What is your first experience with the Bible?

When I write a book, it comes after years of experience, research, and writing in a particular area. I wrote a novel set in Uganda where I lived seven years and listened for hours on end to stories of ordinary and extraordinary Ugandans. I wrote a book on a doctor in Honduras after interviewing and conferring with more than one hundred people.

I’m researching for an upcoming book and I need your help to understand the wide range of experience people have with the Bible.

My experience with the Bible began in the 1970s when I was given my first King James Version Bible by my parents, Terrel and Charlotte Taylor. In the featured image of this post is the title page where my Mom wrote, “[Presented to] Gregory Taylor [by] Dad and Mom: We love you and pray that you will always want to study God’s Word and follow what it says. May God bless you. November 6, 1975. 

While I heard Old Testament stories from Bible class teachers as examples of faith, that two thirds of my first Bible seems untouched, unread. I read and marked New Testament passages about belief and baptism. For those first few years of my experience with the Bible, I wanted to believe and be baptized so I could go to heaven when I died and not go to hell.

To say that I read the Bible with confusion and fear would be an understatement. Anselm’s motto, “Faith seeking understanding” is a good description of my search for God as an eight year old. My early experiences were also marked with what felt like failure. We were given reading plans and encouraged to read the whole Bible. I never did, and tripped up weeks into any plan, growing bored, confused, and feeling like I was missing something.

One last and important thing: As Adam and Eve had a competing desire and sinned, so also in those early years I was introduced to a competing desire and sinned. I was living the early Bible story already and didn’t realize it. Television images, girls, and a magazine that my neighbor, aptly named Adam, pulled us breathlessly into the woods to show my brother and me competed with the words of God for my imagination. Doubts would come later, and I’ll write more about doubt and this competing for my imagination in my book.

What is your first experience with the Bible? I’m looking for brief responses about your first experience with the Bible, and I may contact you for an interview by phone about your other experiences. You are welcome to respond on comments below, or send email to gregtaylormail@gmail.com. Answer the question, “What was my first experience with the Bible?” as deeply and honestly as you can.

Thank you, and I look forward to your responses!

Greg

Reading the Times

For a long time I’ve been a “reader of the Times.” Yes, I read the NY Times occasionally, but I’m talking about another reading of the times. There’s a manner of speaking that we “read the times” by staying aware of the news and what God is doing in the world. I do that occasionally, too. But I’m talking about another way of reading the times.

The kind of reading the times I’m talking about is that I use the date as a guide for Bible reading, using the number to correspond and direct my reading. In this way I respond to the invitation of God to listen to His voice through the Word daily and regularly in a way that keeps me moving through His story over and over.

There are hundreds of methods of Bible reading, but this one I keep coming back to. It goes something like this:

Today is August 15.

I divide the Psalms by 30 days to read five psalms a day. Lots of people do this, it’s nothing new, but doing it, memorizing, reflecting, praying these Scriptures is tried and true and the most ancient of spiritual practices of Israel and the church. It’s a tried and true method, but it’s only true when tried.

I try to read an Old Testament book daily and a New Testament book daily. There are 39 OT books and 27 NT books, so basically I use the day to pick a book.

So on August 15, I would read Psalms 71-75, Ezra, and 1 Timothy. I don’t worry if I missed yesterday, because yesterday’s book will come around again next month and the month after that.

You may wonder if I read straight through the Chronicles, running my eyes over all the name lists. No. I skim those and read for the story, stopping at places, making notes, enjoying a prayer of David or a song of Moses.

This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with the reading I do for preaching. It has nothing and everything to do with the way I live my life. It has nothing and everything to do with what’s going to happen in my day. It has nothing and everything to do with what happened in Egypt yesterday. It has nothing and everything to do with politics. It has nothing and everything to do with how I treat my neighbor. This kind of reading has nothing and everything to do with how I relate to my wife and children, my co-workers.

When I read these books tied to a date, the only thing that matters is that I’m reading Holy Scripture and Holy Scripture when read, matters. It doesn’t have to be crammed into relevance in my life. What I learn when I read Holy Scripture is that my life is not what matters, and that my life truly matters.

In reading Holy Scripture, I learn that my life is consumed in the life of God. I learn that God’s story must become my story, that my story is a drop in the ocean. I learn that I am a bucket (I use this to mean vessel but it’s a little easier for us to picture today) that may contain God but realizes containing God is impossible, that God exists and is experienced outside of me infinitely, and I am learning to enjoy that, to desire to get my bucket in the ocean to float, sink, be surrounded by God and not “merely” inviting Him into my life. God invites me into His life.

God invites you into His life. Repeatedly, He said, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Then in Christ incarnate He came to make that invitation personal to a bunch of fishermen. Come, follow me.

The Chosen

Cover of "The Chosen"

Cover of The Chosen

Chaim Potok’s The Chosen is one of my favorite books. The story is about two teenagers growing up in WWII era New York City. The story is about two boys and their fathers who are from two different Jewish sects. The boys were taught to fear and demonize the other, until they meet on a softball field and one hurts the other in a way that brings them together and changes their lives forever.

Between the Ditches of Manifestos and Non-Sense

Ditch. Neatly cut ditch

Image via Wikipedia

Blogs fall into the ditches of either trying to write Manifestos or blithering over non-sense and slathering opinion about everything from politics to sports to fashion. I’ve tried over the years not to fall into these ditches. Granted, I write about a variety of things, and I try to keep this blog filled with original writing not just copied or quoted stuff, but I’m attempting to keep it to my experience.

Let me give an example. When I was a missionary in Uganda, we missionaries would often observe the nation we lived in and ask why the government didn’t just do this or that. We probably felt we had some answers, but the fact is we weren’t in position to really solve national problems. We had enough trouble just helping a small band of Christ-followers in a handful of churches to move forward.

In the same way, the blog I write ought to be about things I am experiencing, whether in my personal, family, work, reading, recreation, or prayer life. So I’ll try to spare you long manifestos about how to solve problems in your organization or non-sense about my favorite foods. What I try to offer here is something of a life that can inspire you to reflect on your own and how to be more human, more like Jesus, more of the person God is making you to be.

Snowmageddon Reading

  1. Photo of the Book of Isaiah page of the Bible

    Isaiah. Preaching on this Sunday, Feb 6. Come out to Garnett Church of Christ to hear 66 chapters in 25 minutes. OK, I’m not going to cover all the chapters but overview and main themes, which are very powerful and instructive even for us 2,700 years later.

  2. With Vice President Dick Cheney looking on, Pr...

    Decision Points. This autobiography is very well put together, revealing of major and minor decisions. On the decision to run for president in 2000, he wrote about talking to his twin daughters. They said, “Why do you want to ruin our lives. You are not as cool as you think you are.” I’m learning more to dispel or confirm some of my perceptions of George W. Bush. For example, he deals directly with the perception that Dick Cheney ran the White House and describes their working and personal relationship very clearly showing Bush made final calls on everything from personnel to global decisions. About his decision to only commute Scooter Libby‘s sentence, not fully pardon, he tells how Cheney said, “I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield.” Bush worries he made the wrong decision, that his relationship with Cheney would suffer, but he shows examples of how Cheney’s loyalty to Bush does not waver.

  3. Writer’s Digest Magazine. I read The Writer and Writer’s Digest a couple times a year. Ashley and I made a run to Barnes and Noble Monday night before the storm to use gift card and get a little reading material for the storm. This was one of my choices, along with number 4.
  4. Spirituality and Health. This magazine caught my attention a few years ago, and I read it once or twice a year when I get a copy. Here is where I first read about Kathleen Norris’s Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life. From Publisher’s Weekly, “In this penetrating theological memoir, Norris (The Cloister Walk) details her relationship with acedia, a slothful, soul-weary indifference long recognized by monastics. Norris is careful to distinguish acedia from its cousin, depression, noting that acedia is a failure of the will and can be dispelled by embracing faith and life, whereas depression is not a choice and often requires medical treatment.”
  5. Cover of

    Cover via Amazon

    Kindle version of Tulsa World. For the first time in more than 100 years, the Tulsa World did not print a newspaper. They opted for e-editions, web, and Kindle, and that has been extended from Wednesday to Thursday and Friday as well. So we’ve been reading all three versions, trying out the Kindle version, which is regularly $9/mo. but has no ads, just stories read as a book one after another.

  6. Facebook. Of course like you I’m reading Facebook entries from people coping with the snow around the country and checking in with Garnett staff and members this week to be sure everyone has what they need and no one is taking unnecessary risks getting out on the roads before they are cleared.
  7. Leadership Journal. I’ve been reading this excellent journal since grad school in 1990, and I really respect Marshall Shelley and ongoing effort to bring challenging wisdom to bear on church leadership.

Finally, I thought about writing a book during Snowmageddon, but I decided to make igloos with the kids instead. I figured that’s the most productive thing I can do. I still need to write a sermon for Sunday, though, so I’d better go.