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An Emergency Is No Time to Read the Directions

ďHelp me!Ē 

It took me a moment to figure out where the sound was coming from. But I could see the car coming into the YMCA parking lot slow and at an odd angle, more like the sideways crab walk of someone fatally wounded than the purposeful arc of a car looking for a parking space. 

ďHelp!Ē The passenger called out again and I thought from the way she was leaning out of the car, that she was trying to get away from the driver. Then she said the words that made everything snap into focus, ďThe driverís dead and I canít stop the car.Ē 

The car was listing starboard and would soon be running into cars lined up in the parking spaces. I ran up, opened the driverís door, reached across the driver to straighten the wheel and push on the brake. The immediate crisis was averted.

Then the passenger told me that the pregnant driver had been having heart problems and now she was dead. I laid back the driverís seat and checked for a pulse. Finding none, I ran close enough to the Yís front door to get someone to call 911. Then I pulled the driver out on the hard packed grass along the parking lot, and methodically went through the steps I had been taught as a Boy Scout as I initiated CPR.  

My wife, who I was there to pick up, and my father with whom she had gotten a ride, soon came out of their exercise class and my dad, who had both more training and experience, just slid into the chest compressions while I took over the breathing part alone. By the time the ambulance arrived some minutes later, we had a pulse and CPR was stopped. My dad headed home, while Victoria and I continued on with our evening.  

This was more than a decade ago and I donít think about the incident except when CPR is mentioned. But it came to me while considering the Bible, because I considered how my reactions that night had already been honed through training.

There is a way we Christians can do a spiritual version of this as well. What I highly recommend is not a passing interest of the Bible alongside other books, but a real, intentional plan for marinating yourself in Godís Word. 

There are two other dominant patterns of reading the Bible. One is to keep it out somewhere at the house and read the cover from time to time noticing the beautifully etched gold foil letters reading ďHoly Bible.Ē That is the reading that many of the millions of Bibles in homes get.

The other pattern is to wait until something goes wrong in your life and then go to the Bible searching for answers. The Bible is pretty poor at this as it was not designed as a troubleshooting guide to be turned to when things go wrong. Sure there are Scriptures that will be very comforting or even challenging when you find yourself in a mess, but thatís not the best way to encounter them.  

The best way to encounter the scriptures is by continually reading your way through them in short doses, preferably daily, but at least a few times a week. Also gather for worship with other Christians to hear the Bible both read and preached. Then you get the Bible in your bones.

And donít start at Genesis with a plan to read the Bible straight through to the end. That usually doesnít work much farther than Leviticus, the third book of the Bible.

No, the Bible is a library of 66 books and you donít have to read from the first to the 66th and the way millions of Christians who have gone before you have found works best is through a pattern with short readings from the Old Testament combined with even shorter readings from the New Testament read every day. Itís a much easier and therefore better pattern. 

When bad times come in your life youíll want to have already read and reflected on scripture. And this is true whether you are facing the end of your life or a trying time at school or work or home. For when it comes to the Last Days or those tough times in your life, itís no time to blow the dust off the gold foil on your Bible.

And now we circle back to the YMCA parking lot. That cool fall evening in Athens, Georgia I had no idea that I would almost be run into by a woman in need of CPR. And had I never taken a course, that would not have been the time to start studying. The last thing she needed was someone standing there reading a book on CPR and trying to figure out how to get started.

What she needed was someone who had already well familiar with the Red Cross guide to CPR, who had practiced it enough to be confident to begin. There was no one else in the lot and no one else coming for a critical few minutes. If I had started reading up on CPR just then, she and her baby would have died as my father or someone else who knew the drill would have been too late. 

It is the same with your spiritual life. Do not wait until your spiritual heart rate and breathing flat line to pick up the instruction manual. Instead, pick it up now. Donít get overly ambitious. Start slow, follow a pattern that you can keep up. Donít worry about whether or not you are ďgetting itĒ or whether or not ďitís working.Ē Just trust the process. Billions of Christians have been marinated over time in this same sauce and they came out quite tasty.

So just trust that over time God will be revealed to you in ever new and every amazing ways. That will only come if you stick with reading even when it makes no sense or seems to be pointless. But the discipline matters. For you donít want just a passing glance at the cover of a Bible. That wonít help when you need the wisdom from Scripture. Instead try a more serious and sustained encounter with Godís Word and you will find it little by little transforming your life for the better. 

(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.) 

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