Yesterday during the weekly catnip distribution in my home, I rediscovered my Spanish New Testament copy of The Picture Bible. (My cat's little pile of special stuff is in the background of this photo, and my Bible bookshelf is very close by.) It's basically a huge comic-book version of the Bible, but it isn't a literal verse-by-verse translation; it's an artistic interpretation, I think with actual Bible verses thrown in here and there. We had an English one (with both Old and New Testaments) in our home when I was growing up; I think technically, it was my sister's book, but I remember reading it quite a bit. I loved the pictures, and sometimes they pop up in my head whenever I read a real Bible.
Unfortunately, my birth father wasn't fond of The Picture Bible. I think growing up in a Pharisee's house was kind of like growing up in Westboro Baptist Church, minus all the street-protesting, so the guy who raised me would always pounce on artistic interpretations of Bible stories. I remember I got my birth mother a DVD of the movie The Littlest Angel for Christmas one year, and Dad kept criticizing that movie (because it's not really biblical... it's art). Um, I didn't get that present for you, jerk. I got it for Mom, because I remembered her liking the story many years ago.
So, as I've maneuvered through the constant criticism of non-literal Bible art during the course of my life (or as I've endured the tirades of any purist who's criticized any movie version of any book), I've come to what I feel is an important conclusion: Not all art forms are supposed to accomplish the same thing.
The Bible in and of itself is art, and it is literature, and yet it's alive and sharper than any two-edged sword; it isn't just any other book. It's supposed to change me (even if I can't see what it's doing) every time I read it. It's God's Word. If I don't eat it, I'll starve to death.
And any other book is supposed to either stir your imagination or encourage a different way of thinking every time you read it. If you see a movie version of a book, it's supposed to be a 90-minute visual and audio representation of the book that's supposed to elicit emotion and bring to life the moviemakers' collaborative interpretation of the book. You can't stuff every little detail of the book into a movie (or you would make like a 10-hour snoozefest), just like you can't stuff every little Bible verse into a movie (or it would be like a 200-hour epic documentary).
But I did have a nice time reading un poquito de The Picture Bible yesterday en español. (I don't think I've read the whole thing yet because I think I got it some years ago from my late book-salesman grandfather.) I'll talk more about that in a little bit.
"Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." (Psalm 2:12)
Earlier this year, I was having my "quiet" time one night and felt like God wanted me to read Psalm 2. So, I did, and the "Kiss the Son" part stuck out at me. I think maybe it was in the vicinity of Valentine's Day, and I was like, "Aww, kiss the Son," e.g., give Jesus some affection. But God showed me the word "Kiss" a different way: K.I.S.S.
I believe that's Texan for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Ah, ha ha.
That's consistent with other stuff that God has spoken to me about this year in particular: 1) rest 2) common sense 3) I'm going to be bored. And I have been.
I'm learning that when you're waiting for God to bring you into a different season in your life, there are plenty of mundane details to either take care of or wait for Him to take care of. Honestly, I think it's like watching paint dry.
But I think God sees it a little differently.
Recently during one "quiet" time, God showed me a picture of a child walking around a sandy beach. He told me that I've been through a crazy ordeal (e.g., 2016 was like me swimming to shore during a terrible night storm), and before He and I venture into the new territory (e.g., if we've just landed on a desert island), I need to hang out on the shore for a little bit. The child I saw in the picture was playing with some stuff on the beach. Of course I know that the child is me. And I also know how important it is to NOT wander off and play with things like jellyfish or seagull poop. (That would be gross and dumb. Common sense, right?) So, I should stick close to my Father. It's safe here in His presence.
So far this year, I've had to learn to settle down internally and just let the rest, common sense, and boredom happen. Since I grew up in an abusive home (per my previous stint in psychotherapy, this means that I'm addicted to turmoil), this has been challenging. But since I have a relationship with God, it's good that He's told me about it ahead of time so that I can know that it's coming. And so that I can enjoy it.
I think 2018 is going to be pretty accelerated and busy, so I should appreciate 2017 while it's here.
So, I've been doing things like settling into my new apartment and establishing mundane routines (and loving them). One thing that I've been doing for mealtimes is keeping those on a simple rotation: cereal for breakfast, whatever I can find for lunch, and usually re-refried bean burritos or egg tacos for dinner. For breakfast on the weekends, I've been making toast on Saturdays and oatmeal on Sundays. Above is a photo of my lunch for today. Instead of a fried-egg sandwich (which has become my typical weekend lunch), I decided to try Chicken à la King on toast. Minus the chicken, veggies, or sauce.
OK, so it was two eggs sunny-side up on toast. It was still a nice lunch.
Speaking of simplicity, I recently got new classes in lieu of contact lenses. By the time I got my eyes checked recently for the first time in 10 years (I was so overdue it wasn't even funny), I decided that I was done with contacts. I figured that since I have to read things a few inches away from my face now, and that I'll more than likely need bifocals in the near future, why fight it? I got the nerdiest-looking frames I could find, on purpose, because I'm a bona fide nerd. (I think they look awesome on me, but I've shared the most awkward selfie I could find. Because I'm like that.) Ain't no shame in being who I am.
I'm still getting used to them, but I love them. I can't really see my hair while I'm styling it anymore, so I kind of have to make a blurry educated guess as to how it looks in the mornings -- but I like doing that better than dealing with old, crusty contact lenses. That got painful and terrible toward the end.
Yesterday, I wore my new glasses to church for the first time, and OH, MY GOSH. Everything was so clear and colorful! The service that I usually attend always has a live sermon, except yesterday it was a pre-recorded video. The message was broadcast on huge monitors that I could see very clearly from way back in the balcony where I was sitting. Oh, 20/20 vision, where have you been all my life???
"Unto You I lift up my EYES, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the EYES of servants LOOK to the hand of their masters, as the EYES of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our EYES LOOK to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us." (Psalm 123:1-2)
The night after I picked up my new glasses, when I had my "quiet" time, I asked God where He would like me to read in my Bible, and He led me to Psalm 123. In the previous paragraph, I sort of highlighted the words that stuck out at me. Ah, ha ha. God is funny. And He knows exactly where I am and exactly what I need.
I have a natural tendency to overcomplicate things, and God knows that I need an extended season when I can simplify my life and learn how to appreciate the simplicity. For example, I no longer need to overcomplicate my life with contact lenses and all the time, energy, and expense of keeping them clean, coaxing them out of my eyeballs when they get stuck, and wiping the mucus from the corners of my eyes when they irritate my corneas. Now all I have to do is keep my glasses clean. Simple.
And all I have to do at home is keep my tiny little apartment clean and my tiny little cat healthy and happy. Simple.
Speaking of Chicken à la King on toast, yesterday while I was looking through my Spanish version of The Picture Bible, I came across the story of King Herod getting struck by God and dying. The art was so compelling that I cracked open my real Bible and read the real story in Acts 12. What happened was, King Herod persecuted people in the early Church, and then while his loyal subjects were basically singing his praises, God struck him -- The Picture Bible says with a disease, and the New King James Bible says with worms. Either way, gross, and either way, God got revenge for His persecuted people.
This reminded me of something else in the Book of Acts, so I flipped back to chapter 9 where Saul (Paul) got dramatically converted when Jesus appeared to him: "Why are you persecuting Me?" Then I like how Saul ended up answering his own question in verse 5: "Who are You, Lord?" Yeah, that's right. Jesus is Lord. Again I saw how God got revenge for His persecuted people (and since the body of Christ was being persecuted, HE was being persecuted). But this time, the guy doing the persecuting got to live -- he ended up repenting and being one of the biggest heroes of our faith.
So, I had a rather dynamic "quiet" time -- because I read a simplified version, an artistic representation, of the Bible. It didn't dumb down the Scriptures for me. It led me to them. It brought them to life, so to speak. It helped me.
What's so wrong with that? What's so wrong with keeping it simple, stupid?
I'll tell you what. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.