This blog is a space where I process the intersection of my daily life—the beautiful and complicated—with my faith in and through Christ.
I wrote in this other post about how growing up in the church I received the message that I could only know God—and therefore please God—by having a daily “quiet time.” For a lot of my life, as I read the Bible devotionally, I felt like I was missing some really important details. There is one early experience that stands out in my memory as offering a glimpse of something more…
For all of junior high and high school James was my favorite book of the Bible because we had an extended session on it in my sixth grade Bible class at school (I went to a private Baptist school). My teacher brought in a cow tongue and it lolled across the podium in front of her as we discussed what it meant to tame the tongue. Cow tongues are big, and they don’t smell very good. Bible study had become a sensory experience. As we dug into the book of James verse by verse, and I began to understand more fully what was going on, it suddenly became important to me.
I wanted to be able to do this sort of study myself with the rest of scripture, but I just didn’t know how. It seemed like all the Bible studies I got my hands on or that I was a part of (some that I myself was leading in youth group) were kind of surface-y and unengaging. Looking back now, I wonder if I was giving myself the space and time to actually consider the scripture before I raced ahead to the take-away. For one of those two reasons—either because the study was surface-y or I wasn’t giving the process the time, thought and prayer it needed—I found a lot of answers before I even knew what questions I wanted to ask.
Going to seminary opened up a new world for me. Suddenly, I had access to lists of commentaries and other written works, guided conversation in classes, and writing prompts to work through to help me untangle all that I was reading. I couldn’t skip ahead to the right answer…I had to discover it with the help of Holy Spirit and my community.
I am beginning a journey of scripture study to share here on the blog. I am striving to study deeply and thoughtfully as I seek to put faithful words to what I am discovering, but I don’t think that I have the corner on the best resources and personal perspective. That’s why I want to share what I am studying and thinking through here with this growing community so that we can have conversations and learn from each other. I want to hear your perspective. I want to know what you’re reading and how the Spirit of God is speaking to you through your daily life and times of more focused study. I want to know if you’re struggling and frustrated and having a hard time connecting with any of this.
There are some practices I have picked up over the past few years that help me dive into scripture. My list isn’t meant to offer a prescription, but rather offer a glimpse into what I find helpful at this point in my faith journey. My hope is that there might be something helpful for your own journey of discipleship. I try to start my study sessions—whichever stage I am in at the moment—with a little silence and prayer asking for clarity and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
My typical stages of study:
- I choose a scripture text (sometimes I feel the Spirit urging me toward something) …sometimes from the lectionary …sometimes a topic comes to mind …sometimes a specific story plants itself in my brain.
- I read the text in a few different translations of the Bible. I like to pull up BibleGateway and use the side by side comparison tool. My typical translations of choice: New Revised Standard Version (NRSV); The Message (MSG); New American Standard Bible (NASB); New International Version (NIV).
- As I read the various translations a few times, I write down any questions or observations that come to mind.
- Then, I pick up a few commentaries or books to read. I keep a page open with a bulleted list of things I find interesting for each commentary with a page number for reference. I take special note if I find something that addresses a question that I had when I first read the text. When I am picking commentaries I try my best to get my hands on a diversity of perspectives. There are times when I do a decent job of this, and times when I don’t.
- Finally, I write. Whether I’m putting something together to share here, somewhere else, or simply for myself, it is helpful for me to take the time to think about what I’ve just learned and what God might be revealing.
Have you done any of this before? Can you relate at all to the experiences I had growing up? Do you have other things you like to do as you begin your own study? Have you had times when God met you in some way as you studied scripture?
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