy about this grand fireplace in the lobby of the Training Center.  There were more pictures taken of this than just about anything else!

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Chatlos Chapel

If the interior says, “Relax. Pull up your chair and sit by the fire,” the exterior says, “Take notice. Stand tall! You’re nestled into mountain country.” Each building was built with a mix of natural stone and dark, handsome wooden beams.

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Shepherd’s Inn

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Shepherd’s Inn

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Chatlos Chapel

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Chatlos Chapel

And, oh the windows! They were everywhere! Some rooms, such as the dining room, had floor to ceiling windows, and lobby of the Shepherd’s Inn, where we stayed, was two-story, featuring windows from the floor to ceiling! The word ‘breathtaking’ just doesn’t even seem adequate to describe what you experience with your eyes.

 

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Shepherd’s Inn Lobby

You don’t just experience The Cove with your eyes though! Your nose and mouth are tantalized as well – at least 3 times a day – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the food as something to look forward to on this trip. But, let me tell you, I was completely and utterly blown away by the amount and quality of food as well as the selections themselves. Breakfast was a buffet of eggs, meats, pastries, fresh fruits, yogurts…I could go on, but breakfast is my favorite meal, and now I’m hungry again. Lunch and dinner included choices such as filet Mignon, grilled shrimp, baked Parmesan chicken, salmon, pork ribs, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, cornbread…you get the picture, right?! I’m not saying you should go to The Cove just for the food, but I’m saying that you won’t be disappointed by it. You’ll probably leave a few pounds heavier than when you came. (I didn’t even mentioned dessert!)

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Dining Room in Training Center

The staff was kind and helpful as well. Their demeanor added to the overall hospitable air of the place. Everywhere you were greeted with their smiling faces welcoming you in the door, asking if you needed assistance with anything, or reminding you to help yourself to the coffee, soft drink, or water stations located around the facilities. The folks waiting the tables in the dining room were especially jolly as they begged us over and over to go back for seconds and thirds. “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault,” one lady kidded us as she refilled our water pitcher.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not also share with you what you are likely to experience on a spiritual level while there. I most certainly encountered the Holy Spirit’s presence; it was there nearly every moment. This was due in part to the group of women there with me, the caliber of speakers and the message they prayed over for weeks and weeks, the worship leader and the music she chose, and the overall design of the retreat itself by the leader of our women’s ministry.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

However, added to that was the idea that this facility itself, everything at The Cove, in fact, was designed with the purpose of bringing people to a place where they can relax, refresh, and experience the Lord. You just…feel His presence. You look out over the mountains, and you encounter majesty and awe knowing that He created those mountains and those trees and those clouds, and He knew you’d be standing there in that moment, feeling so small but not alone. You look at those friendly faces assisting you, and you realize that He made those people, and He gave them attitudes of servitude so they could be His hands and feet. Even the configuration of the furnishings – a grouping of chairs here and there by a fireplace, or a couch nestled in the corner by a bookcase – invited you to breathe in fellowship and experience the Lord’s calming presence.

It’s just a majestic place. The Lord is there! I urge you to go should the opportunity arise. You will be so grateful that you did.

Have you ever been on a retreat? Was it for work, recreation, church, etc? Where did you go? What was your experience there?