Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back to My Bloggy World

For those of you who want to know how the birthday away from the kids went, it was wonderful. I was pampered at a spa and stayed with Dear Husband at a B&B in downtown Atlanta. And spent several hours in a bookstore, one of my rare indulgences.

Ah, so brief are life's pleasures. My MIL is back in Arizona, and our house is quickly returning to its usual state of chaos. DramaQueen is on antibiotics for strep throat, and I'm watching Firecracker carefully for signs that she's heading down that path as well. No seizures since we've doubled her dose of Keppra. Also, no sleep. She doesn't see any need for it.

Today I thought it might be time to get off my heathen butt and read from the Bible. Doing so, I was struck by something I have so often thought reading scripture--this is really boring. I know that many people just love to delve into scripture. Today I opened to Nehemiah 12:44-46. Whenever I pray before I open up the Bible I end up somewhere so wildly inappropriate to my circumstances that I wonder if God is poking fun at me. Or maybe it's not supposed to be appropriate to my circumstances. Sometimes I wonder about all this "practical" application. A lot of the Bible doesn't seem all that practical to me. A lot of it just seems really weird and alien. Perhaps while we're at it we could look for a practical application of Wuthering Heights.

So, why is the Bible never as interesting as a novel? I'm sure many who read this will feel differently. I see it listed in the favorites section of blogger profiles. I'm in a web ring of ministers, who must enjoy the Bible on a regular basis. What do you do with, say, Leviticus, the most tedious instruction manual ever penned? And then there's Proverbs, which has always struck me as the book of pithy sayings about the bleeding obvious.

Besides the Gospels, my favorite book of the Bible is probably Ecclesiastes. No surprise there, I imagine. Eugene Peterson calls it a "witness to this experience of futility." Being a cup half-empy kind of person, I can readily hum along to that tune. I only read Ecclesiastes after realizing that The House of Mirth and The Golden Bowl took their titles from there. Dear Husband recommended it, too, since he thought it would resonate with my generally morose state of mind.

But, you know, I would probably rather read The House of Mirth.


  1. I think it has a lot to do with our culture. The books we enjoy are meant to be interesting to us, and written with that specific goal in mind. Somehow, I imagine the writers of the Bible had different motives behind their penmanship. Even the great stories in the Bible lose something in the language. Instead of "Jonah swam with all his might, but was overcome by the fish. He could feel the creature's insides scraping against his skin as it engulfed him, the stomach acids eating into his flesh;" we get "God appointed a fish to swallow Jonah and he was in its belly for three days." Not exactly best-seller material.

    The verbage of the Bible is so straight-forward and non-descript, that we are forced to come up with the context ourselves to make the stories more meaningful to us. I don't know about you, but I'm not used to working that hard for what I read.

  2. I'm afraid I'm with you there. I have been a christian since I was 5 years old. But at my age of 40 something I am having a hard time finding the bible to be interseting. I tend to fall asleep or find my mind wandering when I read. I suppose some would say that it's the enemy working and not wanting me to grasp and enjoy the word of God. I would rather read something from Shakespeare . Bad I know.

  3. It's nice that you had a great day.
    I think reading the bible against reading a novel depends on the person. The Bible may not be as interesting to us but it may be like a novel to others.

  4. BA,

    Having just finished the Bible in 90 Days thing, I can tell you, a LOT of it was darn boring. I didn't mind Leviticus, so much, but by the 7th time you are reading the same instruction manual, (which was repeated so frequently one has to wonder if things would have been easier for God if he had just given the Israelites a file cabinet...) I was ready to chew my own hand off. Ok, not that bad, but boy my mind would wander.

    I will say, though, that I am very glad I did it. It shows the whole scope and breadth of the Israelite experience with God... and for me as a Christian, really made clear what the ministry of Jesus was about... and why it was so incredibly radical. So even though I might have daydreamed through much of the Hebrew Scriptures (and much of the Letters, too, for that matter) I came away grateful for having done it. And will probably do it again, although not at that pace, LOL.

  5. Parts of the Bible are indeed boring to the minds and sensibilities of us 21st century folk, there's just no getting around it, so why should we pretend it's not true.

    I think part of the problem is that in many cases we've been taught in our churches (particularly if we grew up as evengelicals) that the Bible is and does something that it was never meant to be and do. Sometimes there seems to be this assumption that every time we open God's Word we should get deep inspiration from it and just exactly what our souls need for that point in time. And don't get me wrong, that can indeed happen, and I'm grateful for the times when it does, but to expect that always from the Bible in all parts of it is unrealistic, and makes the Bible into something it isn'e meant to be.

    It is in fact a diverse book of many different genres of literature, written over centuries, from cultures mostly very different from our own. It is not primarily a devotional or instructional book, although one can certainly get devotional inspiration and instruction for one's life from it. But what the Bible really is, first and foremost, is a story, a story of God's dealings with humankind in general, and with the Jews specifically, across the ages.

    That's why what Rachel said above is key. She got the sense of the whole sweep of the story, and it made her glad she did it. That's the way to read the Bible, some, day after day, regardless of whether it's an interesting part or not, reading with an eye and an ear to seeing how this part or that part fits into the whole story. To "sound bite" parts of the Bible for whatever reason, be it prooftexting, or whatever, can end up being risky business, because it divorces it from its context.

    This is one of the reasons why the chapter and verse divisions were a bad idea (IMO). They chop the text up artificially, often where it isn't meant to be chopped, this making reading in context that much more difficult. You mentioned Eugene Peterson. You will notice that in his "The Message" translation, there are no verse divisions. This is very intentional. Peterson know that we need to return the Bible to what it is meant to be....

    And finally, let me state, lest anyone confuse or read my comments here the wrong way: I DO believe the Bible is God's inspired Word.

    I just don't treat it like I was brought up to anymore.

    For whatever this was worth.

  6. Glad you had a good birthday. Welcome back. And I've nothing to add on the Bible front because they all pretty much hit it.

  7. Sounds like you had a nice time for your Birthday. you more than deserved it...

  8. Maybe the reason why the Bible is boring to you is that you are a romantic and an intellectual rather than a realist. The Bible appeals neither romantically nor intellectually (although the King James Version is an example of good writing, according to [somebody] Zimmer, an ex-Harvard writing teacher). It probably only appeals to realists (the terms "romantic," intellectual," and "realist" describing personality types according to Dr. Abraham A. Low.)

  9. I have had lots of luck with a bible study group . We read a book of the bible chapter-by-chapter each week. When I joined we were working through the minor prophets, then we took some time to do a book-based bible study for the spring and now we're deciding where to start again.
    I feel like I am learning more this way than I ever have before in my own reading.

  10. I think the breaktrhough in reading scripture was to treat it like a novel. I read Isaiah in 3 days. Or take Hosea and read it cover to cover in a day. It's fun and it doesn't matter that you don't understand each word or thought, just read it for pleasure.

    I think it CAN be boring but usually that's related to my attitude. Reading the Bible in 90 days was a huge effort for me (and many revGals who are ministers say they've never read the Bible cover to cover) but I'm really glad I did it.

  11. PS I love Nehemiah. He's my hero. A manof prayer and a man of action. Yes. I want to be a female version of him (when I grow up!)

  12. I love Eugene Peterson!
    I read the Message sometimes and think to myself: This guy really gets it!! The gospel is really as simple as he explains it!

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