The B-I-B-L-E #5

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Today, I want to quote a couple women whose writings have inspired me.

First, Barbara Brown Taylor:

For all the human handiwork it displays, the Bible remains a peculiarly holy book. I cannot think of any other text that has such authority over me, interpreting me faster than I can interpret it. It speaks to me not with the stuffy voice of some mummified sage but with the fresh, lively tones of someone who knows what happened to me an hour ago. Familiar passages accumulate meaning as I return to them again and again. They seem to grow during my absences from them; I am always finding something new in them I never found before, something designed to meet me where I am at this particular moment in time.

This is, I believe, why we call the Bible God’s “living” word. When I think about consulting a medical book thousands of years old for some insight into my health, or an equally ancient physics book for some help with my cosmology, I understand what a strange and unparalleled claim the Bible has on me. Age does not diminish its power but increases it. . . .

The word of God turned out to be plenty strong enough to withstand my curiosity. Every time I poked it, it poked me back. Every time I wrenched it around so I could see inside, it sprang back into shape the moment I was through. In short, the Bible turned out not to be a fossil under glass but a thousand different things — a mirror, a scythe, a hammock, a lantern, a pair of binoculars, a high diving board, a bridge, a goad — all of them offering themselves to me to be touched and handled and used.

And then this wonderful story from Kathleen Norris‘s Amazing Grace. She tells of a Saturday evening when she and her husband were eating at a local steakhouse and struck up a conversation with “an old-timer, a tough, self-made man in the classic American sense.” They had known him casually (“he knew us as oddball writers, misfits in the region”), but this evening, probably because he was about to enter chemotherapy, he was more talkative.

Out of the blue, Arlo began talking about his grandfather, who had been a deeply religious man, or as Arlo put it, “a damn good Presbyterian.” His wedding present to Arlo and his bride had been a Bible, which he admitted he had admired mostly because it was an expensive gift, bound in white leather with their names and the date of their wedding set in gold lettering on the cover. “I left it in its box and it ended up in our bedroom closet,” Arlo told us. “But,” he said, “for months afterward, every time we saw grandpa he would ask me how I liked that Bible. The wife had written a thank-you note, and we’d thanked him in person, but somehow he couldn’t let it lie, he’d always ask about it.” Finally, Arlo grew curious as to why the old man kept after him. “Well,” he said, “the joke was on me. I finally took that Bible out of the closet and I found that granddad had placed a twenty-dollar bill at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, and at the beginning of every book . . . over thirteen hundred dollars in all. And he knew I’d never find it.”

We laughed over this with Arlo, and he began talking about the interest he could have made had he found that money sooner. “Thirteen hundred bucks was a lot of money in them days,” he said, shaking his head.


This article originally appeared on Mike’s blog at this link.

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