At least a year ago, maybe longer, my sister gave me our dad’s Bible that she had had since he died over a dozen years ago. And for most of that year in my possession, his Bible has been sitting on this chair in the room in our house where I write most of my blog posts. Recently, I picked it up and started flipping through it.
Consistent with its ragged appearance, I learned that this Bible dates back to my dad’s first church following his graduation from seminary over 60 years ago. Inscribed inside the first page are his name and the name of that first church—Tallulah Presbyterian Church in Tallulah, Louisiana.
I noticed on the table of contents page, Dad has bracketed some of the books into categories.
As I flipped over a few more pages, I began to find passages underlined in pencil, sometimes with notes jotted down in the margin.
I quickly realized this was not a family Bible that sat on a bookshelf seldom to be taken down; no, this was a working Bible, a Bible that probably sat close by on his desk for easy access as he prepared his weekly sermons.
Chills washed over me as I continued to turn pages. Each time I came across an underlined scripture or a hand written note, I wondered what thoughts had gone through my dad’s mind as he poured over that passage. Interestingly, I found very few passages underlined in the section of the Bible Dad had labeled “History.” Maybe he chose not to delve too much into the history books in his sermons.
When I reached Psalms, I found a multitude of Dad’s pencil underlinings. Dad must have received much inspiration for his sermons from these passages. And occasionally, I would find a penciled note in the margin with quotation marks around it. I wondered if this might be a working title for one of his sermons?
Through the rest of the Old Testament, there were only occasional books where Dad had pondered over a passage long enough to leave his pencil marks. But when I got to the New Testament, it was rare to find a page that didn’t have some underlining on it. And when I came to Jesus’s parable in Matthew about the sower where seed fell in multiple places with dissimilar outcomes, I found a hand written note in the margin that read: “Seed = word of God.” I was immediately taken back to the sermon Dad gave on this when I was young and heard him say that for the first time. It was a new understanding for me then and it is an understanding that has remained with me ever since.
As I flipped over several more pages, I began to run across passages underlined that I remembered from his sermons over 40 years ago. It was as if he was speaking to me again through his notes—notes that have lived on beyond him.
Chills flooded over me again as I began to realize that a part of my dad was still inside that Bible, captured on the thin, frail pages. It was as if my dad had been sitting silently with me over the past year and I didn’t even realize it. I sadly learned too late what a great man my dad was from the wonderful comments made about him to me by former church members at his funeral. Other than Sunday morning, I never saw my Dad doing his “job” of being a minister to all those in need in his church. But it is a knowledge that I have since recognized was no doubt a part of my subconscious since I have chosen to live my life emulating my dad—as a loving, caring, kind, gentle and hard working man.
With the realization that a part of my dad is still in among those fragile pages, his Bible has found a new home—at the side of my desk where it is again in easy reach—just like it was for my dad. I know now after discovering the hidden treasures inside it that I will have to make a much more thorough perusal of his Bible, page by page to recall other lessons I have learned from my dad. And to hear him silently speak to me again, after all the years he has been gone.