Who asks for a New Years gift? Well, apparently I do. Unique is just another word for weird, but that is okay. I was going to ask for this for Christmas (’tis the season and all that), but by the time I’d polished this write-up, it didn’t give people much time. Since New Years is all about a fresh new start and a whole new year, it fit my plan nicely.
Don’t worry, what I want doesn’t cost any money, so don’t fret about that. My wish requires only your time. You really don’t have to. The whole point of a gift is that you give it freely with goodwill, not a scowl and a box to the head. So if, after reading this, you decide that this is not something you feel comfortable giving, that’s okay. I’m only a tyrant at Monopoly. Que sera sera and all that.
What I would like is for you to take some time and read just one book in the Bible. (It’s not Genesis, I promise! I tried reading Genesis first, it was a bad idea!) Actually, that’s it. The rest of this post is just to show you how to do it.
So let’s start:
Find a Bible (or go here for one online). By the way, there’s even an App for that. It’s called YouVersion and it has the Bible in many translations.
If King James reads like Shakespeare to you, I recommend the New Living Translation or the New International Version for easier reading. Don’t get fancy; you don’t want to try and juggle deciphering and reading at the same time. You’ll just get frustrated and that is also not the point of this gift.
Got it? Don’t open the Bible yet! Okay close it, then.
It’s easy to start flipping through and then get distracted or confused. Before you start, please pray. Maybe you don’t pray, maybe you don’t think any god exists to hear you. Maybe you just feel weird talking inside your own head. Do it anyway, okay? I’ll even recommend what to talk about if you are stuck on how to start.
Wait! Don’t open your Bible yet. What now, you ask? Do a quick life check:
- Are you distracted?
- Will you be distracted shortly?
- Are you in a quiet room?
- Can you concentrate without being bothered?
- Do you have a pen and paper (or something electronic) to jot down your thoughts or questions?
If the answer to any of these questions is a less than ideal situation, resolve it. You don’t have to tell anyone what you’re doing, just make sure you’re not going to be interrupted.
Okay, now (gasp!) the prayer:
- Questions / Issues
I recommend thanking God for some of the things that you’re grateful for in your life right now. It’s just a warm-up to get you used to “having a conversation” in your head. You’re not expecting a reply, you’re just putting it out there.
Once you’ve relaxed a bit with the thanks, ask God to open your heart (this is important – it’s amazing how guarded we can be) and your mind to help you understand what you are about to read. Yeah, it sounds New Agey, but there is no point in doing something if you’ve already decided you won’t learn anything. All I’m suggesting is that you ask God to help open you up to…possibility.
You may also want to ask him to help you with any questions or issues that may come up as you read. If you also want to pray that Aunt Sally’s arthritis gets better or that you get the job you’re looking for, go ahead and do that, too. Even if you don’t believe in God, having quiet time to settle your thoughts never hurts. Sometimes it just helps talking in your own head to articulate the things that are bothering you.
Now we start! Finally!
Okay, open your Bible and flip to the New Testament’s Book of John.
My wish is that you read this entire book. But don’t slam through it like housework or a Jell-O shot, this is some powerful and interesting stuff. Savor it like really good chocolate or a hot apple cider on a cold night. I highly recommend stopping each time you get to some title at the beginning of a new section. (Less if it’s just too much reading or you find yourself skimming.)
Books (like John, Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) are written in sections so you want to keep the flow of what you’re reading together. There is no rush. Just chew on it.
There is going to be a lot that you “don’t get” like:
The word was with God? What?
Why is he called The Word? Lamb of God?
Who is Isaiah the Prophet and what’s the connection?
What’s a Pharisee?
What’s with lambs and shepherds?
Any question, comment, thought, idea, reflection, insight, or rant you have, write it down.
Maybe you spent 10 or 15 minutes today and nothing really changed in your world. That’s okay. As you go about your day, skeptical or not, ask yourself why of all things “this bit” would be in the verse or chapter. What makes it so important or significant that it would be included in one of the most respected and revered books in history. Or what was going on in the world at the time, culturally, and geographically.
If you’re willing, tomorrow, do it again with the next bit. And so on, until you are done.
There are 21 chapters in the Book of John. Like I said, please don’t rush. These writings have been around for over 2,000 years. The scripture that Jesus quoted from is hundreds of years older than that! It’s not going anywhere.
Whether it takes you a month, six weeks, or however long to get through this one book, if it was an interesting read and nothing more, send me an email and tell me that. I will thank you deeply for the gift of your time to fulfill a New Year’s wish of mine.
Or, as you read, and you’ve written down questions or comments and want to share them with me, go ahead and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! People have said the Bible is not relevant, but I assure you, it is. Nothing better illustrates the human condition than this book.
Anyway, that’s the present I’d like.
The Bible changed the course of my life. It started me on a path that led me to ask questions, to look at my choices and my life, and to change my future forever. It did not make me funnier, better at parallel parking, or allow me to do physics. It has, however, revealed to me some insightful things about me, about life, and about what happens when we die.
Thank you for reading! I hope you grant me my wish. It may seem strange, but in granting me my wish, you may be fulfilling a wish I already have for you.
P.S. Please do me the courtesy of keeping any comments or email content positive. If you have nothing nice to say, I respect that, but I don’t want to read it. 🙂