In the margins…

From Martha at RevGals:

What do the margins of your Bible reveal about your life with God?

RevGals would love to hear your story about the margins of your Bible.

By Wednesday, blog or email a story or a photo sharing: a prayer answered, a lesson learned, a Bible passage illuminated by your drawing, a date remembered, a sermon started, a transforming moment, a personal practice you do in the margins, an A-HA! that happened.

I was a writer and doodler in the margins. In books that I read. In my textbooks (once I purchased them, not borrowed them!) And in my bible.

In seminary, we were allowed to use a non-study Bible for our Greek and hermeneutics classes. Any notes we made in the margins were OK, just not the extensive text notes of other scholars. There’s a rainbow of colors and lines connecting phrases and progressions in the text. I still refer to them when I’m studying or preaching from the book of Mark. 🙂 These days, I tend to use my E-bible as I study and write color coded notes in text links (it’s one the reasons I like the YouVersion app, because my notes are there right where I need them.) Usually these notes are the logical, structural, intellectual kind of notes.

But sometimes my written notes are not what help me see the works of God in my life and in others.

It was on a silent retreat that I had a clear image that has stayed with me, throughout the seasons of ministry. This particular day it was a cold, windy February day. There was some lingering snow on the ground and the sky had a heavy overcast. I walked around the property at Dayspring, alone with God. I had heard some disappointing health news for some friends. Their tears were heavy on my heart. I was trying to write them a note, but had little success in coming up with anything other than “life sucks sometimes but God is good.” (I could wrap my head around the first part, but the second part didn’t fit. No way. No how.)

I walked back to the main Lodge, cold and slightly grumpy. I fixed myself a cup of tea and sat down at a large picture window, looking out over a small stream, some bent vines and bare trees. It was stark and grey. There were wisps of grasses along the banks of the stream, poking through the snow cover. I knew the promise of spring was there. It just wasn’t time.

“Lord, I’m just not getting it. What do I say to these friends?”

At that moment a male cardinal flitted in a sat on a branch nearest the Lodge. He sang and sang, a bright spot in a sea of browns and greys. I watched him flit from branch to branch. I smiled as he seemed to play in the brambles, dipping down to the stream for a drink.

On the table in front of me was my open Bible and some art materials. I was reading in Jeremiah 17, because that was the text for the week. I got the contrast between the wicked and the faithful. But for my friends, it seemed as though what they were going through was a horrible, terrible punishment. They were in the barren wilderness. They felt abandoned in a desert of pain and suffering. I went back to the text…

5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”

Jeremiah 17, NLT

Suddenly the picture in front of me made sense. They are like trees planted along a riverbank,with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

They were hurting. They were sad. They were afraid. But they were clinging to their hope in God to get them through. The circumstances truly did suck. But God was with them.

I began to sketch and this picture appeared…

Jeremiah 17:7-8a
Jeremiah 17:7-8a

Hope is a tangle of brambles, bare tree limbs and half-dead grass. Hope is also a cardinal singing in the coldest of winter mornings, because spring is coming.
Hope. I can live there.

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