Writing in the Margins
Writing in the Margins

This week’s Festival centers on a prompt published here on Monday and is connected to a giveaway of three copies of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible, by Lisa Nichols Hickman.

Entries came via email, blog post and blog comment.

It’s not too late to enter! Write a blog post and post the link here in the comments, or leave a comment on this post, today before 5 p.m. Eastern; I will add your name to the random drawing.

Here are some great entries that came via email or in blog comments. You will love these stories! I promise.

First, from Sylvia:

This is probably cheating but it isn’t my Bible notes in the margin that my story is about. My great-great aunt Belle had a hand in raising my mother. We visited Aunt Belle regularly as children and her Bible was always by ‘her chair’ in the living room. It had been rebound at least once, had cardboard for the back and was held closed by an old leather children’s belt. There were funeral programs, tent revival advertisements and baby announcements tucked into various places. I was especially pleased to see a bookmark I had made in Vacation Bible school with leaf screen prints once year.
But it was written, transcribed, heck, there were even some “I certainly do not believe this is true” in multiple places. Scandalous for country Baptist girl born in 1870!
The psalms were especially marked up, with lots of hymn notations.
If we fell and skinned our knees, she would pull us into her lap, flip open the Bible and read us of the great stories of Moses and Joshua to take our mind off the burn of the Mercurochrome. Being mean to one of our siblings would get a lovely story of David and Jonathan as a gentle rebuke.
And she believed in reading parables just before bed so that ‘you have something meaty to wrestle with instead of your own small heart wrenches’.
When she died, my mother asked for the Bible but was told ‘who would want that broken up piece of junk? We threw that thing out’. One of three times as a child I saw my mother cry.

Celeste's NRSV
Celeste’s NRSV

Here is an offering from Celeste:

Last week, after conversation with the Christian Ed director about what kind of relationship we wanted our kids to have with scripture,  we gave “working” study Bibles to our 3-4 graders for the first time and encouraged them to use them to underline the weekly Sunday school passages and to note any questions or  thoughts.  In worship I showed them the one I have used since seminary – the one pictured- a lightweight NRSV study helps edition-much more backpack and purse friendly than my massive hard cover HarperCollins.  It is covered with notes from classes, retreats and conferences, study highlights for the bible content exam, outlines for sermons and graveside services.

Every few years I harvest several dozens of sticky notes just so I can close it.

I too was raised with “Bibles are sacred – no marks!” But since these were given to be actively used, I wrote in each one- highlighted Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and inscribed our desire that they too will share their faith with their children generation to generation.

For each child I highlighted some personal verses:

  • Micah 6:6-8 for the boy who read that passage at my recent installation.
  • Psalm references to dancing for the girl who won first place in Gymnastics at this summer’s Jr Olympics.
  • Colossians 3:16-17 for a boy who is an artist, writer and budding engineer.
  • Sophia Wisdom references for a very bright girl so she would see no conflict between her developing wisdom and her Christian identity.

Last week –  each one came to church carrying their Bible. Hope it is the start of a life long connection.

Next, here are some thoughts from Jennifer Boyd:

It wasn’t until seminary that I began to write in the margins of my Bibles – which then is the “problem” as I have used a variety of Bibles and so there is not just one place where I find my thoughts, reflections, highlights and the like. I have mourned not sticking to one central place for these notes, but as time has gone by, I realize that each of these versions and editions were with me during different parts of my faith journey.

There is the one that I took with me to classes that has more theological reflections and translation notes. One bible I’ve used more for my devotions which contains more punctuation that words. The margins have ?question marks of words that have challenged me. They contain !exclamation notes for when the words have hit their target and met me right where I was in a particular time. Yellow highlights draw my eye back again and again to those passages that I still need to hear such as Psalm 46:10 when I need to be reminded that I am not God and to just sit tight!

Often I encourage people to give “used Bibles” to their children, to highlight their favorite passages or to write prayers or blessings in the margin. Sometimes these simple practices share more of our faith than just the giving of the Book.

Here’s a picture entry from Jill Mills, who writes, “This is Luke 1. Oxford study Bible – great margins for writing! Been doing this for about 8 years now.”

photo (13)

Now, the links to blog posts about writing marginal notes, with excerpts to whet your appetites.

From Karla at Amazing Bongoes, a story about writing in her copy of The Way —

mine was tattered, and I underlined and highlighted passages, because I read it A. Lot.

I went to bible studies and luther league, and we would furiously underline the words we were learning about…I would add exclamation points (!!!!!)  and smiley faces, and little prayers like “help me remember this”.

Next, RevAlli writes My Bible and Me: Words Written on My Heart

“What do the margins in your Bible reveal about your life with God?”  ”Not much,” I’d say.  Maybe an underlining here or an exclamation point there or the stray question mark, but that’s all.  I don’t write in my Bible; my Bible writes in me. 

From Norma, at the bearers stood still, comes another take; be sure to read more at her blog:

I don’t write in my Bible anymore. I used to do it all the time. But I kept running out of room in the margins. There’s such a conversation going over time that even cryptic notes are too much for the slim margin space. Oh, and don’t start about the bigger spaces at the end of chapters. Or the blank space around the new chapters. I’ve used those up, too, covering the white with my “Yes!” and “and not only that but…” and “c.f. [another idea or reference],” and “Paul, would you just give it a rest.” I’ve entered single words to record miracles or sadnesses I’ve known. Sometimes just a name. I know what it means, and one word can pierce my heart, opening me again to joys or sorrows. I’ve had to buy new Bibles because there was no more room to write.

Marci's Bible
Marci’s Bible

Here’s a great post from Marci at Glass Overflowing, who shares a picture of her well-marked NRSV then tells this story:

Judy was a long time member of the church. She was on hospice, and had been for a while. She was ready to go “home”. I was visiting with her, and she’d already told me she wanted John 14 read at her service. “But don’t read that NRSV nonsense,” she told me. “I want King James.”

“Okay,” I said. “Why? What is it about the difference in translations for you?”

“NRSV wants to put me in a ‘dwelling place’ and King James talks about ‘mansions’. I want my mansion!”

And one last from kathrynzj, shared at the Facebook group:

“In our Thursday morning Bible study there is an older woman who has quotes from various pastors’ sermons in her Bible by the passages they were preaching on. The quotes date way back the The Minister With Whom Everyone Else is Compared. Every once in awhile, she’ll read a quote by a passage and then say MY name. It is pure bliss.”

What about you? Do you write in the margins of your Bible? Do you have a wonderful story about someone who did? You still have time to send an entry to our giveaway.

5 thoughts on “Wednesday Festival: Marginal Notes

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