She sat it down between us, beside the rosebud on the white linen tablecloth, a small silver pitcher of hot fudge. Then the waitress gave us each our own scoop of ice cream. This was our tradition, ever since Grandma had passed away, how I'd come for lunch and we'd end our time together with two bowls of chocolate mocha swirl and that ample portion of melted fudge to share. And he was so good at sharing it with me, before liberally applying it to his own bowl.
But Grandpa shared more than dessert. Passed down more than a sweet tooth. The stories he'd tell and the listening I'd do, then the dreams I'd confess and the prayers he'd pray. Back and forth, sharing this way.
This one afternoon, leaning back between bites, I told him how I'd just begun reading through the Bible with a small group of friends. "I can't believe I've never done this before," I confessed. "Twenty years a Christian and I've never read the whole thing. It's a little embarrassing, because I say that I believe the Gospel message more than anything else, but I've never read the whole story."
Grandpa pushed his empty bowl aside then scraped his spoon along the inside cavity of the delicate pitcher. "I read the Bible cover to cover four times before I was a Christian." That's all he said, then licked his spoon clean.
I knew most of the story, that he was raised by a Christian woman and acted the part, then in college he only went to the church because that's where the pretty girls were. Even saved his money to buy a 1920 Model T, so that he could pick up the young ladies and take them to the local Christian gathering for the young adults. But this I didn't know, how he had read it all, from Genesis to Revelation, during those growing up years, never moved to believe until the preacher's daughter said that she wouldn't date him until he was an honest-to-goodness born-again believer... and suddenly something clicked.
Clicked so hard and so deep that the rest of his life was spent telling people about how they too might also know God in a real and intimate way.
During World War II, on carriers throughout the South Pacific, Grandpa preached to the Navy men. On trips ashore he brought his Bible, looking for island churches who needed a visiting pastor. Then after the war, Grandpa took a job with Dr. Irwin Moon, founder of Moody Bible Institute of Science, putting on sensational evangelistic shows at the World's Fair each year. Wowing audiences with scientific experiments Grandpa would then talk about the God of all creation; the One who had ordered all matter through the cosmos and then came down to earth to have an intimate relationship with His people.
All this from a man who had read through the Bible four times before he believed. Genesis four times. Exodus four times. Leviticus four times. Judges four times. Deuteronomy four times. Joshua four time. Judges four times. Ruth four times. You get the picture.
All of it... four times.
I am my Grandfather's Granddaughter in many ways, but this isn't one them. Unlike Grandpa, I believed with all my heart before I read one word from my Precious Moments Bible with my own eyes. As a young child I knew God lived in my heart before I knew anything about that biological organ that beat there in my breast. And not once, since that childlike faith took root, have I doubted God's existence or His great big love for me. And yet, I never knew the whole story. And what a story it is!
The first time I read through the sweeping tale of God's redemptive love in its entirety, I was 27 years old. Just a small band of newly married women at church, with no formal Bible study leader, simply the Holy Spirit guiding us individually. Once a week we got together to share what we were learning. Insight, life application, and a healthy dose of awe were shared together week after week for 52 blessed weeks. And the overarching theme, we all discovered, was how God used every story along the way to point us to Jesus.
By the time we finished the Old Testament and turned the page into Matthew's gospel account, we were primed like never before to experience the birth of a savior. Our Savior! And as we wrapped up Revelation we all celebrated John's prophetic vision of our passionate warrior God returning again to take His people home. Cover to cover - Genesis to Revelation - Creation to the fall to His triumphant return.
Do you know that whole story?
On Monday, June 1st, 2015, I am beginning another walk through the pages of God's Word. Once a week I will blog about what I am learning and ask you to share what you have gleaned. Leave your lessons in the comments below each week for our sister sojourners to learn from too.
Four times, Grandpa read through the Bible before He believed and was saved. And I just realized that this is going to be my fourth time through. Will you join me for your first, second, third, fourth... tenth time through God's Word? It is alive and active, and you will be changed if you come to it with a heart to receive, a heart purposed to find God.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
How I wish I could sit down with Grandpa today, over hot fudge sundaes, and ask him to join us this time around. Cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation, Creation to the fall to His triumphant return... However, Grandpa is a little preoccupied these days, living the final outcome of this redemptive story on the other side of glory.
So that leaves you and me. This is your formal invitation. If you are a Christian, and you have believed all your life but only scraped the surface of God's Word, join us. And this invitation is for you, my non-Christian friends. Would you read through the Bible with me? It's the #1 best selling book of all time!
Stay tuned... more information is coming. In the meantime, print up this chronological reading schedule and ready yourself with a sturdy Bible. I just ordered this ESV Journaling Bible, and am eager to fill the ample margins with notes and verses about what I'm learning as we sojourn together. Or do what my eleven year old does and download This Bible App on your phone. If you want to be sure to not miss a blog-post chronicling the journey, sign up to receive email updates. It's going to be an exciting ride.
A special thank you to the women I walked barefoot with through every thin page, 13 years ago - that was holy ground we treaded upon, and I am forever changed because of it. Kelli, April, Anne, Jana, Andrea, Alison, Julie, Bonni, Shannon...
And to the women in my midst today who have already reached out with a resounding yes, I have no doubt that we are in for a marvelous adventure together. Jenni, Heather, Pamela, Suzanne, Jennifer, Cindey, Angie, Jenn, Christy, Jacqui, Jessica, Corona...
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.