“I don't think with this group I will need to convince anyone to use a paper Bible,” the young pastor looked around the classroom where seventy of us were squashed like sardines, and spilled out into the hallway of both back doors and lined the front under the dry white boards facing one another.
In one glance, he knew he had a Paper Bible group. The Bibles came in all sizes, narrow palm sized versions and the human infant sized variety bound up in zippered cases, some with lace.
My Bible was behind the glass of an e-reader. My beautiful light as air, thin e-reader with all manner of Bible translations, concordances, and Bible dictionaries at the swipe of one tiny finger had been a gift last Christmas from my husband and girls. And I could hold it for the whole one and a half hour class quite easily, and most importantly, with a pinch and expand, my thumb and forefinger could increase the font size to unbelievable clarity.
After class, I experienced a skirmish within. Would i give up my e-reader?
But by the next morning I knew. I knew. I was going to get a new Paper Bible. Even though I had worn out two Bibles in my lifetime, I was going to get another one and take this study in a Paper Bible.
Because I believe this . . . I had put myself under the authority of this teacher, and if I were going to get everything through him that God intended for me, I needed not to balk his instruction so early in the game. Besides, in one lesson he was proving to be a most dedicated, eloquent and disciplined teacher. He didn't ask us to do anything that he had not done ten-fold in preparation for class.
So. . .brand new, out of the box, large print, big-as-a-newborn Bible sits on my desk as I type. Study notes. Maps. A new translation I have grown fond of. The first morning, I forgot and turned to the e-reader, and then, abashed at having so easily broken my promise, I quickly turned to the Paper Bible.
For seven days, I have used that leather bound beauty, with its sheer, whispering pages and stiff gold edges. And this is what I have discovered.
Its presence forced me to work at my desk, where I found my attention held longer and I was less distracted. (I cannot check in with social media in a Paper Bible and I am far less likely to grow sleepy and close my eyes while sitting up.)
Returning to the same place of study every day, somehow hallowed the space, desk became altar, Jacob's rock of encounter.
The delicacy of the pages forced me to turn to passages carefully, almost reverently. My approach to God’s word slowed down, increased my sensitivity to His presence.
The whisper of pages comes to me like a Still Small Voice.
In class, seventy pages of Scripture turning shushed against my ear, and i remember Scripture tells us that God's voice sounds like rushing waters. He speaks, I was reminded tangibly in the wind of paper sliding against paper, He speaks to us in His Word.
I noticed, too, that as I flipped through the text, looking up verses, passages flickered past my eyes like passing terrain, subtly informing me of context of the verse for which I sought. There is something organic in a relationship with a Paper Bible. More of my senses are engaged, like the difference between looking out the window of a plane as you pass to your destination versus the experience of covering the same terrain on foot, wind in your face, measuring your size by the trees over head or the mountain in the distance, alive to the details of the journey. I head out for the Tower of Babel and pass Cain in his bloody field and Noah looking up at storm clouds rolling in. In a Paper Bible, you can be diverted to a path off the road, come upon some scenic spot you may have missed in your e-reader. You trail ink under a verse and leave footprints on the path.
I am thankful for my beautiful e-reader and I appreciate its efficiency and speed, but I have been reminded of the sweetness of taking the same journey a little slower in a Paper Bible.
i love the Dove campaign for real beauty. . .i love this article by Kasey Edwards. . . and i think both embody what Romans 12:2 is all about.
I was seven when I discovered that you were fat, ugly and horrible. Up until that point I had believed that you were beautiful — in every sense of the word. I remember flicking through old photo albums and staring at pictures of you standing on the deck of a boat. Your white strapless bathing suit looked so glamorous, just like a movie star. Whenever I had the chance I’d pull out that wondrous white bathing suit hidden in your bottom drawer and imagine a time when I’d be big enough to wear it; when I’d be like you.
But all of that changed when, one night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ‘‘Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible.’’
At first I didn’t understand what you meant.
‘‘You’re not fat,’’ I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ‘‘Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.’’
In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:
1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie.
2. Fat is ugly and horrible.
3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly and horrible too.
Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself.
With every grimace at your reflection in the mirror, every new wonder diet that was going to change your life, and every guilty spoon of ‘‘Oh-I-really-shouldn’t,’’ I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty.
Just like you, I have spent my whole life feeling fat. When did fat become a feeling anyway? And because I believed I was fat, I knew I was no good.
But now that I am older, and a mother myself, I know that blaming you for my body hatred is unhelpful and unfair. I now understand that you too are a product of a long and rich lineage of women who were taught to loathe themselves.
Look at the example Nanna set for you. Despite being what could only be described as famine-victim chic, she dieted every day of her life until the day she died at seventy-nine years of age. She used to put on make-up to walk to the letterbox for fear that somebody might see her unpainted face.
I remember her ‘‘compassionate’’ response when you announced that Dad had left you for another woman. Her first comment was, ‘‘I don’t understand why he’d leave you. You look after yourself, you wear lipstick. You’re overweight — but not that much.’’
Before Dad left, he provided no balm for your body-image torment either.
‘‘Jesus, Jan,’’ I overheard him say to you. ‘‘It’s not that hard. Energy in versus energy out. If you want to lose weight you just have to eat less.’’
That night at dinner I watched you implement Dad’s ‘‘Energy In, Energy Out: Jesus, Jan, Just Eat Less’’ weight-loss cure. You served up chow mein for dinner. (Remember how in 1980s Australian suburbia, a combination of mince, cabbage, and soy sauce was considered the height of exotic gourmet?) Everyone else’s food was on a dinner plate except yours. You served your chow mein on a tiny bread-and-butter plate.
As you sat in front of that pathetic scoop of mince, silent tears streamed down your face. I said nothing. Not even when your shoulders started heaving from your distress. We all ate our dinner in silence. Nobody comforted you. Nobody told you to stop being ridiculous and get a proper plate. Nobody told you that you were already loved and already good enough. Your achievements and your worth — as a teacher of children with special needs and a devoted mother of three of your own — paled into insignificance when compared with the centimeters you couldn’t lose from your waist.
It broke my heart to witness your despair and I’m sorry that I didn’t rush to your defense. I’d already learned that it was your fault that you were fat. I’d even heard Dad describe losing weight as a ‘‘simple’’ process — yet one that you still couldn’t come to grips with. The lesson: you didn’t deserve any food and you certainly didn’t deserve any sympathy.
But I was wrong, Mum. Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalising these messages. We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is crueler to us than we are to ourselves.
But this madness has to stop, Mum. It stops with you, it stops with me and it stops now. We deserve better — better than to have our days brought to ruin by bad body thoughts, wishing we were otherwise.
And it’s not just about you and me any more. It’s also about Violet. Your granddaughter is only three and I do not want body hatred to take root inside her and strangle her happiness, her confidence and her potential. I don’t want Violet to believe that her beauty is her most important asset; that it will define her worth in the world. When Violet looks to us to learn how to be a woman, we need to be the best role models we can. We need to show her with our words and our actions that women are good enough just the way they are. And for her to believe us, we need to believe it ourselves.
The older we get, the more loved ones we lose to accidents and illness. Their passing is always tragic and far too soon. I sometimes think about what these friends — and the people who love them — wouldn’t give for more time in a body that was healthy. A body that would allow them to live just a little longer. The size of that body’s thighs or the lines on its face wouldn’t matter. It would be alive and therefore it would be perfect.
Your body is perfect too. It allows you to disarm a room with your smile and infect everyone with your laugh. It gives you arms to wrap around Violet and squeeze her until she giggles. Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ‘‘flaws’’ is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.
Let us honor and respect our bodies for what they do instead of despising them for how they appear. Focus on living healthy and active lives, let our weight fall where it may, and consign our body hatred in the past where it belongs. When I looked at that photo of you in the white bathing suit all those years ago, my innocent young eyes saw the truth. I saw unconditional love, beauty and wisdom. I saw my Mum.
Love, Kasey xx
Kasey Edwards is an author from Melbourne.
This is an excerpt from Dear Mum: a collection of letters from Australian sporting stars, musicians, models, cooks and authors revealing what they would like to say to their mothers before it’s too late, or would have said if only they’d had the chance.
All royalties go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. (Published by Random House and available now.)
Do not be conformed to this age,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may discern
what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
The cat calls for her dinner.
On the porch I bend and pour
brown soy stars into her bowl,
stroke her dark fur.
It's not quite night.
Pinpricks of light in the eastern sky.
Above my neighbor's roof, a transparent
moon, a pink rag of cloud.
Inside my house are those who love me.
My daughter dusts biscuit dough.
And there's a man who will lift my hair
in his hands, brush it
until it throws sparks.
Everything is just as I've left it.
Dinner simmers on the stove.
Glass bowls wait to be filled
with gold broth. Sprigs of parsley
on the cutting board.
I want to smell this rich soup, the air
around me going dark, as stars press
their simple shapes into the sky.
I want to stay on the back porch
while the world tilts
toward sleep, until what I love
misses me, and calls me in.
~Dorianne Laux, "On the Back Porch," Awake
We sat in the low lights of the living room Friday night, the four of us, my family, after dinner, and spoke of the day, of the hours that we had remembered from the Passover Seder on Thursday, the ascent to the Garden upon leaving Jerusalem, the long night of prayer, the trial before daybreak, and then the hours on the cross on Friday. . .
The third hour. From the sixth hour to the ninth hour. The ninth hour. And finally, the evening hour, when the Day of Preparation began.
We spoke of Joseph of Arimathea. We spoke of the coming hours. Let us be quiet for one another tomorrow, we said. Keep the tv and music low if you must, turn on a light if you will, but be mindful so that if others are called to prayer. . .
So, i am with you for a few minutes this morning my Thoughtful Friends. The house is quiet. It is Saturday. The Day of Preparation.
In the house of grief, the women have stopped breathing. All housework has been completed. Meals are already prepared. On the table, by the door, the jars of ointment and spices wait. Their men have gone to the yard or to the work shop, where they sit quietly (for it is forbidden to work on the Sabbath), salted tear trails on their cheeks running into their beards. The synagoge seemed cold in the morning light. The rabbi hollow. Promises aborted before they had barely begun.
In the house of grief, we find that what we thought would never happen has. What we held dearest has been ripped from our grasp. We are gut sore from wailing, we are hoarse with tears. We are first writhing in fire, and then cold, empty, and numb.I think of Peter's wordless grimace as he falls to the threshold of his home, howling soundlessly as a cateract of rain falls loudly outside the door.
Could this be. . .the hour of Preparation?
A preparation that is . . . stripping down to nothing, the vast emptying of dreams, the deluge of releasing everything. . .and everyone. . .each one of our small, self-serving, delusional hopes. . .for something. . .more.
Is this preparation making room for something more?
Remember, I said to my daughters last night, when the Saturdays of your tomorrows come, and mommy and daddy may not be there, always remember. . .Sunday's coming.
i believe in getting into a car and just going. Travelling down a road you've always wanted to take. Rolling down the windows, letting the air in. If it is sea air, all the better.
i believe in getting out of the car, and climbing over the dune (or opening a gate, or taking a wooded path), and I believe in the surprise that will inevitably come.
And if it were a dune, say. . .the surprises could be. . .a tanker sunk just off shore. A bed of thick white shells. Or the moment when you look back over your shoulder, across the sound, and realize that you can no longer see the mainland. . .and that road that you followed took you thirty miles out to sea. . .and you are adrift, disconnected, gone. . .
I believe in goosebumps when you realize how much more real this wilderness is than the perceived safety at home . . .and it is fiercely beautiful in a wild way like God is. . .and your eyes keep filling up with light, light, light from blue and white, and blue airy over watery horizons that never end.
And i believe in the timing of whelks that have been fashioned in the watery depths by blind smithy creatures, rolling over sandy bottom for how long? years? to be rolled up to your feet on an incoming wave for just this moment, just this now.
And i believe in taking a bit of that wild home and dropping it sandy on the table and finding it pushed aside until they've formed a circle in the center of your home. . .
i believe the cross was evidence that our God is not safe. . .but fiercely beautiful. . .I believe the path of Lent takes us out into that beauty. . .
and i believe in the gifts His tide brings in . . . telling us the tame now is not all there is. . .
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
~1 Corinthians 2:9
Spring cleaning begins with emptying the big china cabinet bit by bit, running loads of glass and china in the dish washer all day, polishing the mirrored back and glass shelves and then re-loading all the pieces ever so carefully.
The silver tumbler, a baby cup with handle, spilled on the bath towels layering the dining room table, and the soft tips of pussy willows tumbled out.
Spring, a year ago, i had pushed branches into a container by the front door, and these kitten toes are all that are left
Tomorrow afternoon, perhaps i will go to the nursery and find a few branches to plant. . .soft harbinger of spring.