Monday, June 28, 2010


When I began my attempt at reading the Bible in 90 days, I managed to stay on schedule for the first six or seven weeks.  So it was only a matter of a few days getting from the beginning to the story of Abraham.  For me, the story of Abraham marks the real beginning of the narrative of God’s work on Earth. That sounds a bit sacrilegious, and I certainly do not mean to dismiss what has preceded. Nevertheless, it is like with any book, you reach a point where you feel like you have really begun. You’re all in, you get what’s going on, and you’re ready to enjoy the experience.

I also relate to the story of Abraham because I remember the first time that I really began to question my faith. It was in high school, and not in science, but in history. We learned about early humans and pre-history. It all contradicted what I had been taught as a child, and even worse, it all made sense. I consider this a milestone in my faith, as we learned stories of creation myths and legends from other traditions, the teacher responded to a laughing student—“as crazy as this sounds, is it any more unbelievable than saying one man built a huge boat to escape a flood that covered the entire earth, and along the way managed to house every species of animal on this boat for the duration?”

That statement hit me like a brick. But later in the semester, the section heading in the chapter was “A Wandering Aramean…” Among the stories of river valley civilizations and empires, I found the story of the Hebrews and their monotheistic religion traced back to Abraham. I began to learn from that experience that to be open-minded toward other beliefs and skeptical of one’s own does not have to delegitimize or minimize our faith. I learned that somehow I have to figure out how to live in this world and not against it, at least not in the traditional, antagonistic sense.  I felt like through this experience I moved from know about God to getting to know God. 

I think this is part of the struggle that the story from Abraham to Moses speaks of. God calls Abraham out of his comfort to experience something new. By joining in God’s covenant, Abraham is called to be different. He is not called home to God and taken out of this world, he is asked to live a different life within this world so that through him he can be a blessing. He is not called to conquer, persuade, or rule, he is simply called to receive God’s blessing so that through him the world might be so blessed. And we learn about the growth of his nation through the blessing of God, and watch God’s people struggle to understand what it means to be chosen, and why they are it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Adam to Abraham

So in reading through the Bible, my first reaction was to be caught up in the scale of this story. I realized that I was in the midst of something not only bigger than myself, but bigger than humanity. All that within a chapter. And then, the story of us begins.

From Adam to Abraham I see a story about how humanity advances in many ways, but continues to fall short in the important ways. I’ve often wondered about the fall. Perhaps it can be as simple as a fruit from a tree, but I find myself creating complexity and trying to understand metaphor in interpreting what happened to us and God so many years ago. I still don’t know. I could ramble on about ideas and theories, but I certainly wouldn’t want any of my thoughts in writing because the fact is that I still don’t know.

But it is clearly something. The evidence is all around us. The longing for meaning, the injustice of the world, my personal failures; something isn’t right, but something is working to make it right. The story of humans as we know them really seems to begin sometime after the garden. We work the soil, care for each other, populate the Earth. It seems that humanity did a pretty good job of it. They built, they created, they procreated, they loved, they laughed, the spread out, they cooperated. But they also destroyed, abused, cursed, and murdered.

They clearly kept a glimpse of God, but they seemed to let themselves get the best of themselves and lose sight of the fact that they were simply the beginning of little story of people fitting into a bigger story of divinity. And then God spoke to Abraham.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I didn’t make the 90-day deadline, but I have finished the Bible, cover to cover. This is the first time that I’ve attempted a straight through reading of the Bible and I am very glad that I did. Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share some of the things that I think I learned through this experience. Some of them from the text, others from the effort.

I began at the beginning. An intentional effort to read through the Bible is a pretty big task. It doesn’t read quite like other books, and it is certainly a lengthy tome. Reading from the beginning, one gets a sense of the scope as the beginning is… well, the beginning. In the beginning, God created. That alone gives quite a perspective on life. I remember reading several years ago the book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. I expected a great history of human development on Earth. Instead I found nothing close to humans covered until chapter 29… out of 30. But I was hooked by the second page:

This story in Genesis at the so called beginning encompasses a story that may be billions of years old. Eons of history developing before this place would be close to ready for inhabitants of our kind to dwell. And here, in Genesis, over just a few verses, we are given but a glimpse of this story. Like a master storyteller, we’re left with thousands of years to fill in the gaps, to speculate on our origins, to wonder how and why we are finally here. But the real importance is that we are, and now that we understand that, what comes next.

That is how I understand the Bible. So many of us place so much value on the literal insight of this beginning, but ultimately, I was created for relationship with God. That’s all I need to know to begin the journey.

But, “in the beginning, God created.” “And so, from nothing, our universe begins.” Folks, this is big. We get to join the story at the beginning, but I have a feeling this “beginning” is just where it starts to matter for us. How much more before or after, what grand thing have we found ourselves in the middle of. This isn’t a life to be dismissed, there’s something bigger going on here, and I want to find myself in it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Bible In 90 Days

Ninety days seems like a long time. That’s three months. I’ve gone for spells of reading three or four books a month before, so surely one can get through the Bible in three months. I ran across this reading plan toward the end of May and decided to give it a try. I set June 1st as day one, but I didn’t really start until several days into June because of work, so I had a little catching up to do. Like I said, I read a lot, and this plan took a pretty good chunk of time each day, but I figured that I could just give up my normal reading for the next three months and devote it all to reading the Bible.

I forgot to mention, that was June 1, 2009. One year and seven days later I’m in the book of James. Things were going well in June and July. I got through much of the Old Testament of the Bible, but I really got stuck in Ezekiel. I’m not blaming the prophet, but I just happened to be attending summer camp with our Youth during this part of the reading plan, and that week was focused on the book of Judges.

So I slacked off for a while. Enjoyed the end of summer, began a new school year, and finally as the end of fall approached, I resumed my schedule of reading. I wanted to finish the Old Testament and read through the stories of Jesus by Christmas. I made it to the minor prophets.

With Lent approaching, I decided that would be a good time to finish my commitment to read the Bible in 90 days, so I managed to finish the Old Testament and read most of the gospels by Easter.

I’m not good at Lent, and I really begin to feel like a failure when I fall short on my Lenten commitments. So I continued reading slowly but steadily. The timing was good when I began Acts on Pentecost. A renewed commitment pushed me to finish the Bible by June. Maybe 90 days was a bit too ambitious, but lots of folks read the Bible in a year. There wouldn’t be any shame in saying one year later- “I made it.”

Did I mention that I’m in the book of James? If you hold a Bible, any Bible, and pinch it at James-Revelation, looking back at the amount of material that I’ve read is enormous compared to what is left. I’m almost there. I’m going to finish, and soon. Is this a failure or a success? Go ahead, you can judge. But I’m nearly done. And I’ve learned much from this experience. Maybe this post is just a way of putting it out there for public consumption so that I have a little accountability. I can’t quit now, even though I feel like the guy at the marathon who struggles to crawl over the finish line hours after the last runner has already finished.

So I will finish, and when I do, I will share what this journey has shown me.