So big day tomorrow. I'm no novice at surgery; in fact, this is my eleventh, and finishes what my surgeon calls 'the trifecta' of abdominal surgeries--Appendix at 12, hysterectomy (2006) and now my gallbladder. And with the 3 c-sections for my kids, the scars look like cris-crossing ski-tracks across my belly. Good thing I'm not planning a career as a Sports Illustrated swim-suit model. Sigh.
So as I've been running errands today in preparation for being laid up for a while, I've been thinking about books. But I keep getting stuck on the Bibilical books that have meant the most to me over the last forty years. So today, rather than write about other books, I thought I'd write about scripture.
As you might know, there are many kinds of literature contained in the Bible. And I love all kinds of literature. So I thought I'd choose one book from each of the different sections of scripture. If I were stuck on a desert island (which actually sounds very appealing, at least for a while!), these are the fragments of the Bible I'd find necessary to my health, kind of like my own 'dead sea scrolls', if I could pick and choose.
The Pentateuch: These are the first five books of the Bible--Genesis through Deuteronomy-- and are referred to as 'The law' or 'the law of Moses'. These books hold supreme place for Jews who call them Torah. Honestly, there are great sections in each of the five, though getting through all the rules and regulations of Leviticus and the head counts, etc of Numbers is NOT for the faint of heart. There's Deuteronomy 6, which is so beautiful it takes one's breath away, and the first chapter of Genesis as well as chapter 12, where God calls Abram then gives him the blessing. HOWEVER (drum roll!) Exodus is necessary food for my soul. Chapter three alone where Moses is confronted by a bush on fire, and God who calls him by name. Moses is called to a job, and when he protests, God tells him, "It doesn't matter who you are, it only matters who I AM. And I will be with you." I love this book, and contained within it is the section of scripture which I'd like as my epitaph, "If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you..." (33:13)
The Histories: This section starts with Joshua and continues through Esther. The story of the people of Israel from the time they crossed back into the promised land is in these books, spanning hundreds of years of history. These were my favorite portions of the Bible when I was a child, but since I've grown they've become less important to me. I still love the way God speaks through story, however, because after all, God always speaks through story. Doesn't He? And my favorite book of these is 1 Samuel. There's just so much in it--from Hannah's sweating-blood prayer for a child to Samuel choosing David to David and Jonathan's friendship to... well, it reads like a novel with God at the heart of it, and whenever I need a fix of story, I turn to it. Or the sequel, 2 Samuel.
The Poetic and Wisdom Writings: Psalms through Song of Solomon. This is a no-brainer. I need the Psalms. They are daily bread to me. Air to breathe. I could do without a whole lot before I'd do without the Psalms. Learning to read a Psalm a day created a cadence in my life that has served well for a long time. Long before I ever tried it, monks were living via the rhythm of the Psalms. Who am I to mess with something so obviously honored by God? Even on my busiest days, when time is at a premium, there's always time to read a single Psalm.
The Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel. It's important to know first that these are called 'Major' because they are longer books, not because they are more important prophets. But of these, Isaiah is my 'go-to' book in this section, without a doubt. Isaiah is comprised of three sections and I tend to read 2nd Isaiah most frequently (chapters 40-55) because it has a preponderance of prophecies (how's that for alliteration) about the Messiah. But I love the whole book.
The Minor Prophets: Hosea through Malachi, or all those little books after Daniel. OK, raise a hand if these are the books that you've never read. Do I see a hand? Yep, that's what I thought. These are the ones that are hardest to get through. Oddly, some of these prophets were actually pretty 'major' like Amos and Hosea. I can't say I actually have a favorite whole book among them, but I do like sections of them. And if push comes to shove, I'd pick Habakkuk. Habakkuk is a conversation between the prophet and God. The man complains and God answers. It's gritty and honest but when Habbakuk prays at the end, it's a prayer I've prayed more than once in my life.
"I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Renew them in our day, in our time make them known. In wrath, remember mercy." Habbakuk 3:1-2
OK, that's the Old Testament. You still with me?
So the New.
JOHN. Obviously. I've written about this about a million times before. Each gospel has something in its favor, of course. Matthew the Jewish gospel, Mark as the story of the deeds, Luke with parable after parable, and the birth story which is so necessary to our understanding of the Incarnation. Still, there's only John for me. I didn't always feel this way. Most of my life I'd have told you Luke, but the prologue, the I AMs, the great prayer. And the scene on the beach after the resurrection. There's something about that moment with Peter that resonates with me so much I come back to it over and over. "Feed my sheep!"
The Epistles of Paul: This is a large unwieldy group. I'd take them all, in a way. And I'm going to cheat. I admit that. I have Philippians memorized, so I don't have to choose it. Otherwise that would be my sentimental choice. There's a strong argument for Romans because of the comprehensive theology in it and 2 Corinthians is a strong contender because of the counter-intuitive sense of what counts in God's economy--the credentials in the Kingdom are considered failures in this world. But in the end, I must choose Ephesians. The prayer in Ephesians 3 knocks me to my knees, and the power of God's armor keeps me on my feet in chapter 6. And between, I learn to walk and live and be a believer. It's right and full and everything about being a believer. THE end.
The general epistles:
Hebrews, James, Peter, John, Jude. Hebrews. Another no-brainer. So much to love in this book. Especially The last few chapters (10-13) especially speak to me. Always have.
The Revelation of John. Yep, love it, hate it, don't understand it, can't quite leave it alone. You know what I mean?
And there you have it. My Biblical favorites at a glance.
One of these days, I'll get around to actually writing about other books. But probably not tomorrow. I'll be busy.