MY YEAR LONG BIBLE ADVENTURE

By Dan Kivett

 

About a year ago I got the sudden urge to read the Bible cover to cover. It had been a few years since I’d read the whole thing and I knew that there was plenty of it that I didn’t really remember that well anymore. I did the math and figured out that if I read 3.25 chapters a day I could get it read in about a year.  Well, the other day I finally finished and my main takeaway was the same as it had been the first time:  I’m gonna need to read it again.

       There is so much to take in that I know I’ll never get it all. To be honest, it can be pretty intimidating to attempt to read the whole thing. I know of several lifelong Christians that have told me they have never read it all and that actually compelled me to do it. As Christians we believe that the Bible is the word of God. I look at it as a gift that God gave me to help me understand Him better. It would be pretty rude to get a gift from the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE and not try to get as much use out of it as I can.
       I’m not saying that everyone should read it the way I did, especially if you are very new to the faith (the Gospels are your friend, trust me). There are probably hundreds of ways to read the Bible and I’ve seen year long plans that make it much more manageable but I guess that’s just not my style. I suppose that I get some odd sort of satisfaction form plowing my way through some of the more difficult to read books like Leviticus or finishing the six week marathon that was Psalms.
       And let me tell you, the joy that I experienced when Jesus finally showed up in my reading after nine months when I started Matthew was very real. I felt… like I was going back home. There was a true feeling of comfort when I started reading the Gospels. Not that I hadn’t seen plenty of Bible verses on Facebook and other things like that throughout the year and of course Jesus is mentioned many times in the Old Testament (it’s fun to try to find Him, sort of like Where’s Waldo but a billion times better).
        Now that I’ve finished it’s time to go back and read the passages that I’ve underlined and examine them a little closer. One of the really neat things about the Bible is that different verses will stand out that never really did before as you read through it. It’s called the Living Word and it’s really cool to see what stands out as time goes by.
        It won’t be long and we’ll be hearing about people making New Year’s resolutions. My suggestion is that you take the time to read the Bible next year. The whole thing. Do it in whatever way makes sense for you. As long as your heart is set on loving God and trying the understand His Word, I don’t know that there’s really a wrong way to do it.

 

A Chance To Grow

      A few minutes ago I was lying in bed getting ready to read a novel when I got the sudden idea to read something out of the Bible instead. I brushed the thought aside and continued messing around on my phone for a minute and then I opened up the app where the novel is (and let me tell you that as someone whose arms and hands don’t work as well as they used to, I love the fact that my phone can hold books because it’s so much easier for me that way).
       Once again the thought of reading the Bible popped into my mind and I said aloud “OK I’ll do it but I don’t know what I’m going to read.” I’d just finished up reading 1st and 2nd John yesterday and hadn’t decided what to read next. When I opened the Bible app it was on James chapter 1 which is what we were looking at in Sunday school this morning.
      And there it was, the thing that I was supposed to read and unbeknownst to me the column that I was supposed to write. That’s often how these things work for me.
     There are some pretty challenging verses in the Bible and several verses out of James 1 have been difficult for me. Verse 2 reads “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (NLT).
      Often when I read that verse, my sarcastic side comes out and I think “Well I should be a pretty happy dude then.” I don’t know about anyone else, but rarely do I feel any joy when I have trouble. Frustration, confusion, and anger maybe, but probably not joy.
     Verse 3 goes on to say “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT). One word in particular sticks out to me in that verse and it’s the word chance.
      My faith seems to be tested on a pretty regular basis. I’m sick, and my health is not good. I’ve had to make rapid changes to my lifestyle that I didn’t want to including moving into handicapped accessible housing, using mobility equipment, scaling back daily activities and much more. I’m not complaining, that’s just how life goes sometimes.
     Making life changes, dealing with disappointing doctor visits and having to deal with unfortunate relationship dynamics caused by my disability have definitely tested my faith on several occasions.
     Doubt is something that people often don’t feel comfortable talking about but I feel like it’s something I need to do. I’ve doubted. A lot.
     I’ve had doubts at one time or another about seemingly everything I thought that I’d learned about God. I can recall a couple of different times where I felt absolutely destroyed after yet another doctor visit where I went away without a diagnosis. I felt empty.
     I didn’t understand why things had to be this way and I was so angry.
     What I have learned is that God is there with me through the doubt. No matter how angry I might be or how lonely I might feel, He is still there with me. And He always will be.
      Feelings come and go, but God never leaves.
     Lately I’ve taken to looking at my life as a boat traveling the waves of the ocean. No matter what highs or lows may come my way, as long as my ship stays afloat it will always keep moving closer to where it’s supposed to go. God has control of the ship and the best thing I can do is to let go of the wheel and embrace that.
     Is it easy? Of course not, and sometimes I will struggle but God will still be there.
     Verse 5 says “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (NLT).  I hate asking for help as much as the next person but there’s no one better to ask than the one who has all of the answers.
     So do I feel full of joy about my troubles?  Certainly not at first and that’s where I think the word chance comes into play. If I ask for and accept God’s help, then my endurance WILL grow. If I don’t, then in my experience that’s when bitterness grows and my pain will have been for nothing. It’s all about how willing I am to humble myself and trust my creator.
     It’s hard to see the bright side in difficult situations but rest assured that the next time it might feel like life is kicking you when you’re down, you have a loving God just waiting for you to ask Him for His help and wisdom.
      And yes, your endurance will grow as He guides you through your struggles, enabling you to more effectively do His will. If you ask me, that is something to be joyous about.

People Are People

Every now and then I like to read through the gospels again.

It usually starts with me thinking I’m only going to read one and invariably I end up reading all of them. The book of Matthew was the first book of the Bible that I ever read in it’s entirety and it’s still my favorite. But as I was continuing to read through the others recently, a few verses stood out to me in a way that they never had before (which of course is an amazing feeling and one of the many reasons I read daily).

Verses 1-2 of John chapter 9 say,

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (NLT)

The first thought that popped into my head was “Man, peoples’ attitudes haven’t changed much in 2000 years have they?”

Now I feel the need to amend that thought here immediately: I have met many people since I’ve become sick that have been respectful, loving, caring, and above all else just treat me like they would any other person, and I love them with all my heart. Because in a world where you look different from almost everyone, it is literally a life-saver to have people who love you no matter what.

Unfortunately as we all know, the world at large isn’t usually so understanding. Looking noticeably different from everyone else is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s the worst part of my day. I just don’t get to be like everyone else anymore, no matter how much I might want to.

I don’t get to turn off my health problems.

When I was just using a cane it wasn’t really that bad. Yes, I’d get irritated when people would stare at me when I was walking around but at least I could hide it when I was sitting. These days when you see me out in public (which isn’t all that often anymore), I’m probably in a wheelchair. I love my scooter, but in a lot of situations the wheelchair is just more functional.

I don’t get to blend in anymore. When I’m out shopping, I’m not a 33-year-old guy who’s buying beef jerky, salsa and a can of ravioli that’s on sale but will likely never get eaten; I’m Wheelchair Guy (buying those same things of course).

And I’ll be the first one to admit, I suck at being Wheelchair Guy.

I’m not comfortable with it at all, on any level really. Add to that the fact that my arms don’t work like they’re supposed to anymore, so I’m just not able to push the chair very well and I‘m probably in a lot of pain trying to do it.

The point of all of this is that I’m very aware of any slights (real and occasionally imagined) that are thrown my way because of the health problems that I have.

When I read that verse, it stuck a chord with me in a way that it hadn’t before. I’ve had people speak to me about my disability in a way that suggested that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. In a way that quite frankly, felt dehumanizing. I felt like I no longer count on the same level that everyone else does because my body doesn’t operate as well as most of the population.

And it happens more often than I ever would have thought.

I’ve learned that there are right and wrong ways to deal with this kind of thing. Considering the source is usually a pretty good first step. Before I actually became a person with a disability, I’d never really had much experience being around someone who had one and I get the impression that most people haven’t either.

Really, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be mad at someone for not knowing something that they probably haven’t had a chance to learn. So when the disciples asked Jesus this question, I don’t imagine that it was out of malice but possibly just out of inexperience.

They probably just really wanted to know.

Verse 3 says,

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means and it wouldn’t surprise me if I never truly understand.

But if I had to guess I would say that it means that God loves every single one of us, regardless of where we start out at.

God will take care of every single one of us, and in some cases it’s more noticeable than it is in others, and that’s good because we need to see the work that God does around us every day.

My situation is different from the blind man in the story in many ways, but the main one that matters at the moment is that he was born with his disability and mine showed up after I turned 30.

But if God allows me to get a wheelchair or a scooter at the exact time that I need one despite the fact that I don’t have the money for it or whatever the case may be, then the power of God can be seen in my situation too.

My arms are burning with pain as I write this column, and for my own good I need to wrap it up soon. But I truly believe that God is giving me the desire and ability to write it even though I know there’s a very good chance that I will be in so much pain tomorrow from doing it that I’ll likely wish I wouldn’t have.

God is showing His power through me.

I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant because–believe me–I feel like I’m the least qualified or worthy person to say something like that.

What I’m really trying to say is this: I’ve been called an inspiration by people for simply trying to do whatever it is I have to do to just keep living a halfway normal life. The strange thing about not being “normal” anymore is that when I actually do manage to do “normal” things, it’s considered inspirational to others.

I’m okay with that, because to me the word “inspirational” really just means that the power of God is being seen in me.

God is giving me the ability to do things in spite of the fact that they are much harder than they used to be. God is giving me the ability to keep going, no matter how rocky, winding and foggy the road might be.

That’s the power of God. I feel blessed that occasionally people might see it in me.

So I encourage everyone to let their light shine. I know it’s not easy to do and often we don’t really know how to do it. I believe, though, that if we truly strive to follow God and love others, that no matter what we end up doing it will truly be “inspirational.” When the power of God can be seen in your family, friends, someone you’ve never even met or–once in a great while–maybe even in yourself, how can that be anything less than an inspiration?