Growing up in the 1940s and 50s life was very different to what we know today. The Second World War was ending and most things were on ration, so there were few amusements for us children – we made our own fun and occupied ourselves in the streets around our houses quite happily, without the need for constant supervision necessary in the society in which we find ourselves today.
There was no TV, little money for toys, if indeed they were available at all, and so, in my family, we did lots of things together. My parents would read to me until I was able to do that myself and as reading was one of my passions, I would visit the public library around three times each week to borrow two books each time – that was all we were allowed. I loved devouring such books as the Nancy Drew mysteries, The famous Five and Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton and later, as I grew, books such as Little Women and Jane Eyre, etc.
My dad, being a local preacher and subsequently a pastor, would read the bible stories to me, or tell them to me in his own words when I was very little, and one of my earliest memories was sitting on the crossbar of his bicycle as he travelled from West Bromwich to Coseley to take the services. I would sit on the platform, behind a curtain and read my picture books while the service progressed. In those days, the bible was, to me, a collection of stories about God, Jesus and famous people like Noah, Moses, Jonah and so on. My dad encouraged me to memorise certain passages from the bible like Psalm 23, Isaiah 53, etc and when pestered, would ask me questions like a kind of quiz. I took great delight in giving him the correct answers to questions such as ‘name Noah’s three sons’.
As I reached my teenage years I felt that to read the bible each day was something that a Christian should do – like ticking boxes really – and so I would purchase daily reading guides published by the Scripture Union from the bookshop in Birmingham and dutifully read each day’s passage and the comments in the book. Looking back, although this was done out of duty, rather than desire, I did take in much of the content of the King James Bible, which was really the only version available at the time and I am constantly amazed at how much still comes to memory when needed today. Never underestimate the ability of children to absorb the bible when they appear to be paying no attention whatsoever to what is being said from the platform.
When I was sixteen years of age I had an encounter with God at a conference at the Swansea Bible College, listening to men such as Duncan Campbell expound the scriptures, which changed my whole outlook on the bible. I believe that was when I was truly ‘born again’ as the bible calls it. I began then to read the bible because I loved that God really spoke to me through the words, which the Holy Spirit would light up to me as I read them. At twenty one, on receiving my personal baptism in the Holy Spirit, a whole new dimension of relationship with God was opened up to me and I began to see the bible as the main avenue for God to speak to me – guiding, correcting, encouraging, etc., and daily reading became essential for my spiritual progression.
By this time, of course, there were different translations for me to read and compare and I found it much easier to understand many of the passages I had struggled with before. Personally, now I use the New Living Translation which I like, but often compare what other translations say to get an all round interpretation of a difficult part. Now that we have the bible apps and Google its much easier to do this at the touch of a finger. I have the YouVersion app on my Ipad and phone and as long as I remember a few words of the verse I can usually find it – easier than trying to remember chapter and verse – something I have always struggled with!
So, what of today in the Third Age of life? The bible to me now is a precious book, one to be treasured beyond any other and one to be devoured as often as possible. I am a morning person and so I always do my daily reading at the start of the morning over breakfast. This used to mean getting up around 6.00am when I was working but now a little later, but I find that God gives me
something to think about throughout the day, maybe when a challenge crops up and I wonder how I’m going to cope. How about this one – ‘so do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Is 41:10-11. When I’m feeling down I’ve had this one – ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love…you will be rebuilt……Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.’ Jer 31:3 When I am anxious – ‘You, too, must be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.’James 5:7-8 and ‘He will keep you strong right up to the end, and he will keep you free from all blame on the great day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.’1 Cor 1:8
I could go on all day but those are some of the verses that the Holy Spirit has lighted up to me and which I have recorded in my prayer journal. I find this is a very valuable tool because when I sometimes feel a bit rubbish and need to be reminded that God is good, I go back and read what he has said to me. That soon gets me out of the doldrums. There are times when God will bring to my remembrance a verse of scripture which I have read in the past for me to share with a friend who might be struggling too. Of course, I do need to have made myself familiar with the scriptures in the first place – and that’s why it’s important to read them!
For some years and still today, my guide for daily reading has been the Word for Today, published by UCB, which I have on my phone and also a hard copy. I always read the chapter that the daily verse is from in order to get the context and often God will speak to me from something that is not necessarily based on the focussed verse but that doesn’t matter. God knows what I need to be reminded of for that day much better than anyone as he knows the future and I don’t.
I was also introduced to Our Daily Bread by Mrs Mallaband some years ago, so I do read that as well. There are countless varieties of reading guides and I’ve worked my way through quite a few of them over the years, but these two have been with me for quite a while. Find one that suits you would be my advice and as to when to do your reading, that will depend on your circumstances at
various stages of family life. Babies do take naps and housework can take second place if you really want to hear from God! If you’re working its good to jot down a verse on a postit and put it on your desk to remind yourself of it throughout the day. There are countless ways of feeding on the Word of God and others will have ways that suit them. You can even have the bible ready to
you while driving to work if you are pushed for time. Remember the Lord’s Prayer – ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ We have it in abundance so let’s take advantage of the technology at our disposal. Just remember – don’t beat yourself up if you have been so stressed that bible reading has just not been possible for a day or two – just get down to it when you can take some time out and
enjoy the refreshment it can bring. Happy reading.