04 August 2009

Bread of Life, Living Water, Balm for the Soul, etc.

I wanted to write about something I find has radically changed my life. The introduction of it into my day has changed parenting, marriage, housekeeping, thinking, reading, even eating and driving. It has made life calmer, more peaceful, more productive and more beautiful.

It's Bible study.

Really.

I won't embarrass myself by revealing how little I have actually read the Bible (when not required) throughout my life, including during the 7 years I was a pastor. Suffice to say -- not much. In fact, it is only recently that Bible study has become a regular part of my life. And I have to say, I finally understand all of the phrases in the title of this post, as well as the others that describe the Good Book. Seriously. I HUNGER for more. I wake up in the morning eager to read the Bible! I find myself taking little moments through the day to read. I try to force myself to stay up late so I can re-read. I want to memorize scripture and have it in my head! It's amazing! After years of yearning for something more and knowing that I needed to open myself to Jesus through regular Scripture study, I've finally made it a regular part of my life. And I will testify -- there is just absolutely nothing that compares to meeting the presence of the Living Christ revealed in The Word. NOTHING!!!

I know that lots of you have always known that Bible study is a good thing and you saw folks in your family, your churches, your schools, etc. modelling Bible-reading and you might find all of this to be very elementary. But for those who are struggling, I'd like to share some things that have finally enabled this change in my life...

1. I am working on my perfectionism.
Shortly before Emmeliese was born, I realized that I was letting the Enemy use my perfectionism in all sorts of destructive ways. This is the most important change in trying to establish Bible-reading habits because there's grace in the process now. That's huge.

2. It doesn't matter what time of day I read the Bible.

For years, I struggled with Bible study because I had somehow bought into the lie that Bible reading is most effective in the morning before everything else. I somehow never managed to get up before everything else began and, being a perfectionist, decided if I couldn't do it right, I wouldn't do it at all.

3. It doesn't matter what version of the Bible I read.
I am a seminary-trained snob who knows that it would probably be best to read the Bible in some equivalent translation. But halfway through some epistle I'd find myself thinking about my walking shoes. In my perfectionism, I just ended up reading nothing. I've realized that if I am not very familiar with a passage, a timeline, or the emotion behind it, it helps me to read it first in The Message and read until I understand the basics. Then I re-read and study in the NASB. I journal in the NIV. I throw the NRSV and the NKJV in there pretty often, too.

4. Where and how I read the Bible doesn't matter.
I couldn't stick with the Lectionary and the One-Year Bible patterns. When I finally picked up the little New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs I had in The Message, I read through Acts from start to finish. Turns out I had never actually just read through it. Then I went through Romans. And then Galatians. And then on. It was exciting to actually know for sure what was in there. It was amazing to grasp Paul's passion and conviction. It was wonderful to get a sense of sequence, which is something I've never achieved just reading piece-by-peace. On the other hand, I jump around in the Psalms and sometimes in Proverbs.

5. I give myself freedom to explore more, if I want...or not
Over the past few weeks, I've been studying the Fruits of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5. I have been systematic in the approach -- looking up the Greek words, finding out where those words are used elsewhere, writing out scriptures, cross-referencing, comparing translations, etc. It's a slow process. On the other hand, a few weeks ago, I just wanted to get some info in my head about Acts. I just re-read the portions I wanted to read, quickly, in one sitting. After I'm done with the Fruits, I think I'm going to chronicle Paul's journeys on a little time-line. Yeah, I know I can find that online, but the discipline of looking things up is what I'm interested in right now. Again, for me, it is more important to be doing it, than to be doing it "correctly" every time.

6. I incorporate the kids
I don't think I would be doing any Bible study if I hadn't realized I could incorporate the kiddos into it. We read from the Psalms at breakfast, the discuss the psalm during breakfast, then after Breakfast is over and cleaned up, we all get our Bibles out. Annalivia has a Preschool Bible. Daniel has a Toddler Bible. They both have those and pads of paper and a pen in Bible covers. We all spread out our Bibles at the table. They look at their pictures and draw. I look at mine, read, and write. Annalivia and I can usually spend a good half-hour at this. Daniel is usually done in about 15-20 minutes, but as long as he's done some "studying" I let him play. It has been very helpful.

7. I don't expect to hit 100%
This is probably the biggest change. I expect that some days Emmeliese will not take a nap or will not want to be in the bouncy chair long enough to enable a long post-breakfast study. Some nights I'm too tired to read before bed. Some mornings, we do something other than Psalms before breakfast. It's all ok. There's freedom now. I've gotten a taste and I'm seeing God's goodness. I'm not going to put this down. The Word keeps calling to me. I'll keep answering it.

If you have any wisdom regarding Bible study to share, I'd love to read it!

11 comments:

Violet said...

I am so excited with you, April, as you taste and see how wonderful God's Word is! I went to Bible school, was a missionary and had read and studied "in depth" for many years, but yet the Word has really come alive to me in the past few years.

I really hear you on the perfectionism thing. Something that helps me when I "get behind" is listening to Scripture on CD or online. At other times I have used a chronological Bible and just read through it like I would a normal book. That really helps me to see the flow of things and the centrality of Christ through it all. I would have loved to have been with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus when Christ "beginning at Moses and all the prophets...expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." I echo their conversation after Jesus had left them: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" That's what I hear you saying in this post as well.

One last thing I like to do before reading is to pray Psalm 119:18 - "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." He always answers.

Jer. 15:16 - "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts."

Enjoy the feast!

Holly said...

April, I, too have such a hunger! I am loving reading about your journey.

Nuevacantora said...

I love this post. I have the same problem with regular Bible Study that I do with Lenten disciplines - once I miss a day or two, I feel guilty about starting up again. You piece about perfectionism probably sums that up.

What Bibles do the kids have? We're a while off from that, but I'd love to hear what you like!

April said...

Susie...

I updated the post with links to what we have. I reviewed the Toddler Bible here.

The Preschool Bible is, in my opinion, not great because it stays on a very simplistic level. But for our purposes after breakfast and in church (i.e. nice illustrations), it's ok.

April said...

I meant to respond to all at the same time, but had a fussy baby. Sorry.

Violet -- great input and wonderful verses. Thanks. And Holly, thank you. I'll maybe coordinate an email someday.

beautyinallthings said...

I have struggled with perfectionism too. I think you would enjoy my last weeks entry about it. Here is the link.http://beautyinallthings.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/how-my-souls-lover-has-wooed-me-with-his-love-letter/

Thanks for sharing!
Cherry Blossom

Denise said...

Very thought provoking.

nuevacantora said...

Thanks April!

-M said...

Yes! Love you. God is so good.

Tonya said...

I'm with you. I grew up with parents who studied, valued and encouraged memorization of Scripture and man oh man does it make a difference. I love how you are incorporating your kids into your study time. I never thought of doing that but I would love to see if I can make it work for us. We usually do our family devotion at breakfast, but we'll see how that works out this year with "Screechy" around.

April said...

I'll always be grateful for your posts detailing how you incorporate Bible and life, Tonya. I'm trying to get together your scripture memorization recommendation. I'll let you know how it goes.