Never in January
A year ago I set out to read the whole Bible. That's nothing new; I've begun to read the whole Bible every other year for about 28 years-emphasis on "begun." But with all the best intentions, I was never able to finish my annual program of Scripture-reading-until this year. A few months ago, I closed my Bible with a feeling of immense satisfaction: I had finally read it through, all 66 books, all in a year.
This time I can truthfully say that I never dragged myself dutifully on to the next chapters. I loved it and it pulled me back day after day. What made this attempt different? I'm certain God's Spirit provided the inspiration, because I was the same stumbling Christian I have always been. But I did decide to take a more creative approach to my "walk through the Word."
I didn't begin in January. I simply let the Spirit push me into it "any time now." I began in July.
I started in Hosea and read to the end of the Old Testament. I knew what had become of my efforts before when I had started quite literally, "in the beginning." I also knew there were chunks of the minor prophets I had never laid eyes on. There's something intriguing about unknown territory.
I didn't try to read books in sequence. After Leviticus, I was ready for some adventure in Acts. I completed one book before I began another, except for the Psalms and Proverbs which I read in scattered chunks whenever I wanted to.
I felt free to skim repetitive sections (like genealogies and censuses). But I did skim carefully enough to catch any unusual information that might have been stuck in unexpectedly.
I didn't divide the Bible into 365 equal segments. Sufficient to the day was the amount I could make time for. I have discovered when using daily reading guides that nothing kills my incentive like falling a few days behind and feeling under pressure to "catch up."
I kept my Bible handy. I often dropped it in my purse if I thought I might have reading time while I was out. At home, the Bible belonged on the kitchen counter, opened to the right place. Many times it called me away from dishwashing and into my easy chair.
I often took along only the Bible as reading material. This has been true for times as short as a ten-minute wait in the doctor's office and as long as a week's vacation. A bookaholic needs no encouragement to pick up something, anything, to read. And when there's only one book at hand, the choice is clear. And who can resist it?
All of those helped, but here was the most important difference from other efforts to read through the Bible. This time, I became a hunter, and my blue highlighter was my weapon. The prey was God's attributes. I set out to underline everything the Bible says about God (didn't want to set my sights too narrow!). I made blue stripes through all the names of God, word pictures about him, what he likes and dislikes, how he reacts to faithfulness and to sin. I was on my third pen when I finished.
This "hunt for God" was irresistible to me. It drew me like a magnet. And once I was inside the pages, it kept my mind moving-no more drowsing and waking up two chapters later.
My Bible's flyleaves are filled with lists. As I read, I found I didn't want to lose what I was finding out about God. I made lists of God's names (I found over 200 names, phrases and variations that referred to him), Jesus' names (about 140), and the Spirit's names (about 35). There is also a list of pictures used to describe God (shepherd, potter, eagle, farmer, husband, nursing mother . . . ). Another list is of references for passages so beautiful I knew I'd want to find them again.
I used my "finds" to focus my thoughts on God. From my daily reading, I could choose a name or description of God and think of him in those terms all day. For instance, on a vacation afternoon when my four boys had been out of school one day too long, it helped to know God as a Rock who cannot be shaken. Or when we couldn't see our way clear toward a decision we had to make, we still knew that God is our Light and our Salvation.
This year? I recently picked up an inexpensive paperback Bible and a new pink marking pen. This year I think I'll hunt for God's presence—all the times and circumstances when he promises he will be with us, that he will not leave us.