There are many books that speak to me. Poetry, philosophy, comedy, tragedy, allegory and story, written by people I admire, respect, study, reflect on, review, time and again, and who have greatly influenced me. People like, Thomas Merton and Mary Oliver, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner and Madeline L’Engle, Ann Lamott, Ann Aschauer, and Ann Voskamp to name a few authors of the books right in front of me that I’m currently reading and/or referencing. They’re hidden on this side of the coffee table where they’re an easy reach. Who do I think I’m kidding that no one can see them when they come into our house? No one. I carry them up to my office when company knocks.
But there’s only one book that actually talks to me. It’s the one there on the top right. It was my mother’s Ryrie Study Bible before it was mine. And this morning when I picked it up to begin once again at the beginning, it broke! And my heart broke. I was preparing to begin the way I have read the Bible since 2008, from four sections, the way my father taught me. Starting in the beginning, reading a section from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, then a Psalm, onto the Gospels starting with Matthew, and then a section from the New Testament beginning with the Book of Acts. It may seem like a lot. It’s not.
Dad said to read as much or as little as I wanted to from each section, “You’ll find a flow,” he said long ago. Although it may seem random, he was right. It was as though the words began to jump off the page and sew themselves around the rough edges of my heart. It was so amazing to me that I began to write the “conversations” I was hearing down. Can you believe I’ve filled close to two hundred journals since then? My husband says, “What am I supposed to do with all these if you die first?”
But this morning when I opened my Book, it all fell apart. I don’t think superglue will hold it together, although the book holds me together. I guess I’ll need to have it rebound, but I can hardly stand the thought of having to part with it. It’s like a friend, it’s my Talking Book!
When I told my friend Nancy Erickson that I call the Bible my Talking Book she told me a story about her uncle who worked in the Congo. She comes from a long line of Missionaries, and her life with her husband, Marc, has been so beautiful and fascinating, just like they are, I decided to write a book about it. It’s called the Days of the Small Things and it’s coming along. I hope to have the first draft completed by the end of this summer. There, if I say it, maybe I’ll succeed.
But anyway, there weren’t any Bibles in the Congo where Nancy’s uncle was living. He learned the language of the people he was working with. But because they couldn’t read and there weren’t any Bibles in their language anyway, can you imagine he made recordings out of little boxes and needles and threads of his voice reading scripture in their language? Just think how surprised and amazed the people were. They really had Talking Books!
But I have to say, my own broken Bible has felt the same way. It’s as if a Voice were speaking to me. It’s surprising and amazing, like my rose bush which comes back with more buds and blossoms, fuller and stronger every year. That’s what reading the Bible is like. A perennial Rosebush!
I know some people I know think it’s an antiquated book written by a bunch of old men that are now long gone, it’s irrelevant or boring, out of date at best. I guess you have to take God at His Word.
When you hear someone say, or are taught—or maybe someone makes you a little recorder thingy—how the Spirit of God breathed Life and Truth and Hope and Love and Mercy and Grace and Comedy and Tragedy and Philosophy, Poetry and Story into its pages, you might want to pay attention.
You might hear Someone talking to you, just like Jesus talked to the Woman at the Well, or to Jairus after his daughter died, or to the rich man, or to Peter after he felt so crushed for betraying Him (Jesus) after he (Peter) had given him his word that he wouldn’t. But after that little screw up, Peter was the first disciple Jesus went to once he had risen from the Tomb, and He had nothing to offer Peter but love and grace. He didn’t slap his hand or ridicule him for being a lousy friend.
Grace is an interesting thing, isn’t it?
Lastly, along with my plan to start at the beginning once again, I’ve returned to one of my faithful old Devotionals. The classic edition of My Utmost for His Highest because it never ceases to challenge me, and every year I read it, just like the Bible, it’s as if I’m reading it for the first time. (How does the Spirit do that? He just does.) It’s no different than the way God makes us brand new.
Chambers says, “The grace you had yesterday will not do for today.”
Say what? But he goes on, “Grace is the overflowing favor of God; you can always reckon it is there to draw upon.” Phew! But, “In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses—that is where the test for patience comes. Are you failing the grace of God there?…Prayer is the exercise of drawing on the grace of God.”
Are we drawing on the grace of God in our moments of need? Because that’s when it’s hard. That’s when we’re vulnerable. It’s so easy to lose patience.
Just give a glance God’s way. That’s all it takes to begin to live in a brand new way, with peace. A way of faith and hope and love. And Joy! It’s the one way to draw on grace. It’s such a small thing that makes an extra-ordinary difference. Taste and see as they say, open the Book and let me know if it talks!
Woman at the Well—John 4:1-26
Peter’s Betrayal—Luke 22:54-62
The Rich Man—Mark 10:17-31
Jairus’s Daughter—Luke 8:41-58