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The Bible tells me so

For my ninth birthday my parents gave me a Bible. It was a black leatherette-bound King James Version with my name stamped in gold on the cover.

I was pleased to receive this gift but was horrified by what my mother wrote on the presentation page: “To Arvid from Mommy and Daddy.”

From Mommy and Daddy? For heaven’s sake I was nine years old. What if my friends thought I still called my parents “Mommy and Daddy.”

Well-schooled in the art of accepting a gift without complaint, I said nothing to my mother about that embarrassing message. But you can bet I kept that presentation page from the eyes of my Sunday school classmates.

The Bible was a part of my life growing up in a strongly conservative church but I never thoroughly understood the book. Fast forward to 1979. Ten years earlier I had married a cute, brown-eyed Baptist girl, we had moved to Sioux City and we had found a church we loved.

Our pastor announced one Sunday that the congregation was going to host a course to train members to teach Bible studies. I had a wife and two kids and a stressful job that held the promise of a career. I certainly was too busy for this program.

Then our pastor asked me to lunch. Over lunch he encouraged me to sign up for the new Bethel Bible Series. I claimed to be too busy. By the end of the week I committed to the two-year program.

During the first meeting of our class of some two dozen students, the instructor outlined the Bethel Bible Series as a study that would effectively look at the Bible as one book that was a love letter from God to humankind. And, he said, we could ask hard questions and express our doubts and concerns. As a journalist, I liked hard questions and I had doubts and concerns.

With rigorous home study, our class met once a week for two years. The instructor guided us and we shared questions, doubts, concerns and, frequently, astonishment with the things we learned.

The summer after the two years ended five of us students were assigned to attend a one-week crash “graduate” course in Madison, Wisconsin, to fully prepare us to teach Bible studies in our home church.

Over those two years my faith blossomed. Prior to the Bethel series I had looked at the Bible as 66 individual books and didn’t always see the connections between them. In an early class I was astonished to see, for the first time, a reference to Jesus in Genesis. In subsequent classes I learned how the Old Testament and the New Testament are linked to reveal God’s plan of salvation.

While the series didn’t answer every one of my questions, I came away with a newfound appreciation for God’s Word and a deeper confidence in its message, its truths and its legitimacy.

I also discovered something about myself. I learn best in an interactive environment, as opposed to a lecture or self-study setting. I had struggled to get decent grades in high school and college and now I understood why.

Over the decades since the Bethel Bible Series experience I have tried to remain involved in group Bible studies, though my work schedule often made that challenging. After retiring, my schedule is much more flexible and I am involved in a men’s study at our church.

Each Thursday morning about a dozen of us 65 and older retired guys get together to study the Bible, something we need as much today as when we were 20-somethings.

Our group includes a retired school teacher, principal, farmer, county official, pastor, drywall installer, agronomist, engineer, banker, financial planner, YMCA director and others, including a still-curious newspaper man.

We have supported each other through joys as well as through illnesses, surgeries, loss of mates and, of course, the aging process. The weekly study ends with prayer and, in our older years, we believe in the power and value of prayer more than ever before.

Thursday mornings are an important part of my week.

I still have that treasured ninth birthday Bible, but I really miss the mommy and daddy who gave it to me.

Arvid Huisman can be contacted at huismaniowa@gmail.com. ©2024 by Huisman Communications.

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