Guilt-free summer feasting

Personal bible study is not my forte.

In fact, that is probably a little sugar-coated. It would be more accurate to say I suck at regular, personal bible study.

Like exercising more and eating less ice-cream, regular bible study is one of those things I know I should be more disciplined about, and that I have benefitted greatly from when I’ve been more consistent. But usually I don’t, and I feel guilty instead.

I do best when I have buddies. When I have company, I cycle further, I eat healthier, I read the Scriptures more.

So since the summer-hiatus-when all-things-grind-to-a-halt is upon us, I figured I’d better make a plan to find some bible buddies. I sent a pitiful email out to a handful of women. It read something like this: “I suck at reading the bible by myself. Will you join me on Thursdays and read Luke with me this summer? Please???”

20130630-142407.jpg

I sent it to 12 women, expecting less than half to reply. I got 13 yeses. A bakers dozen of bible buddies.

Now I am someone who has been thoroughly trained in how to lead a bible study: how to study and interpret a passage, how to launch discussion, how to prepare questions etc. and I have myself taught many students how to prepare and lead a bible study. And for sure, extensive preparation from the leader DOES make for great bible studies. And preparation by the participants (whether with a study guide or just reading the passage before the time) usually makes for better discussion.

BUT….

My plan for the summer was a no-guilt bible study. So clearly the big-prep-reaps-big-rewards model of bible study wasn’t going to work for me. So I confessed my laziness and decided on these rules of engagement:

1. No reading or prep for anyone. (so no one would ever feel guilty for arriving unprepared)

2. No preparation questions from me. (so no guilt about not asking or answering “correctly”)

3. We would gather and start reading Luke. Each person takes turns reading as many sentences as they like before they pass off to the person next to them, who can read or pass themselves (no guilt about reading too much/too little/not at all).

4. We see how far we get each week. (no guilt about how much we covered)

5. If anyone has anything they want to ask, comment on, point out etc, they say “stop”, and we stop and discuss. When we feel we’re done disussing, we resume reading. (no guilt in shouting stop. Any question or comment is fair game.)

And so we began. Just a handful of women, the Holy Spirit, and Luke. And it was Marvelous. Refreshing. At times hilarious (think of Zechariah’s trying to act out what the angel told him about his elderly wife’s imminent pregnancy!). At times poignant. At times thought-provoking. It was wonderful.

I think I’m going to call it our GONG bible study: Girls Only No Guilt. (Hmmm. If our male-counterparts were to have one would it be a BONG study?)

The simple goodness of our study made me think of my husband’s new hobby: bread making. Much to our gastronomic delight, my hubby has been experimenting with all those back-to-basics recipes. He has learned how to make starter doughs with fantastic names: poolishes and bigas. Simple ingredients of water, yeast and flour, to make simple yet mouth-wateringly delicious loaves.

20130630-142359.jpg

I am usually a sandwich girl. I am all about the toppings: the fresh arugula, the tangy mustard, the sun-sweetened tomatoes. And the bread just holds it together like culinary parentheses. But oh, to rediscover the simple goodness of just bread. Bread by itself. Bread which fills the house with its home-and-hearth aroma. Bread hot out of the oven. Bread I burn my fingers on because I try to pull hunks off it before it has cooled.

When it comes to bible study, I think I've grown accustomed to the bible sandwich: scripture with toppings of commentary and other people's thoughts and questions and interpretations. But oh, to rediscover the simple goodness of just reading the bible. No fuss, no guilt. The bible by itself. Daily bread which infuses my life with His aroma. Fresh Bread. Bread I can’t wait to have more of.

I can’t wait until next week. Luke: we’re going to sink our teeth in and nourish our souls.

Friends, if you have a bible and a buddy – I hope you’re feasting.

11 thoughts on “Guilt-free summer feasting

  1. I just love this post! Love the GONG idea. (Not so sure about BONG:). And your “bible sandwich” metaphor is brilliant. (Can you tell I like this post?).

  2. I love this post too!! Sometimes we may avoid Bible study because we think of all the prep work, and end up not reading the Bible at all. That’s not good! We do need Bible study (looking at commentaries and such gives our study the wisdom of others), but I think this can also limit us – we are depending on the thoughts of others instead of really considering the Scriptures for ourselves. Ya know? Thanks for the challenge Bronwyn that I needed to hear today!

  3. Your descriptions and metaphors are wonderful, Bronwyn. And I too love just bread, whether the Scriptural variety or hot our of the oven!

    Cheers,
    Tim

    P.S. When I was in college, a number of my fellow students did bhang studies. Is that the same?

    • Now that I have googled bhang, I can reply ๐Ÿ™‚ bong was another euphemism for weed growing up. As with many words, I can no longer tell whether they belong to my SA vocabulary, my learned-from-Hollywood-as-a-kid vocabulary, or my adult Californian vocab. But now “bong” as slang makes sense etymologically: a mispronunciation of bhang perhaps?

      • The spelling change was in play when I was in college. I don’t think anyone spells it “bhang” any more, just us old guys!

  4. We recently did this in a church women’s group that I’ve been part of for about 7 years — exactly as you described. (We read John’s and Peter’s letters, and Jude.) All the women in the group said it was the study they got the most out of. Each woman read whatever translation she’d brought, and we enjoyed comparing the nuances of the different wordings. Every now and then of course we got bogged down in something we couldn’t understand contextually and someone would read from commentary notes in her Bible, but mostly we just went with the text itself. It was very nourishing — to fit your bread analogy. I have to admit I felt a little guilt myself as to whether this was a “proper” Bible study. I’m not sure whose definition of proper I had in mind, actually … but I really like your post and can completely relate!

    • Jeannie – thanks for your comment: it’s very encouraging!! We also had a few translations in the mix and once landed up referring to a study bible’s notes. I guess I had been afraid that doing it the way we did, we might go off on tangents and not really get back to the text; but everyone was committed and engaged with the text and it was so rewarding! Maybe this is part of what Paul said when he wrote to “devote yourself to the public reading of scripture”??

Comments are closed.