Monday, August 22, 2011

Learning to Read

As hard as I try, I cannot remember life before I knew how to read. And I certainly cannot remember a time when I didn’t enjoy curling up with a good book and reading to my heart’s content.

It may sound strange, but I even associate certain books with periods in my life. Ramona Quimby might have been a pest, but she was my friend in 2nd and 3rd grades. I met Laura Ingalls in the 3rd and 4th grades. While Laura was intriguing, I identified much more with her sister Mary. I was heartbroken that Mary eventually became blind. In 9th grade, my mother insisted that I read Anne of Green Gables. I resisted initially, but in the end I found a kindred spirit. Oh, and lest I forget, there’s Father Tim who made his home in Mitford. I’ve read his stories over and over.

My favorite part of teaching has always been encouraging children to become readers and watching them delight in stories. When I taught 3rd grade, I always read Charlotte’s Web aloud to my students. It became a well-known fact that I couldn’t read the end of the story without sobbing. Most years, I had to have a student take over reading for me because I would cry so very hard. I knew Charlotte was going to die and still the tears flowed.

Waiting rooms, comfy sofas, on the bed, while I’m cooking, soaking in a bath, libraries, book stores, ... I love to read and read whenever I can. I nearly always carry a book with me just so I’m prepared should a few extra minutes suddenly pop into my schedule.

Yet, even I was sort of stunned to see a lady a church one Sunday morning without her Bible but holding a paperback book (The Help by Kathryn Stockett) instead. She clutched it tightly. It was ragged and dog-eared. I remember wondering why she had chosen to bring the book to church. For an instance I tried to envision the circumstance behind this decision, but then decided I really shouldn't judge her. But, three months later, I still find myself wondering why she brought a secular book to church instead of the Holy Bible, the very Word of God, a personal letter to His children.

It often seems to me that it is becoming more and more common place for people not to bring their Bibles to church, and this bothers me very deeply. I assume it has something to do with the big screens that are so common in churches today. The Bible passages are flashed onto the screen for everyone to see and no one has to look it up in their Bible anymore.

Over the summer I began to wonder since most folks don’t even bother to bring their Bible to church, if anyone still reads the Bible regularly between Sunday services. I do try read the Bible regularly, but honestly I don’t read for it for nearly as long as I might read another book, and I truthfully I tend to miss about as many days as I read, making my effort a very spotty 50% of the time. I feel guilty about this ... my attitude is just as poor as my habit. While I said I wanted to know God in a deeper way, I wasn’t even consistently trying to read what He wrote to His followers.

As a result of all this thinking and pondering and wondering how to change my Bible reading habits, I decided to take on a challenge ... read the Bible through in 90 days. It’s a neat program designed to help you read the Bible from cover to cover in just 3 months. I knew there were parts of the Bible I had never read before and I knew it would help me know God more if I had read everything His word has to say at least once. Besides, I figured I needed to put action to my words ... to show my desire instead of just talk about it.

This challenge has not been easy. In fact, this is a real struggle. I’m far behind in the reading schedule. Progress is excruciatingly slow. I feel like giving up. Currently, I am discouraged about making it through the most important book I will ever have the opportunity to read. But I won’t give up ...

You see, I’m learning to read ... learning to read what truly matters.