Bible Buddy and Me

BibleYou have not heard my Bible story yet, but you must. It is a saga of Bible bumps in the road and miraculous answers to prayer.

I grew up Lutheran, and traditionally the Aid Association for Lutherans provided Christmas gifts for the children of our  impoverished congregation. One year they gave us peanuts in the shell. (It was a lean year for them, too, I guess.) The next year a small plastic nativity scene appeared, which I still display every Christmas. But the best present of all came during my third grade year — an American Bible Society King James Version hardcover Bible.

I felt so grown up. My very own Bible! I read it  all the way up to the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, before sliding down the hill of despair back to Genesis. My methodical mind could not conceive of skipping over those “begats” and moving on. So, to this day, I have a better working knowledge of Genesis through 2 Kings than most of the rest of you — simply because I backslid through them so many times. I finally arrived at the epistles of the apostles about ten years into the adventure.

By the time I made it to the New Testament, that Bible was getting mighty precious. It went to school with me. (Those were the days before life imprisonment was imposed for bringing the forbidden book there.) For a brief time I hugged it to sleep every night — a little weird, I know, but Oral Roberts said he did it, and I figured if it worked for him, why not me?

That Bible lasted forty years. It had a few surgeries along the way.  My husband Paul is a Shoe Goo specialist. Other men do duct tape, but he has mastered Shoe Goo for whatever ails whatever. Our marriage has probably been held together with the Goo all these years, and I am just not aware of it — because he is such a master at applying it for that good-as-new look. But there are things even Shoe Goo cannot fix, and when pages began to wear through, and I was writing in words where the ink had departed from the paper, it was time to find a new Bible.

When you’ve had the same Bible for forty years, its quirks sort of work their way into your system. I wasn’t handy at knowing which book or chapter “Judge not that ye be not judged” was in, but I sure knew which column and how many lines down from the subheading it was.  And I didn’t want any talk about being “an hungred” or “shewing” anything. The American Bible Society had fixed those spelling thingies by the time my Bible was born, and I wasn’t about to go back to the original 1611 version. I prayed diligently for a Bible with the exact same inside text to still be available somewhere in the world, and then called the ABS with hope in my heart. They had no idea how to help me, since my Bible was pre-ISBN days. What they sent didn’t even come close.

Paul felt he needed to prepare me for the big let-down.  “Why don’t you just use that nice leather KJV I bought you?”

“It says ‘shew.’  I can’t abide ‘shew.’  It has doctrinal commentary and footnotes, which ABS Bibles avoid. I hate notes. They distract me.  And it’s a red-letter edition.  I don’t like that either.  Jesus talked like everyone else. He didn’t float around spewing red letters.”

He rolled his eyes and assured me there wasn’t a chance in the world that I would get a Bible even close to what I had, much less the spitting image. Oh, he of little faith!

Starting to feel slightly daunted, I took my decrepit Bible and daughter Beebee in hand and headed down to the local Christian bookstore. 

“Excuse me, Miss, but can you help me find a Bible? I want something similar to this.” 

The store clerk obliged me by showing me numerous KJVs — all with “shews” and red letters attached, not to mention the inevitable footnotes. After a good ten minutes of trying to please, she slipped off to do more important things with saner customers. But Beebee had been busy during the discussion, and this time the busyness paid off.

“Mom, look at this one. Doesn’t it look just like yours — maybe?” 

She handed me the Bible Amy Grant sang about in her classic, Fat Little Baby — the biggest King James you’ve ever seen. Its page 493 matched my page 493, subheadings and all. No red letters. No “shews.” Bonded leather. And 300 superfluous pages at the beginning, explaining African American historical relationships to the Word of God, complete with full color paintings and poetry from their artists. It was The African American Jubilee Edition, and it was God’s answer to my prayer. I don’t know why the clerk had missed it. Perhaps my rather light complexion just didn’t click with her.

Heart pounding with joy, I skipped to the checkout with my treasure, and proceeded to squeal, “Look what Jesus did for me! I can’t believe it! I needed a Bible exactly like my old one, and everybody said it couldn’t be found, and look! Here it is!”

The clerk had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. She missed the miracle entirely. No doubt miracles are commonplace in Christian bookstores, and she’d already seen her share of them that day. “Fifty dollars, please,” was all I got in response.

I chortled all the way home. “Beebee, do you know how all this happened? The American Bible Society didn’t know what they were doing when they put The African American Jubilee Edition together.  They did it just for me. God knew I was going to pray for a Bible just like my old one, so He inspired the ABS mucky-mucks to think up a new edition. And then the janitor found the old print plates from forty years ago kicking around in the warehouse, and brought them to the CEO (kind of like in the days of Josiah, when they found the Scriptures that had been forgotten in the cluttered-up temple), and –“

Beebee couldn’t take it anymore.  “I know, Mum, I know.  We’re all happy Jesus heard your prayers. But the little song and dance you did back there in the bookstore was embarrassing!”

That was all about ten years ago. Last night the pages and cover of my beloved Jubilee Edition decided to part company. It must have had a heretofore undiscovered birth defect, no doubt due to being manufactured in China, unlike Bible #1. Dr. Paul pulled out his popsicle stick and Shoe Goo and did emergency surgery, and it is currently in ICU. 

Dr. Paul thinks we can expect a full recovery. But just in case, I did some online exploring and managed to find a revised, now-only-in-hardcover African American Jubilee Edition — still with page 493 identical to my page 493.  Its glorious 1440 pages will be in my mailbox in another week.

“Awake, O Sleeper”

I grew up in a liturgical church. I’m not there now, but I have fond memories – one of which I’m sharing today.

Our congregation went through an abrupt transition from a perpetually smiling, always gentle shepherd to a vacancy pastor who had missed his Marine drill sergeant calling. I’ve noticed that people in nondenominational churches don’t put up with such things. They just leave if the pastor doesn’t suit them or if the preaching gets too hot. But in the church of my youth, we hung in there by our fingernails for the sake of denominational loyalty.

We couldn’t do without our pipe organ, and our elderly organist thought we couldn’t do without her, either. Mrs. Leidenfeist must have been installed along with the pipes seventy years before. Her possessiveness of her organist position had increased proportionately with the percentage of clinker notes we now endured each Sunday. She fussed if anybody else ever touched the keys, and she never took a vacation for fear of finding a permanent replacement on her bench when she returned. The elder board, not knowing how to turn her out to pasture without devastating her tender sensibilities, piously reminded complainers that forbearance was a virtue.

One summer Sunday, it all came to a head. Keeping the congregation alert in a sanctuary with no air conditioning was a challenge for the pastor, but he excelled at strategically punctuating his sermon points with thunderous emphasis, so most of us kept our eyelids up. Still, it must have been unbearably hot in the choir loft, where the organ and Mrs. Leidenfeist resided. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have had a hard time keeping awake up there.

The sermon finally ground to a conclusion, and ending the service required just a little more liturgical dialogue between congregation and pulpit.

“Let us pray,” intoned our pastor.

We all waited for our organ cue to respond in song. Deafening silence lingered for an eternal twenty seconds, while the pastor shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Every child, parent, and granny in the building was dying to turn around and check out what had gone haywire in the balcony, but the mamas of our denomination had drilled into their children for ten generations past that looking behind us or laughing in church would net us ten thousand years in purgatory – and we didn’t even subscribe to that doctrine!

“I SAID, ‘Let us pray!!!’” the pastor shouted, as he glared towards the choir loft.

The organ lady hit the keys with a full body slam, at the same time tromping down hard on the volume pedal. I know the Bible says the resurrection of the dead will be announced with a trumpet blast, but if it had said “organ,” this would have done the job. Mrs. Leidenfeist recovered quickly, and the traditional notes were duly sounded. Not a snicker was heard. How many prayers shot heavenward for divine aid in giggle suppression can only be guessed, but the liturgical response, done with the usual perfect decorum, prevailed over all temptation.

No doubt the pastor consulted his Excedrin and Maalox bottles for the rest of the day, while the laity enormously enjoyed chicken and Mrs. Leidenfeist’s embarrassment for dinner.

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