When our young adult daughter was moving out, we wanted to buy her a Bible she could take with her.
An online search pulled up thousands of options—large print Bibles, precious princess Bibles, super hero backpack Bibles, sequined Bibles, sleek and chic Bibles, and for those living in darkness, glow-in-the-dark flexi Bibles. Then there were the translation choices: NLT, KJV, AKJV, RSV, NIV, NIrV, NRSV, MSG and more. Making our decision was actually quite easy; Samantha had grown out of her super-hero and glitter stage long ago and didn’t require large print. As for the translation, we settled on an NIV and MSG Parallel Bible.
The only problem was that though the description said it was a “personal Bible,” it didn’t feel very personal to me. Not like the new cookbook we’d purchased and planned to personalize with favorite family recipes passed down through the generations inserted between the pages. Missing from Sam’s Bible were notes about the family favorites—verses and stories passed down through generations—that had warmed our hearts and fed our souls.
Taking a family cookbook approach to Sam’s Bible, we began to personalize it by underlining texts and inserting notes into the margins. “My Oma always printed this verse on my birthday cards,” I wrote after underlining Proverbs 3:5-6. “The Joseph stories remind us that God always has a plan” we jotted across the pages in Exodus. I marked “our wedding text” and “I turn to this one for reassurance” and “Dad’s favorite promise” besides others.
We called our parents to ask for their favorite verses and began to underline more texts, adding messages like “this promise brings great hope to Grandpa” and “Nana said this passage is her favorite; it was also your great-grandparent’s wedding text” and “Grandma loves this verse.” By the time we were finished, the Bible had gone from a perfectly packed book in a box to a marked up book with folded over corners. Beautiful!
When we gave the Bible to Sam, we told her that Bibles were meant to be written in. We told her we'd started the process by marking hers up with passages that held special meaning to us and which had provided support for her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. We shared how marking up her Bible had been an unexpected blessing for us (we’d never talked about favorite verses with our parents before and reading those passages helped us understand how they’ve found hope in times of deep loss and their source of joy and strength for everyday living). And we told Sam that we were praying that she would also find meaning in those verses and mark up even more on her own.
We did this as a family, but it could also be done as God’s family of believers. Many congregations present children with a Bible in or around Grade 3 (or give Bibles as a gift to mark a milestone such as Sunday school graduation, profession of faith or marriage). One way to make those Bibles come to life is to invite members of the congregation—family members, elders, mentors, and/or Sunday school teachers—to go through the Bible beforehand and highlight a text, passage, or story and add a note in the margin about why it has been meaningful to them. A significant person in the recipient’s life such as a parent, grandparent or mentor could also be asked to write a dedication at the beginning of the Bible, describing how they hope this Bible will impact their life and then read those words aloud to them during the Bible presentation.
Another idea might be to regularly arrange for members of your congregation—young, old, and in-between—to share a favorite verse or passage during your worship service worship along with why they love it or how God has used it to feed their soul. Such a testimony would only take 3 minutes during your worship service but could have a lifelong impact on those who hear it.
How about you? What ideas for showing how God’s living word can breathe into our lives have you seen or tried in your family or with God’s family?