This year, the church I attend with my family has been encouraging biblical literacy and spiritual formation through a daily habit of Bible reading. The Eat This Book discipline is a bold initiative, even for evangelicals. Bolder still is the Eat This Book challenge to read through the Bible in 360 days. The Advent issue of the church magazine included a number of cool stories from the experience. Mine’s not there, not typical and definitely more geeky than most. But who aspires to be average?
My family and I are relatively new to Blackhawk, though we’ve lived in Madison six years. Dy and I are both on staff with InterVarsity and have served together on campus, in a field office, at a retreat and training center and now at the organization’s National Service Center. We’ve enjoyed comparing notes as we Eat This Book.
I’ve read through the Bible before a couple of different ways and looked forward to doing it again, especially with such a large community. I appreciate the posted resources related to the initiative, and it’s been exciting to hear of 38,000+ using the plan on YouVersion (not my favorite Bible app). I’ve not participated in much of the online interaction, though. It seems to me that platform is still in its infancy compared to its potential for promoting biblical literacy through genuinely personal interaction.
To make time and space for digesting the daily text and meditating on it throughout the day, I adopted the practice of tweeting a summary of the non-psalm chapters. For example, one of this fall’s tweets was:
Luke 8-9: Jesus leads and sends a mixed, missional community. They recognize Messiah, but not the path he pursues. +Ps 120 #EatThisBook #fb
A few others use the #EatThisBook hashtag on Twitter; evidently there’s an unrelated Bible study course by that title. A few of the most recent tweets are visible. Mine appear for Facebook friends and are backed up online and offline.
It’s helpful when studying shorter passages to title natural paragraphs in scripture with a few words arising from the text, as part of observing their main features. It’s more challenging to puzzle through the connections within a couple of chapters or more – not always naturally divided – to a summary that fits in 100 characters. But it’s also been tremendously fruitful when God’s Spirit brings insight as things begin to add up. It often takes until evening to sufficiently mull over the collection of themes, characters, actions read or heard in the morning.
As with any spiritual discipline or new habit, it’s most doable when it connects with multiple parts of our personalities and experiences. This one has hooks in my problem-solving bent, enjoyment of complex systems (and text) analysis, amateur wordsmithing, and (borderline Asperger’s) symbiosis with a smartphone. It also helps me practice brevity – not one of my strengths, as you can tell from the length of this post. Thus a daily opportunity to aim for what my team director describes as “crispness” while trying to avoid sounding terse.
I also read aloud the psalm most mornings while some of our family drives to school or work. There are sometimes shared themes between the psalm and the other texts, if I’m alert. Between those times and the tweets, I’ve sensed the Lord renewing my thinking about both the big themes of scripture and the particulars that don’t seem to fit very neatly.
For example, it’s been instructive for me to hear in some of Jesus’ sayings not-so-faint echoes of the prophets’ occasionally harsh words of stinging rebuke. Feeling something of the emotional life of God has been a fresh theme that’s stood out in many passages that I can no longer read without a more whole and human response.
All this to say that I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring more of myself to scripture, reinforce the daily pattern of meeting God in his Word, give space for the Spirit to speak, exercise summarizing skills, and in a bite-sized way sharing the insights God gives. Eat This Book has built my awareness of the overall arc of scripture’s Story. I’m being better equipped to live into and communicate the rich texture and content of God’s whole, living Word.
Thanks for reading, and let me know if any of this is worth further interaction for you.