Getting a Beat-Up Bible

Six years later, it may be time to rebind again. When the binding breaks apart completely, it’s the beginning of the end.

When I was a first year teacher, years of use (and abuse at the bottom of my backpack) caught up with my Bible.  The first part to fall out was James.1  Over the next few months, it reached the point where I was keeping my Bible in a Ziploc bag.  So I bit the bullet and sent it away to be rebound. I was seriously lost without it.

When it came back, I was so excited, I ran into class and shouted, “Guys!  Guess what!!!”

“You got engaged!” one of them guessed.  Yup, I was so excited to have my Bible back, I looked like a radiant bride.  That might be nerdier than it is holy….

But I think it says something that literally the only thing I’d be devastated to lose in a fire would be my Bible.

This page in Luke was only mostly detached before I went to take the picture. The things I do for you people!

I mean, not to be weird or anything, but I love my Bible.  Okay, yeah, I love the Bible, but I really particularly love my Bible.  It has all my highlighting and notes (even the really embarrassing stuff like, “Worms, I hate worms” and highlighting 3 straight pages in puke green from when I was 13).  I might not remember exactly what a verse says, but I know it’s highlighted on the right-hand page in the left column towards the top in an epistle that has a lot of footnotes on the page.  Give me 5 minutes and I can find it–usually faster than I can google it because I often can’t remember more than the feeling it gives me.

I started reading the Bible when I was 13.  The weekend I was converted (praise God!), I decided that if I was going to do this Jesus thing, I was really going to do it.  I was going to read the whole Bible.

There’s my tally down at the bottom. Do you love my second grade magic marker handwriting on the dedication page?

It took me five and a half years.

It was tough going, largely because I read straight through and got stuck in Leviticus for maybe a year and a half.  But during that time I developed a relationship with my Bible.  I began to find meaning in what had seemed irrelevant or dull.  I “discovered” connections between the Old and New Testaments that seemed to make sense of everything.  I started taking my Bible with me everywhere–just in case.  I bought (okay, fine, buy) purses only if they’re big enough to fit my Bible.  Eventually, I started reading it through once a year.

I’m a 28-year-old Catholic and I’ve read the Bible ten times.

Maybe I don’t love books as much as John Paul does. Nobody loves books as much as this kid.

Now, this is not due to some great virtue of mine.  I just really love books.  So much so that it’s currently past midnight and I have to be up at 8, but I know I’ll still read for at least an hour after I put the computer away.  So I realize that I’ve definitely got an advantage when it comes to loving the Bible.  But I think Catholics especially forget how important this book is.  Because we’ve got so much richness to our faith outside the Bible, we often (as individuals, not as a Church) ignore the Word of God.

We can’t do this!  Forget the fact that you’ll never get anywhere with a Protestant if you don’t know the Bible, this is the WORD of GOD!!  It’s meant to be studied and memorized and loved and lived.  After the Sacraments, there is nothing more important to the life of a Christian.  So here are some tips for those of you whose Bibles are in mint condition:

  1. Read the whole thing–eventually.  I think every Christian should read the Bible at least once. I really recommend the one year option above if you’ve got the dedication and the time (almost always less than 20 minutes a day).  It breaks up the boring parts (and there are a lot of boring parts, especially when you’re a Bible beginner) with Psalms and Gospel passages.  Plus, I’ve known very few people who manage to push through if they’re just going Genesis to Revelation.
  2. Start with the fun stuff.  Most people really aren’t up for 2 Chronicles or Ezekiel when they’re newbies.  So ease into it.  Try reading a chapter a day from the Gospels.  Or get a broader view by reading in this order: Luke, 1 John, John, Philippians, Matthew, Isaiah (maybe starting at chapter 40–that’s where it gets good), Mark, Genesis, 1 Corinthians, 1+2 Samuel, Romans, Deuteronomy, and go from there.  It’s not a logical order by any means, but I think those books are interesting enough to get you acclimated before you dive into Ezekiel and the like.
  3. Study the liturgical readings.  Take some time with the readings before Mass every day or spend the whole week looking at Sunday’s.  Try to figure out how they connect or imagine what you’d preach on.  It’ll transform the liturgy for you, too.
  4. Memorize.  My life has been absolutely transformed by the memorization of Scripture.  When I find a passage that speaks to me, I generally make up a tune for it and sing it over and over until it sticks.  Then when I need it, the song pops into my head.  This has the further benefits of making the Mass come alive when I hear a passage I’ve memorized and really impressing people when I can quote a whole chapter from memory.
  5. Mark it up.  Don’t be afraid to write in a holy book!  I spent a few years reading but not highlighting or taking notes, and while that means I have fewer embarrassing things in there, I also have less to show how God has blessed me through his Word.  Marking up your Bible doesn’t just help you find stuff later, it also reminds you how you’ve grown and draws you deeper.  I add quotations from Saints, point to other passages, or pencil in my own observations–in a lot of ways, my Bible is almost a journal for me.  I’ve read the Gospels more than 20 times, but I still read with a pen in hand.  As St. Gregory the Great said, “Scripture is like a river . . . broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.”  I will never exhaust the depths of Scripture and marking it keeps me mindful of that.
  6. Just read it!!  Play Bible Roulette (flip and point), read a Psalm every day, find a Scriptural devotional, follow a daily verse on Twitter, pick a verse to meditate on throughout the day, check out Pinterest Bible boards, or walk down the beach reading people’s tattoos.2  But do something to make sure you’re in Scripture every day and let it transform you.  As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

At the end of my life, I want to take a lot of laugh lines, a heart broken and remade over and over again, and a beat up Bible before the throne of God.  Join me?

PS Anybody know a good book rebinder?  I’m not sure how many times you can rebind a book, but I think I need it to last longer than 6 years if I’m going to hang on to this Bible for a lifetime.

  1. I actually discerned whether I ought to be Protestant, James being a book Luther particularly disliked. I tend to read too much into things. []
  2. I once had a student who was a Chinese national who had a Bible verse (part of 1 Pt 4:8) tattooed on his back. I commented on how much I liked it and he told me–in very broken English–that he didn’t know what it said and didn’t realize it was form the Bible. I guess it’s like when Americans think they’re getting “loyalty” or “family” tattooed on their shoulders when really it says “pork fried rice.” []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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9 Responses to Getting a Beat-Up Bible

  1. Jenny says:

    Another great post Meg! I realized a couple of years ago that here in the “Bible Belt” good Catholic kids were being wooed away from the Church by…the Word of God. They would hear Protestant kids sing and quote these beautiful words, the beautiful Word and want what they had…which we already have/had. I’ve heard of non practicing Catholics looking for a “Bible Church.” Um, hello, we are THE Bible Church!

    This (and other reasons) led me on a quest to learn my Bible, know my Bible and love my Bible. Now I’m working on a project that will help Catholic families refrence the scriptures on a daily basis as they practice the virtues and try to root out the sins.

  2. Melissa says:

    One of the great things about singing in a choir (any choir) is that you sing a lot of Mass and Bible stuff. There are lots of verses that I remember because I’ve sung them. I am not as good at putting stuff like that to music, though; I just remember other people’s compositions.

  3. Mike Roesch says:

    This guy (http://catholicbibles.blogspot.com/2010/01/my-new-rsv-2ce-in-calfskin-leather.html) recommends this guy (http://www.leonardsbooks.com/). A bit pricey, but then I have no clue what’s normal for book re-binding, nor if a higher-quality re-binding would last much longer than six years. You could also check out this blog: http://www.bibledesignblog.com/faq.html

  4. Bev says:

    It warms my heart to read of anyone having such a passion for reading the Bible. In addition to reading “here and there” for research and participation in discussion forums, I’m one of those Genesis to Revelation readers. I start at Genesis and read through to Revelation, then I choose a different translation and do it all over again. I’ve read completely through the NIV, NLT, NET, NASB, RSV, WEB, a few off-the-wall translations of the NT, and am currently in Psalms in the NKJV.

    Too bad about your “never get anywhere with a Protestant” comment. I believe true Christian maturity is not trying to convince someone their doctrine is wrong or that yours is right, but to recognize that what counts is a belief in and love for God, and a sincere heart for following Christ. “You will know them by their fruits,” not by which church they go to or what label they are given.

    Your mom recommended your blog to me. She’s very proud of you, and rightfully so.

  5. I started reading the daily mass readings in the iPad apps Evangelizo and Laudate but you are right, there’s nothing like marking your own bible and knowing just where a verse is. Thanks for the reminder. Your posts really speak to me!

  6. Amy says:

    Growing up in the South it has been a struggle to be able to defend my faith as a Catholic. My Southern Baptist family (dad’s side) has always supported me, my brother, and my mother, (they attended all of my sacraments), but whenever I have been questioned I really don’t have the ability to quote the scripture because there isn’t an emphasis put on the Word. I went to Catholic school for 13 years and was taught the doctrine, but we did very little with the Bible.

    Have you read “A Philadelphia Catholic in King James’s Court” by Martin de Porres Kennedy? It is a great book that my priest in high school did a teen book group/study on. It is a great story about a teenage boy who is Catholic because it is how he is being raised. His father has recently died and he is questioning his belief in God when his mom decides they are going to go to Kentucky (I think) to visit her brother and his family. The uncle is a pastor at a little Protestant church he started and the teenager ends up becoming involved in the uncle’s Bible study in order to defend the Catholic Church and the only book he can use is the Bible. Really good book and I definitely reccomend it.

    Your blog has truly inspired me to do more than just “talk” my faith. You rock :)
    Amy recently posted…A Love/Hate RelationshipMy Profile

  7. Ryan says:

    Translation recommendations?

    • Meg says:

      I like the NAB because the Bible is a liturgical text. I find it helpful to be familiar with the specific text read at Mass. I know the RSV is supposed to be more accurate and the New Jerusalem more poetic with the NAB in the middle but I’m not an expert on translations, having stuck to my same copy for the past 22 years :)

  8. Pingback: So You Want to Be an Apologist? (Your Christmas Shopping List Part 3) - Held By His Pierced HandsHeld By His Pierced Hands

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