Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Lazy, Distracted Woman's Guide to Bible Reading

As a follow-up to the previous "ode to the Bible" post, I'm game to offer this, my guide to Bible reading. I am definitely not an expert – not by a long shot. I just know what works for me. And you may already be a champion Scripture reader. But on the off-chance that anyone needs a little nudge, here's my two cents.

Dear lazy, distracted woman, 

When is the best time to read my Bible?

When you will read it. I like morning best, because if I don't do it then, I'm likely to get busy with other things and forget. I also like mornings best because there's coffee, which for some reason I associate with personal Bible study time.

There are so many versions – which one should I read?
Just pick one and go to town!
The one you enjoy reading. There are a gazillion versions, all slightly different, each with a different fan base. The first one I read all the way through was the Good News Bible. Remember that one from the 1970s? It was also sold in paperback as Good News for Modern Man, a New Testament-only tome. I thought this one would be easier to read – what with me being modern – but in the end I moved on to prefer the New International Version... Since the pastor at my church used it to preach from, it sounded most familiar, and I still think the language is quite lovely. Of course, for poetic-sounding verse, the King James Version can't be beat. The Message is pretty casual and contemporary sounding – lots of people love it. There's a new one called The Voice that my friend Grace ADORES. But again, the one I recommend is the one that will hold your attention.

How often should I read the Bible?
As often as you can. Having a routine is good. My goal is a bit every day, but sometimes I don't make it. Vacations. Crazy days at the Moore house. Most Sundays. Just do the best you can.

How much should I read each time?
I still love those groovy drawings from
Good News For Modern Man.
However much you want to. Read a different amount each time according to your whims, or follow some kind of routine. There are systems you can follow – like these on Biblegateway.com. There are topical studies, too. I like to read the whole thing all the way through from start to finish. That way I'm sure I haven't left anything out. A chapter a day is about all I can manage. I know that chapter divisions are fake, but they are still pretty good bite-sized portions. Not too long, not too short. During one busy, stressed out season, I was reading chapter portions – from subhead to subhead! The advantage to biting off a tiny amount is that you can really concentrate and get the taste of it. If you read a bunch at once, conversely, you can get a good overview of what is going on. Bible verses and stories sometimes don't make any sense when you aren't aware of what they are nestled twixt.

What if I forget to read my Bible?
Don't sweat it. See above. That book's not going anywhere. Go back to it tomorrow. Or the next day. Pray to remember!

What if I don't feel like reading my Bible?
Well, you can either do it anyway, or just skip it for that day. I'm thinking that one thing you DON'T want is for it to feel like a daily chore that you have to check off your list. I mean, you don't HAVE to do it. NO ONE is keeping score. That said, it sometimes DOES feel that way anyway. In this case, it feels like I'm walking a sort of easy, voluntary tightrope between making a gesture to declare my intentions, establish a habit, and snuggle up to the Almighty, versus feeling like if I don't do it, I'm damned, or not a good Christian, or something. I'm not even sure what I just said. It's just that reading the Bible is a choice... a choice that leads to something good... and because we are human and tired, and busy and lazy and distracted, sometimes we just don't want to do it. But sometimes you choose it anyway, but you can always know that you don't have to. And pray to feel like it! (In my case, I usually do it anyway, because often, if I wait to FEEL like doing something, it'll never get done!)

What if I don't have time to read the Bible?
It is counterintuitive (like most things in the Kingdom of God,) but the busier I am, the more I need the time I spend with God. This quiet time of being still sort of centers me. It makes me sort of able to take what comes during the busy day. To paraphrase Martin Luther – I'm so busy, I need to spend extra time praying so I can get it all done! If you like to have a verse to back up things here it is: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food, drink, clothes, time...] will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

What if I get distracted?
You will! Just go back to it. Pray for focus! And if you figure out how NOT to get distracted during Bible reading please share with the group!

What if I have questions?
You will! Ask God. Ask a friend. Ask your pastor. Consult a commentary. One time I asked Facebook! I got all sorts of unexpected people chiming in on my question. It was like being in a virtual Bible study. It was awesome.

I love the Oxford
book of anything!
Should I also read commentaries?
Do you want to? Do you have any? Can you get your hands on some? I usually just read the little footnotes at the bottom of my NIV Bible. They are EXCELLENT for giving context and language tips and all. It has been my experience that if you read the Bible enough, you will have questions and WANT to explore. Again, none of this is mandatory.

What will I learn?
Whatever God wants you to learn! Pray for wisdom and revelation. Not everything you read will be easy or comforting, but it will be worthwhile... and true.

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