from the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Reflections magazine
by Diane Thrush
I am a lifelong Episcopalian, but in 1976 I experienced a renewal that brought my life into focus. It was spinning out of control until I began to get a handle on setting things right. The first thing I knew was that I needed to have a daily quiet time that included prayer and reading the Bible. It was as if a giant magnet (the Holy Spirit?) was showing me a way to begin.
As an Episcopalian I knew about the lectionary and even how to find it in The Book of Common Prayer. It was there I began. I had small children and was struggling to figure out this mothering thing. But I knew that I needed that quiet time to focus on my day. I began getting up 30 minutes early while the house was still quiet. I didn’t relish getting up early, but there was that magnet again pulling me to do this. I was biblically illiterate, so I knew nothing of what I was reading, only that just reading those lessons brought me a peace and comfort that I was so desperate for. It totally guided my day, which was what I was longing for. I didn’t need to understand it at that point. It was just something I could not not do. This daily reading of the lectionary continues to this day.
It was never a “should” or “ought-to” or on a list of required spiritual practices for a better life. It was never on a “to do” list that I could check off each day. It wasn’t about reporting it to anyone. Certainly at that time I didn’t even have a spiritual director. It was just something calling from deep within.
Slowly, over time, I began to study Scripture. It began in the best possible way. We were living in Denver at the time. Bishop Frey, bishop of the Diocese of Colorado at that time, had begun the Lay Ministry Institute with a gifted teacher as the canon theologian for the diocese. The book we began with was the gospel of John. And my eyes were opened. Never again would I be content with the kind of Bible study that has a group of people clustered around talking about what they think a passage means. From there began a lifelong informed Bible study for me. As I grew and learned Scripture over the decades, that morning period of reading and prayer grew richer and richer for me.
My routine remains the same to this day. Morning Prayer, the daily readings, and other prayers. Sometimes, as in Lent or Advent, I will use a study guide to go deeper into one of the readings. While I was still working and had to limit my time to 30 minutes, I would narrow my focus to one reading, perhaps the Gospel, using a study guide. I always started with the appointed Psalm though.
Many years ago the Rev. Cliff Waller gifted me with a copy of Readings in St John’s Gospel by Archbishop William Temple. It was out of print at the time. It is such a treasure. Every time John came around in the lectionary, I used that book. The pages are falling out because it has been lovingly used. I have so many underlined passages that I began putting the year I marked a particular passage just to keep track of how what was meaningful to me changed or did not change as the years went by.
Through the years I’ve also used William Barclay’s second edition commentaries. It may not be state-of-the art biblical scholarship, but it wasn’t written for that. Barclay was a pastor who wanted to help people understand Scripture and its place in their lives. In the last 15 years or so I have used the Twelve Volume New Interpreter’s Bible when I wanted to go deeper with a book in the lectionary like the Gospels, Romans, Acts, or the Psalms. In recent years I subscribed to dailyoffice.wordpress.com. It is the daily office and readings, with music. It is delivered to my email inbox twice a day. It’s a gift to have everything right in one place on my iPad.
Yes, over the years I have become more and more a student of the Scriptures. But that is a separate track in my life. While I do teach Scripture in my church and have for years, this daily time has nothing to do with the study I do to prepare for these classes. This morning study, reading and prayer is MY time. It is when I ground myself in my life journey with the Lord, learning how to be a disciple, learning how to live life. It is a time of meditation, centering, and listening. Listening to the voice of God in Scripture.
In the words of Archbishop Temple in the introduction to Readings in St John’s Gospel, “I am chiefly concerned with what arises in my mind and spirit as I read. This is always a legitimate way to read the Bible, and religiously the most important. For the Word of God does not consist of printed propositions; it is living; it is personal; it is Jesus Christ. That living Word of God speaks to us through the printed words of Scripture; and all our study of those printed words helps us to receive it. But the point of vital importance is the utterance of the Divine Word to the soul, the self-communication of God to God’s children.”
This daily time is still what I want and need, just as when I began this journey in 1976. In my core I know now what I knew but couldn’t articulate then – that I wouldn’t make it through my day, that day, without that centering time first thing with the Lord.
Diane Thrush is a retired chaplain and a member of
St. Luke’s, San Antonio. Reach Diane at