My mom gave me a travel Bible for Valentine’s Day this year.
Let me be clear that I do not strictly need any more Bibles. I have my regular, full-size marked-up-to-death NIV that I use for study; the Amplified that I use for supplement to study; the electronic Bible on my phone that I read on the go (which includes something like ten billion versions of the Word), and a copy of The Message rolling around somewhere on my shelves.
But I do travel and hike and walk a lot, and I was hoping for a copy of the Bible that did not add a thousand pounds to my pack and that would keep me from having to risk losing my study Bible with its decades of notes and use. I wanted something more portable. My mom, being a very cool mom, gifted me with a travel Bible when I mentioned all of these things, and I am here to report my findings – some of which were unexpected.
First: it is very useful and has me reading my Bible in a ton of different places! It is light and it fits easily into my bag or glove compartment or purse or carry-on. It scratches the itch I have to be reading a physical book when I read the Bible (versus reading a screen) without weighing down my bag or taking up too much room. It can take a lot of banging around and being used. It’s actually really nice to be able to read the Bible in a parking lot, or take it into a coffee shop, or read it on the side of a hiking trail, without having to take up half a table or balance it on my knees or risk losing little papers stuffed inside.
Second: it has produced some really delightful note-taking and scribbling, and is providing a contextualized record of my interactions with God that has frankly led me to a lot of delight and praise.
The very first time I took it out was on a hiking trip; I stuffed it in my back and went to walk the nearby ridge line I love. I opened it up to Psalm 42 randomly: “As the deer pants for water…” I glanced up from my Bible and right into the eyes of – yes, you guessed it – an actual deer, standing quietly and watching me. I was so delighted by God’s desire to send me the real-life illustration of the verse that I scribbled a note: “Saw actual deer by the water @ ridge reading this…unbelievable.”
Later, I took it to a local downtown area that I love to walk. It was early morning and abandoned, so I sat down in an empty little park area full of benches to read. Just as I was getting into Scripture, I heard laughter – so much laughter! I glanced up and watched as a group of about fifteen children poured into the space, accompanied by their day care providers. They giggled and laughed and stomped around the benches, splashed in puddles, and chased each other around the park. “Oops,” said one of the caretakers as she sat nearby, “you were probably hoping for quiet!”
“No,” I said, “this is perfect.” Because all I could see in the moment was their delight, and it was echoing back to me the sort of delight God wants us to feel in His presence. And I scribbled down a note about that, too.
Having an on-the-go Bible has forced me to pay attention to my surroundings in a way that I often don’t, and it is giving me reasons to find the way that God is interacting with me – often quietly and through my environment – that I would not otherwise notice. The record of notes I am beginning to develop from this undertaking in the notes of the Bible are, I realize as I look back, my descriptions of encounters with God in various places and at various unexpected moments. It’s lovely: a travel journal of love shared with the Lord.
If you don’t already have a travel Bible, it might be worth picking one up. And if you do have one, don’t let it waste away at the bottom of your bag or in your glove compartment. Make a point to take it with you. Try to read it in different places and circumstances, and see what God says not just through His word, but through what is happening around you to complement what you read in it.
What my travel Bible has taught me and reminded me of is that although I approach the Word, it is also approaching me. And the active nature of God’s word – the way it reaches out to change, even as I reach out to it to be changed – means that it transforms not just me, but the way I view the world around me and see God’s presence in it. That alone made it worthwhile to me, and might make it worthwhile to you, too.