For as long as I can remember, at least until my parents moved from the farm where I was raised, my dad’s bible occupied a space on top of the refrigerator. You may think that strange, but our farm house did not possess end tables, coffee tables, night stands or many book shelves. No, if we were sitting down for devotions at the kitchen table, or if dad was leaving for a church meeting or heading out the door on Sunday he would grab his bible from the top of the refrigerator. He had no need to look, but automatically reached up because it was always in the same place, and when they retired his bible gained a new home next to the living room rocker.
Dad’s bible was more than something he read. It was virtually a treasure chest; a file folder if you will. I used to chide him for not taking better care of it. Certainly its appearance was not neat, clean or tidy. The pages were worn, the gold worn off from thumbs searching for a passage. It did not possess tabs to mark each book. The order of the books were memorized, but within the pages were literally volumes of other material. I would say, “Dad, why don’t you clean out your bible?” Its cluttered look begged me to sort through and dispose of all the extras. That’s when my father would respond, “But Nita if you put them in some drawer I wouldn’t know where to find them.” Find what dad? Then the litany began.
“You see this bulletin? My notes from Pastor Boehm’s last sermon. This obit was from Alvin Seim’s funeral. The tract reminds me of handing out materials at the LLL (Lutheran Layman’s League) convention and this slip of paper was from Oswald Hoffman’s message at a Lutheran Rally.” And so it continued. Not only were slips and notes stashed between the pages, but he penned words in the margin from messages, thoughts from teaching his Sunday school class, dates of a mission festival, or references to Greek and Hebrew words. Many passages were marked and underlined as well.
I would sigh and think of purchasing a new bible for him as a Christmas or birthday gift. Something with nice gilded pages, unmarked with thumb prints, crisp and neat maybe in a zippered cover. He would pass on the offer and say, “No Nita. Thank you, but I like mine just the way it is.” And that was what it looked like until he passed away at the age of 85.
My dad has been gone since May 2009 and when I pulled out my own bible to review a devotion, I smiled observing strangely enough that my bible looks like my dad’s. The worn pages are marked and highlighted in numerous colors. The inside cover has dates, bible verse references, definitions. Margins are noted with sermon text, quotes; yes even Greek and Hebrew words. I’ve saved bible study notes, funeral messages, worship folders and an occasional obituary. It made me recall these words: “Hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them”, a quote not from the bible, but the Lutheran Book of Prayer. The 2nd Sunday in Advent has this collect:
“Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Blessings as you not only read the Word, but claim it as your own – marked with love and remembrance.