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Monday, May 12, 2008  

Highlighting the Past

My senior year of high school, I invested in a good, leather-bound study Bible in preparation for college, and it served me well for years. I recently found it in a box in my garage. It's pretty beat up and I no longer use it, but I've been unable to get rid of it because of the highlights and marginal notes it contains. Those highlights and notes are not particularly extensive, but they are a little window into how I was reading the Bible back in high school and college. So I decided to go through my old college Bible and create Accordance equivalents of whatever notes and highlights I found.

I started by creating a new Highlights file called College Highlights, and duplicating the marking system I used back then. Basically, I had four colors with which I would underline words and verses: black for verses of doctrinal importance, red for verses which I felt were personally applicable, blue for verses of encouragement or beauty, and green for prophecies. I also created a new User Notes file called College Notes.

I then began in Genesis scanning page by page for any highlights or notes. With the exception of a few "encouragement" verses in Genesis, there really wasn't much to speak of until I got to Deuteronomy, which I apparently studied in some depth. Most of the highlighted passages were obviously important: the shema, the commandments, the call to choose life rather than death, etc. Less obvious were passages like Deuteronomy 8:17-18, which I underlined as "encouraging." This passage tells us not to take credit for the wealth we receive but to remember that the Lord gives us the ability to create wealth. Since I had no money in college I'm not sure why this passage jumped out at me, but it is certainly encouraging to me today as I work to provide for my family.

There was only one note scribbled in the margins of Deuteronomy, and that was beside Deuteronomy 10:12-13:

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD'S commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Beside this passage, I wrote simply, "God asks little of us." I dutifully recorded this comment in the College Notes, and then it occurred to me that it might be interesting to interact with this comment from my current perspective. I wrote the following:

20 Years Later: From the perspective of time and having failed many times to fear the Lord, walk in his ways, love him, serve him with all I am, and observe his commands, I wonder why in my youth I remarked that God asks little of us. I can only assume that I meant this: that complete devotion is little to ask of those who have been lovingly created and graciously redeemed. If I meant anything other than that, I was a fool.

While the idea of recreating the highlights and notes from an old print Bible may seem tedious, I actually found it to be a good devotional exercise. It was fascinating to find the verses which stood out to me as a young man and to consider how my perspective on those verses has changed with years of work, marriage, fatherhood, and life experience. Best of all, I now have these youthful insights archived in a way I can access any time, rather than tucked inside a Bible in a box in the garage.





Comments:
I've been thinking of doing this, too, for a long time. Thanks for setting the example; that's the inspiration I think I needed to actually do it. It will make a great summer project!
 

Wonderful project! One I may have to get involved in myself! Any chance you'll be posting your files to the exchange once completed?
 

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