Lenten Discipline: Picking and Choosing

I remember when I got my first Bible.  I was determined to start at Genesis 1:1 and read the whole thing through.  I was sure that was what I was supposed to do.  After all, that’s the way you read a book, right?  Well, I have to confess that that never happened.  In fact, it’s now more than forty years later and it STILL hasn’t happened.  I’ve taught Bible studies and got an M.Div. from seminary and it STILL didn’t happen.  In fact, I’ve never sat down and read the whole Bible at all.  (Shhh!)  (It’s sort of like the way you accidentally hit the wrong button and publish a blog before you’re ready, right?  So, for those who only got half an email, just call it a spiritual teaser.  I know you couldn’t wait for me to finish my thought and write the whole thing through!)
Maynard, the Bible Eater
One day a couple of months ago, I came out into the living room and was greeted with Maynard (my dog) eating a Bible.  Yes, he ate a Bible!  I’m not sure what to think about that.  When I told people what had happened, they just looked at me in amazement.  He ATE a Bible?  The question was always the same: Did he eat the whole thing?  No, I responded, he’s just like the rest of us–just picking and choosing what he wants to digest.  Actually, I’m not so sure that’s NOT the way that we’re supposed to read the Scriptures.  After all, it’s not meant to be a historical narrative.  We don’t plow through it trying to memorize each and every detail.  (Note:  This is not going to be on the test!) 

Spiritual reading is more about entering the text than it is memorizing it (or, for that matter, even fully understanding it!  Remember Nicodemus?).  And the place through which we enter is different for each one of us and is different from day to day or hour to hour for each of us.  We are reading to be formed and transformed.  We must enter in the place where God reveals Godself to us through the Scriptures.  And I suppose that involves a bit of picking and choosing.  Read the words and then let God’s Spirit wash over you.  Do not worry so much about becoming a Biblical scholar.  (After all, remember that this is not the whole story!)  Just read so that your heart, rather than your head, becomes full.

Plumbing the Depths

In her book, Soul Feast, Marjorie Thompson says that “scripture has been compared to a lake whose depths have never been fully plumbed.  On the surface it looks like any other lake; that is, we see human words like those in other books.  But when we jump into the lake and begin to swim downward, we may be unable to find the bottom.  It is as if those human words become transparent to some mysterious and infinite depth we can never fully grasp…God has chosen to be bound to the words of Scripture; in and through them, the Holy One comes near…Scripture is both God’s Word and human words.  It is part of God’schosen self-revelation, simultaneously familiar and strange…It is not that the words magically or mechanically contain God’s presence, but that as we allow the same Spirit through which the Scriptures were written to inform our listening, the presence of God in and beyond those words becomes alive for us once more.” (In Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, Marjorie Thompson, p. 19-20)

So pick and choose the words where you can this day enter the Word.  Dive in and let God’s Presence come alive for you.  This is your story.  It is not complete.  Which chapter is yours to add?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

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