My 90 Day Bible Boot Camp
In 2010, my college roomie, Janet, joined a group on social media started by a woman at her church who was doing a 90 day summer Bible reading challenge. I had never read the whole Bible straight through before, thinking that was much too grown-up an endeavor for me to try! But when Janet committed to it, I decided to attempt it as well, enjoying the idea of sharing the experience with her as much as the prospect of accomplishing such a goal. Little did I know the impact this experience would have on my life.
Every year since then I have done a 90 day “Bible boot camp”, using a different translation each time. The first year I used the New International Version, reading through my little pink Bible that Mom and Pop Cutshaw had given me for Christmas years ago. Since then I have read through the New King James version (the Bible my choirmates in college voted for me to receive my senior year; it will have its own blog post in the future, I’m sure); the Holman Christian Standard version in 2012, when I was recovering from weight loss surgery; in 2013, it was the Revised Standard version Bible that my childhood church gave me when I was a rising third grader, the summer Aunt Ruby died; and last year I revisted The Way verison of The Living Bible from my youth group days, completing it while grieving my friend Lola’s death in late July.
A disclaimer is needed here. Reading the Bible has not magically transformed me into a good person. I struggle, and I fail in my walk of faith all the time. What God HAS done in my life through this process has been gradual; over time, He has given me peace in places that used to be filled with turmoil. I pray that He will continue to work in those dark places of mine, bringing light, love and forgiveness.
I can trace my history in many ways through what Bible I was reading when certain events happened, and I have begun writing those details down inside my Bibles so that someday, whoever inherits them will know what happened when, and where God provided comfort, inspiration and strength for my journey.
This year, I chose to read through the Good News Bible, another nod to my past and my childhood church.
When I was a kid, one of our pastors introduced us to Good News for Modern Man, The New Testament in Today’s English Version, a paperback volume with a cover designed to look like newsprint. Uncle John Flanigan gave a copy to Mama and inscribed it to her. It’s a memento I cherish. Eventually the Old Testament was translated into Today’s English Version as well, and renamed The Good News Bible. Among other features it contains beautiful line drawings of many of the scenes, a modern twist on the older Bibles that used to have prints of classical religious paintings inside their gold-leafed or red-edged pages.
The past 3 summers as I have recovered from major surgery and experienced deaths of people I love, I have sometimes wondered if I’d complete my 90 day odyssey through the Bible. Sometimes reading was the last thing I felt like doing. Sometimes physical pain overwhelmed me; other times it was emotional anguish that threatened my progress.
But here’s the thing. God provided comfort for my pain, strength for my path and balm for my soul, all throughout my boot camp and beyond. He continues to do so, day after day, through seasons of grief and joy, spiritual peaks and valleys, rocky places and still waters. He speaks through His creation, through my friends and family…and through His word in scripture. The Bible’s story of God’s love, Jesus’s life and death and redemption…it is MY story. How blessed and fortunate I am to live in a place where I can have access to His word, and where I am free to read and learn from it when-and-wherever I choose. Millions of people throughout our world are not as fortunate. I pray never to take this gift, this Good News, for granted.