Friday, June 12, 2009

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes

My brother Jake gave me a major epiphany last week. I was over at my mom's when he asked me if I'd ever read all the way through the Bible. I told him that I have three times, and I'm working on my fourth. That turned into a half hour conversation about where to start reading the Bible (with the Gospels, not Genesis because Leviticus will make you throw up your hands in despair) and how to deal with all of the rules in Leviticus-Deuteronomy (the first time you read them skim Leviticus and Numbers looking for the bits of stories and read Deuteronomy all the way through because it really rehashes the previous three books and distills them down to their essence). I told him about how amazing the book of Psalms is because the emotions in it are still what we feel today. I grabbed Mom's Bible and made him read Psalm 55 because it deals with being surrounded by enemies and how awful that can feel and equated it with how he feels about the bullies at school. We discussed some of the language, and he was surprised at how well it captured his hurt and anger. I told him about the prophecies about Jesus within the Psalms and how He used words from them on the cross. When I finally headed for home, he was sitting on the bed looking through the Psalms, and I had a fire in my heart and a smile on my face.

I realized then that sometime in the last six months I have fallen completely in love with the Bible. It was a strange and wonderful feeling and completely unexpected. I tried reading the Bible straight through several times many years ago, but whenever I would get to Leviticus I would get bogged down by the endless rules. When I started teaching Sunday School six years ago, I figured if I was going to talk the talk, I'd better walk the walk, so I elicited my dad's advice on where to start (with Matthew) and dove in. I also started journaling my discoveries (I'm currently on my eighth journal). When I was somewhere in Luke, I came to Jesus and gave myself to Him with all of my heart. It took just over a year, but I did make it all the way through the Bible. So I started again. In the years since, I've read with intermittent frequency; sometimes I read regularly every night, other times I wouldn't pick it up for months. During a time last year when I was angry with God about my illness, I read the Bible every night, but didn't write in my journal because I wasn't speaking to Him. I didn't realize that's what I was doing until I walked out of that valley, but during that time the Bible was dry and dusty. I kept reading, but it felt like a battle. Nothing felt relevant to me or my life, and the words had no personal meaning for me. I kept on slogging away.

For my fourth time through, I started in Genesis this time, reading three chapters and one Psalm each night. Sometime between me the third and fourth time, I fell in love, passionately, with the Word. I've read the words of theologians and writers who talk about their love for the Bible, but I assumed that they were feeling what I always had: a love for God that translated into the reading of His Word because it was the right thing to do. David talks over and over in the Psalms about his love for God's laws and commands, but he was a man after God's own heart. I figured that had to be a fluke too; it didn't relate to me. The Lord has proved me wrong, and I am so grateful! The stories are coming to life, and even Leviticus' dry laws gave me insight into the character of my Creator. I look forward to my time in it each day, immersing myself in the Word. It's always in my heart and on my mind. I've found that often when I mentally tussling with a problem, the Holy Spirit whispers Scripture into my ear, and I find direction or comfort. Even when I was struggling through my reading and not enjoying it, the words still stuck with me, arming me with the sword of the Spirit.

10 pm every night for years has been my Bible time. The kids know if they walk by our room, I will be curled up with the Bible in front of me, journal, pen, and highlighter in easy reach. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Jesse if he wanted me to read out loud with him each night. I was in the book of Joshua, and the Israelites were defeating the tribes within the promised land. I read from my Bible, and he opened to a map in his to get a visual idea of what was going on. I've never had so much fun reading the Bible! He asked questions, I interjected things I had learned in other readings, and we talked about what was happening each night. As soon as we started reading together, we found practical uses for what we were learning. It seems that every day something happens that we were able to apply the Scripture to from the night before. I can't begin to tell you how fulfilling it has been to read the Bible every night with my husband and then see us both growing in the Word.

10 pm quickly became a time we both looked forward to and treasured each night. Even though he falls asleep shortly after we're done reading, and I continue reading my devotionals and usually stay up until after midnight, it feels like we're ending our day together. The last two night Jesse's been doing some work in Green Bay and didn't get home until close to 11 pm. On the way home both nights, he asked me to not start reading without him, and of course, I waited for him! Even though it was nearly midnight before we got started, we never considered skipping it for the night. I am so excited that the man I love is falling in love with the Word like I have. This is something that will revolutionize our marriage and lives, if we let it. I've heard that there are three stages to reading the Bible: First, the "cod-liver-oil" stage, when it is taken like medicine; second, the "shredded-wheat" stage, when it is nourishing but dry; and third, the "peaches-and-cream" stage when it is savored with exquisite delight. (I'm not sure if Rev. John H. Hampsch originated this, but it was on his site that I found it again). I'm loving peaches-and-cream, how about you?

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes
by Robin Jones Gunn is the latest in her fantastic Sisterchicks series. Each stand-alone book features a pair of women in an exotic location learning about God, friendship, and themselves. When Summer Finley gets word from her doctor about an abnormal mammogram, she decides to take a break from her carefully ordered life and fly to The Netherlands to visit her lifelong pen pal Noelle Van Zandt. The two girls were paired up as pen pals in third grade, and in the 35 years since have gone from paper to email without ever speaking on the phone or seeing each other in person. Their relationship has weathered miscarriages, adoptions, grief, and heartache, and Summer does not want to live another day without seeing her best friend. The two have some wild adventures aboard a runaway wooden shoe-boat and learn about the Holocaust when visiting Corrie ten Boom's house, but the greatest lessons come from their time together. I am a huge fan of the Sisterchicks series, but I think that this one just may be one of my favorites (along with Sisterchicks Do the Hula). Both women are dealing with some serious issues, but their friendship and faith bring both of them to breakthroughs. Gunn describes the Dutch and their beautiful country with elegance and charm. This is a book to read and then pass on to your best friend!

Koreen Peterson was the lucky winner of this book; congrats to her! I'll be starting a new book contest on Monday. I'm looking forward to the first weekend that will feel like summer instead of late fall! Jesse bought me some new windchimes for the front porch, so I can't wait to sit out on my glider and listen to them, especially the bamboo one!