Anna and Her Bible

28 04 2010

I am nervous about others seeing what I write in the margins of my Bible.  Those notes reveal what I see as important in God’s Word.  It reveals what is going on in my mind and heart as I read.  If those notes are read, I am being judged whether or not I am a worthy reader of Scripture.  What if I, a teacher of the Bible, come up short?

With that being said, I have been wanting for some time to share a few of the notes that Anna made in her Bible.  I have written elsewhere about Anna’s reading and the Bible.  You can read here, here, and here for example.  Also, see Anna’s list of favorite books at the top of the blog.

Anna had been diligent and faithful in reading her Bible for some time, but in 2006, when she was seven, she began to take a more systematic approach.  Timberley showed her some ways to mark her Bible as she read, following a Kay Arthur type of model for taking notes.  Some of Anna’s underlinings are odd.  When she was reading Matthew, for instance, she underlined Matthew 10:9, “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts.”  This verse must have stood out for some reason but she made no other note about it.

In addition to her notes, she began in September 2006 to note the date that she read each chapter of the New Testament.  She had read most or all of the Old Testament at this time, but she began making these notes in the New Testament.  On September 20, 2006 she began reading Matthew.  She read the first two chapters that day.   Chapter three on September 21.  Chapter four on the 25th, and so on.  She read in long stretches.  For instance, on December 16 of that same year she began 1 Corinthians.  She read 1 Corinthians 1-3 that day.  But on the next day, she read the remaining 13 chapters of that book, all of 2 Corinthians, and Galatians 1-4.  The following day she finished Galatians and read Ephesians.

As prodigious of a reader as Anna was, it is in her marginal notes that we see her heart emerge.  Her brief notes reveal some of the playfulness of her young spirit, her depth of insight that was so far past her years, her sense of the dramatic, and most of all her passion and love for Christ.

Beside Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth,” she wrote, “I know that verse like my own mother.”  I don’t know if she made up that expression or if she read it somewhere, but I know that she had a warm smile and was laughing on the inside as she wrote it.

She was not afraid to admit that things in the Bible puzzled her.  John 6:55 reads, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  She circled the last half of that verse and wrote in the margin, “Couldn’t you have explained it better?”  She was not a big fan of John, by the way, because she could not take seriously a man who referred to himself repeatedly as the Beloved Disciple.  How proud!

Her note on Acts 21 concerning Paul’s arrest puzzled me for a while until I realized she was reading the book of Acts as a drama.  She wrote at the top of the page “Don don don da,” and drew arrow to the section title, “Paul Arrested.”  What in the world was that, I thought.  Then I remembered Sam and Anna’s trademark cry when something dramatic was taking place.  They would shout out the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  She was writing those four notes down as a note to herself, “Don don don da.”

Her love for Christ comes out in a marginal note she made in John 19, as the story of the crucifixion is told.  There are no words there, but a simple drawing of a face with tears streaming down.

The notes I most enjoy reading, however, are those she made at the end of each of Paul’s letters.  She gave her brief response to Paul, as if Paul had written the letter directly to her.  It is in this aspect of her reading that we can learn from her, for indeed, those letters are written for us and to us.

After 1 Corinthians 16:24, “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.  Amen.”  Anna wrote, “Thank you, Paul.  It gives me hope.”

Following 2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  Anna wrote simply, “Sweet.  Thanks.”  Again her note at the end of the letter to the Galatians is simply “Thanks.”

But the note at the end of the letter to the Ephesians grabs me, for it is here we can see Anna’s heart for God.  Paul closes his letter, “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”  Anna wrote, “I do want to love him.”  This note reminds me of the time that Timberley went in to tuck Anna into bed.  Anna was uncharacteristically lying on her bed staring at the ceiling.  She was not reading as she normally did.  Timberley asked her if everything was okay.  Anna, continuing to look at the ceiling, said, “Oh Mommy.  I just love Jesus so much.”

Anna, at seven, understood the Bible in ways that I am still struggling to understand.  She read it as God’s word for her.  She read Paul as if all of his letters were really entitled, “Paul’s Epistle to Anna.”  She read the Gospels as true stories and wept at the crucifixion.  She admitted when things were difficult to understand, yet she still responded in faith to God’s word and wanted to love her Savior more and more as she read.

She wrote in her Bible that she never finished the book of Revelation.  On the title page beginning the New Testament she wrote an explanation, “Jesus’ life.”  And then below that, “Revelation was so heavenly.  I had to stop reading it!”

But alas, although her reading was cut short, her living of the reality expressed in the book of Revelation will continue forever!

Anna resurget.


Timberley is Off to Indonesia!

27 04 2010

I dropped off Timberley at Raleigh/Durham airport today. She flew to New York. New York to San Francisco, where she should land shortly. Dinner with my father and a friend in San Francisco. One in the morning San Francisco to Hong Kong. Hong Kong to Singapore. Singapore to Jakarta. Jakarta to Semarang. And then a five minute drive from the airport to our friends’ house where she will be staying. It will be a long couple of days for her.

She is visiting Indonesia until May 10.  She has been aware for some time that when we left Indonesia to come to the States, she never really said good-bye to everyone there.  It has been over a year and a half for her now.  Samuel and I returned last summer so we could pack up our house and close out things there.  But Timberley has not been back yet.  When we left back in 2008 we thought it would be a temporary exit and that we would return in about four or five months.  Events have turned out differently and it looks like we are here in the States permanently–or as permanently as things get this side of heaven.

The next impetus to return came when our things arrived from Indonesia and Timberley realized that many of Anna’s things did not belong with us, but needed to be given to some of her friends over there. 

So we decided some time back that she would return to Indonesia.  In a bit of a last-minute decision we concluded that this was the right time.  So off she has gone.

We know that this will be a difficult trip and at a difficult time.  May 2 is the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing, and Timberley was very close to her; May 7, of course, is the two-year anniversary of Anna’s passing; and then May 9 is Mother’s Day.  It will be a big trip indeed.

Please pray for her and also for Samuel and me while we remain behind in lovely Wake Forest!

Miracles in Her Eyes

21 04 2010

I have written here about how much we like Switchfoot in our home.  They were Anna’s favorite band, and their music evokes many memories of her.  When Timberley drove the kids from Salatiga to Semarang for music lessons or other things, they would listen to Switchfoot in the car the entire one hour trip.  They would all sing together on some songs.  On others everyone would ride quietly, the kids reading in the back seat, Timberley keeping constant focus on the road, as you have to do in Indonesia.  When I first heard Switchfoot I wasn’t that excited about them.  But that changed when I began listening to their lyrics.  I discovered both a depth and a fresh way of expression that I appreciated.  Perhaps the turning point was when I listened to the opening line of the song “More than Fine” from the album The Beautiful Letdown:  “When I wake in the morning/I want to blow into pieces/I want more than just okay.”  The kids and I started talking about the lyrics and exploring the meanings of the songs.  In that way, songs that they previously did not like, such as “4:12” and “Faust, Midas, and Myself” from Oh, Gravity became some of our favorites.

After Anna’s death I wondered if their new music would hold the same signficance for me.  They did not dissapoint.  The first song they released after Anna’s death was on the soundtrack to the movie Prince Caspian, “This is Home.”  That song, we felt, so captured what we thought Anna would be saying as she passed from life to death to life, that we used that as a song in one of her memorial services.  You can see the pictures and hear that song in the video section of this blog. 

Now the first full album has been released, Hello Hurricane.  They are still capturing the sadness and hope of living in a broken, fallen world.  When we listen to the album in our car we have the interesting experience of listening to the final track followed immediately by the first track as the CD repeats itself.  The final song is called “Red Eyes” and is a stirring song of hope in the midst of sadness.  “What are you waiting for?  The day is gone.  I said, ‘I’m waiting for dawn.’/What are you aiming for, out here alone?  I said, ‘I’m aiming for home.'”  Again they have captured my feelings exactly.  At the end of this song, as the track fades out, you can hear snippets of the words from the first track of the album, “Needle and Haystack Life,”  “I found miracles there in your eyes/You are once in a lifetime.”  Although they did not know Anna, I know they are singing about her.   As those words fade out and the CD repeats, the song itself comes on and the whole experience begins again.   Anna was truly a “needle girl in a haystack world.”

Grace among the Ruins

5 04 2010

We have just completed an emotional period.  Anna’s birthday, as many of our friends noted, was on March 29.  Easter followed soon after on this past Sunday.  So almost at once, we were reminded of the loss of our daughter and then given an opportunity to reflect on the resurrection of our Lord and our resulting resurrection.

Our faith as Christians is based on the resurrection.  Paul says that without the resurrection our faith is in vain; if there is no resurrection we of all people are most to be pitied.  Perhaps Peter had something like that in mind when he gave his list of virtues.  He began with faith, adding virture upon virtue until he culminated with love.  All for him began with and was built–to use the building metaphor favored by Peter–upon faith.

But faith, while it provides us a place to stand, a solid plac e on which to build, does not always provide a salve for the emotions.  That is why the wiping away of tears, the elimination of sickness and death, is reserved for the book of Revelation.  Tears, sickness, and death will be taken away.  but not yet.  And that is okay.  It must be.

The date of Easter changes evey year.  With one nod each to the earth’s annual orbit around the sun, the moon’s monthly orbit around the earth, and the seven-day week ordained by our Lord, Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.  So if the beginning of spring is followed immediately by a full mon and then Sunday, Easter could be just a day or two after the beginning of spring in late March.  If, however, those events are out of order, then Easter could be dlayed up to about five weeks after the beginning of spring, or late April.

Among the many gracious things that happened in the events surrounding Anna’s death (and indeed there was grace among the ruins), this one fact has a sort of cruel irony to it: that Anna’s death, coming on May 7, is safely out of reach of Easter every year.  Therefore, we will always have the remembrance of Anna’s death to look ahead to after we celebrate the resurrection on Easter.

But perhaps even there we can find grace at work.  Perhaps God, knowing our weakness and our propensity to mourn, has provided that we would always have a fresh vision of the resurrection to fortify our spirits as we approach the difficulties of May 7.

Maybe God is not so mean after all.