I started this blog/website several years ago, not really knowing how I wanted to use it. I assumed it would be a place I could just park some things I had written and taught and thought somebody out there ought to write some of the things down that I thought were basic knowledge for Christians, but that are rarely taught inside the religious institutions or other Christian websites. I thought about writing a book about how to read the Bible, but then realized there are millions of other books out there about how to read the Bible and I had no unique contribution – no Doctorate of Biblical Studies – no formal seminary training – no church I was pastoring or even working at. Why would anyone listen to me?
But I had a friend who kept telling me that the way I taught was so unique, so different – that’s what qualified me to do what I do. She encouraged me when I had no courage. She lifted me out of my doubts and believed in me. She read everything I ever wrote and had nothing but praise for my efforts. When I started doing workshops, she helped me. She was my photographer and took pictures of me and my work. She was my editor and helped me with the formatting and stuff I didn’t know how to do. She was my friend and listened to me whine about my insecurities.
She had worked for a local newspaper for years – and hated it. She left that job when the opportunity came up for her to be a volunteer coordinator for a local seniors group. She had an impossible boss and left that job so discouraged and confused – it made no sense. How could anyone not realize how amazing she was? Then I had an idea (He gave me an idea). I had years and years’ worth of things I had written that were on paper, but the computer I had originally written them on had died so I had no digital copies. I asked her to help me figure out how to get them into a digital format and offered to pay her to help me. She was so excited! She spent the last four months working to help me. We had already been meeting together once a week as friends, but our weekly lunches turned into business meetings. I would give her assignments, she would work on them and bring them back, I’d go over changes, etc. I think she was more excited than I was! She believed in my work and was so thankful to be able to support me in what I was doing.
Several years ago, I was teaching a Wednesday night class at church that was a twenty-six week class that covered the events of the Bible chronologically. I lectured for an hour each week and one year decided to record my classes. And the recordings somehow just sat in my computer, or on a flash drive, or maybe still one of two digital recorders I had stuck into a drawer and forgotten about. I don’t know. But I asked her to help me figure out where they were and see about transcribing them. So she did. She figured out how to do every little thing I asked her to do.
This past Monday we met for lunch and she handed me the first of the class lecture transcriptions. I couldn’t believe that after all these years, I finally was on the brink of seeing my dream come true. I never forgot about writing that book. The work was daunting and I had never actually done anything about it. But when she showed up Monday with the first lesson done – it was the beginning of the book. We had done it – we had started. We had a plan. We looked at each other in amazement and celebrated the beginning of a project that I expected to take a year to complete – but we had started. I’d been weary, and she gave me hope. For the first time in a long, long time – I was excited. After lunch, we went in Staples to pick up the first of several posters that she had created to go along with my notes. We said goodbye in the parking lot and I just stood there with my jaw hanging open saying – “this is really happening, isn’t it?” She smiled her big smile and said – “You HAVE to do this! You have to see this through!” She knew that for a while she had been having to nudge me. My heart hadn’t been in it. My personal life was falling apart and the “work” was not a joy to me, it was something I was doing on auto-pilot. I was teaching in several other settings, but hadn’t taught that year-long class in several years. But to be honest, I wasn’t enjoying teaching anymore. I had done several workshops, and I did enjoy doing them, but hated all the work that went into preparing them. The marketing part was painfully hard for me, and she knew it. She just quietly encouraged me to keep going. So I did.
Monday afternoon, we both went home and started looking through our computers, flash drives, the digital recorders. I know that when I recorded my classes, I kept them all together on my computer somewhere with file names for each week. But I couldn’t find them. She had the recorders but we couldn’t find the cable that attached it to the computer to see what was on the recorder. I had brought her one from home that day and gave it to her at lunch, but it was the wrong cable. We texted several times that afternoon about where a certain flash drive might be, but we couldn’t find it. I went to bed that night excited. We were really doing this! I knew those audio files were somewhere and she had figured out how to transcribe them from one she was able to pull from another recorder I’d give her. She even brought me the first one, the one where I tell the whole Bible story from beginning to end in one hour. She handed it to me and I knew it was the first of twenty-five more to come.
Tuesday morning, I see a message on my phone from her husband. I quickly called him back and learned that she had passed away in the night. No warning. No symptoms. No explanation. She was gone.
I’m writing this blog post, knowing that very few people will ever see it. She was the only one who ever read anything I wrote and I had stopped writing here because I saw her almost every week and told her what was happening. What’s the point of writing it for her, my only real audience? I never advertised my blog/website. It was printed on a few business cards and I would give it out at my workshops, but I had no real audience and I knew it. Not much incentive to write. Did I mention that my personal life has been a mess and I wasn’t really excited about much of anything? Was I depressed? Probably. Am I depressed now? Absolutely. My ministry partner, my cheerleader, my audience of one is gone now.
What do I plan to do with Read The Book Ministries? I don’t know. For now, though, I have decided to stop teaching for a while. Within twenty-four hours of that horrible phone call Tuesday morning, I had cancelled just about everything that I was teaching or made plans for them to end. I don’t feel like teaching now. I was struggling before; my heart’s just not in it anymore and hadn’t been in a long time. I won’t give up on this project, though. She’d kick my butt if I did.
One of my last texts from her said, “Our hated word, persevere, is when the going gets tough, you keep going. I love you. I believe in your ministry – – ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope.’ Romans 5:3-4.” She did believe in my ministry. I did, too. I DO, too. But my heart is heavy and my light is faint. For now. One day I’ll come back here and pick this back up. Her husband assured me we would find all of the things she had been working on at her house and return them to me. He thanked me that for the last four months she had been able to stay home and work on this project with/for me and it gave him four wonderful months to spend with his wife before she left us. But without my partner, I just don’t see myself doing this alone. Why am I putting this here on a blog no one reads? Because I know it’s in black and white so that kind of makes it a commitment. I’ll know it’s here waiting for me. And I’m guessing she’ll find a way to lead me along from the other side.
In loving memory of my best friend, even if she had never helped me with this project, she was my sister, my soul-mate, my friend. And she believed in me.