What Did Jesus Say?

Now and then I will see a ¬†Facebook post by a modern-day Pharisee who claims “Jesus said this,” or “Jesus said that”, without including the Scripture reference. I’ve been a student of the Bible for forty years, but my response is often, “Really? I don’t remember Him saying that.”

I’ll search the Gospels for the reference. Sometimes the quotation has been cherry-picked out of context, sometimes misquoted. Other times, the quote is just plain revisionist scripture.

These occasions led me to want to better educate myself about what Jesus actually said. Thinking a red-letter edition of the Bible would be helpful, I looked through the several translations and editions we had at home. I found no suitable Bible to use. The only red-letter edition on hand was a small, King James gift Bible I had received as a child. The print was way too small for my 67-year-old eyes. Besides, King James language, although poetic and beautiful, can no longer be considered the vernacular. I needed something I could read and understand.

I went Bible shopping. I was overwhelmed by the wide range of choices, none of which was within my budget. There were large tomes with large print and space for taking notes, small Bibles with too-small print, myriad translations, even a few with the words of Jesus in red.

I also found something called journaling Bibles. These are intended for those who do art work in their Bibles in response to Scripture. Margins are ample, paper is sturdy; some even include drawings to be colored. (I consulted Pinterest. Apparently Bible journaling is quite a fad. It is telling that I found a greater variety of these in the craft store than in the book store, artfully displayed next to specialty “Bible journaling markers” and lettering templates. Someone is making a green killing on these.)

I threw up my hands in frustration and did not buy a new Bible that day. Instead, I bought a pink Bible highlighter–the kind that is erasable and will not bleed through thin paper. I would make my own red-letter edition.

The plan? Using my favorite study Bible, I would read the Gospels as an Advent discipline. As I read, I would highlight Jesus’ words with pink. I am not the most consistent, disciplined student. I have made progress, but Advent was over months ago. Here it is June, and I’ve reached the 16th chapter of Luke. That speaks to my humanness, I suppose.

Not having a deadline to finish has its advantages. I’ve been able to go at my own pace, thinking about what I read. Reading the Christmas story right after Easter gave me a new perspective. I read it not as a routine ritual, but as something to consider in relation to the Resurrection.

The highlighter has also slowed me down. I have focused on Jesus’ words. Even His shortest utterances have a power I had not before realized.

I’m glad I undertook this red-letter project. It continues to teach me much.

Bible pix


Running Away

I ran away from home today. (I do this now and again. I always return.) I am retired, but lately it seems that other people have been scheduling my time for me. This appointment, that social function… It seems to never end. It’s been weeks since I’ve had an entire day with which to do as I please. I was ready to take advantage of the time.

As I got ready to leave the house, I kept finding things that needed to be done. I didn’t want to forget, but I also didn’t want to take the time to write them down, so I started doing each task as I thought of it. I finally told myself, “Gee. If I don’t run away, I’ll never get there.” I shrugged off the guilt trip about the little tasks that I was leaving undone. It was time to leave.

I gathered up my writing tools and headed for my favorite coffee shop. After buying my usual mocha I looked for an empty table. What luck! I scored a seat by the sunny window; a rare find.

My personal rule is that I may and must write until the coffee’s gone. Writing helps me think through things. As I sat in the sun and wrote, I realized the sources of my recent stress: worries about this and that, daily busyness, the current news cycle, Donald Trump. The words flowed from pen to paper. I articulated prayers. The stress began to melt.

I’ve come to think of my running away days as a type of mini-retreat. Going to a neutral quiet spot, away from everyday life, allows me to sort out my thoughts and refresh my mind. (Yes, I know a coffee shop isn’t the quietest place; but there’s a certain anonymity that lets me be quiet within.)

I should run away more often.