Three things that help me actually like reading the Bible

1) The Bible Project

My first experience with the Bible Project was being shown their animated cartoon+handwriting videos by teachers in church and in school (if you’re like, isn’t that illegal?, don’t worry—my teachers are law-abiding citizens, it’s because I go to a private school).

screengrab of the Leviticus video

They have these overview videos for every book of the Bible, but I personally don’t like them. The animation is slightly hyptonizing to watch, but the amount of information is overwhelming. I don’t retain any of it afterwards.

It’s like some of those elaborate study notes people make—they’re pretty but it would be difficult for me to actually use them to study. Which is an unfair comparison because the study notes create a satisfying Instagram feed while the videos help people learn more about the Bible, but that’s how I feel about them.

My second experience with the Bible Project was listening to one of their podcast episodes. I don’t remember which one it was or what series it was a part of, but I remember it talking about sacrifices and where Kosher rules come from.

I’m not sure if I even finished listening to it. I really struggled to follow the conversation because so much of it just went over my head. I think I listened to an episode that was in the middle/end of a series, so I was very lost. It was also during a road trip, which means I might’ve been half falling asleep too.

I think that was two years ago? I didn’t listen to any more of their episodes until this past Christmas break during another road trip. It was an episode in their Sabbath series, and like the first time, a good amount of it went over my head. But I have now realized that it’s like that for every episode I listen to.

I would say there’s two reasons why something clicked the second time I listened to the Bible Project podcast and not the first.
1) Right after I subscribed, they started a series about trees, and I was hooked because I had just listened to an interview on the podcast That Sounds Fun with this fascinating guy who wrote a book about trees in the Bible.
2) I finally understood what the structure of the show was. Tim and John are the hosts of the podcast. In each episode, Tim explains an idea, and John processes it in real time. Tim is literally brilliant—he’s one of the smartest people I know, and I don’t even know him. John is really good at asking clarifying questions and explaining things again in his own words.

Their current series is on Jesus’s parables, and so far all the episodes are still a combination of blowing my mind+going over my head.

Listening to the Bible Project podcast is how I found out about their online classes two or three weeks ago. They only have one course right now called Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (when they say Hebrew Bible, they’re talking about the Old Testament), but it has two paths: a prep class and the full course.

The prep class is supposed to take 1-2 hours, and that sounds right—I would say more on the lower side. It has four five-minute-or-so videos and super straightforward true-fale/matching/etc. questions after each one.

The full course is a bit more intense—there’s a PDF of handouts they give you to print out, and it’s over 60 pages. While the prep class is a combination of animated Youtube videos from their channel, the full course is 20-30 minute videos of Tim talking to six people around a conference table. They’re kind of like John except whereas John is having a conversation with Tim in the podcast episodes, this is much more like a class. Usually they only ask questions at the end.

After I finished the prep class, I texted seven of my friends about it and told them to check it out. Now I’m telling you guys about it. It’s so interesting. I’ve learned things about the Bible that I’ve never heard of—like how the Jewish Bible is in a different order than the Protestant Old Testament and why that’s significant. Currently I’m in the middle of Unit 1 of the full course. Several more courses are coming out this year about Genesis, Exodus, and 1 Corinthians, and I am excited!!!

2) She Reads Truth + Enduring Word

I bought my first She Reads Truth book last year. It was their Advent 2019 reading plan, and I got it because of the podcast I mentioned earlier, That Sounds Fun. Every year, Annie F. Downs has on the founders of She Reads Truth (Amanda Bible Williams—that’s not a typo, that’s part of her name—and Rachel Meyers) in the spring and in the winter to talk about their Lent and Advent guides.

If you’ve never heard of Lent and Advent before, I’m going to try and explain. There’s this thing called the church/liturgical calendar. (Oh great, this is already hard.) The liturgical calendar isn’t explicitly a thing anywhere in the Bible, but it’s created out of important biblical events.

Lent is the forty days before Good Friday, and Advent is the four weeks (I think) before Christmas. Epiphany (AKA extended Christmas) comes after Christmas, Easter and Eastertide (AKA extended Easter) comes after Lent, and in between there’s Ordinary Time (AKA nothing’s happening).

Also, I just learned from Google that the three days between Lent and Easter are called the Paschal Triduum and that Pentecost comes right after Eastertide. My church isn’t super into the liturgical calendar, so a lot of this is new for me.

I think that’s one of most confusing part about the liturgical calendar—different churches focus on the church calendar in different amounts. My church is denominational, and besides Easter and Christmas, we do Advent candles. That’s basically it. Tsh Oxenreider on her podcast, Simple, said her Anglican church has Ash Wednesday where you go and the priest touches your forehead with ash. It just depends.

Okay, that was a sidebar about the liturgical calendar. Back to She Reads Truth. After their Advent plan, I ordered their Romans plan. I did that through January and February. At the end of February, I started their Lent 2020 plan (which was the book of Jeremiah plus Holy Week—AKA the week leading up to Easter), and I have two more days left in it. Next I’m doing their Genesis one.

For you, buying the She Reads Truth plans might not make sense because it’s like, what’s the point of it, it’s literally just the book of Genesis or whatever but separated into 35 days with pretty packaging. Why not just get a Bible and read a chapter a day?

For me, the biggest pro of the buying the plans is that I have so much more room to write stuff. What I’ve been doing is reading the free online Bible commentary, Enduring Word, and copying stuff down in the margins. There’s no way I would have enough space to do this in a regular Bible.

Enduring Word has been super helpful—Jeremiah is now one of my favorite people in the Bible, and I highly doubt that would’ve happened without all the insight. I would’ve missed the sarcasm scattered throughout it, the historical context, and so many other things. But I do have a note: it definitely has a slant on some things like for example Catholocism, so just be aware.

3) Talk to your friends

Yep, I made my friends help me write for a blog post again—and will be doing so again in the near future as well. Dear Breaker of Hearts and Jack, thanks.

In the coronavirus diaries, I said that I love reading what my friends write, but hearing my friends talk about God and how they reading the Bible is a really close second. It’s really encouraging to know that my friends are also reading these ancient words and trying to figure out what they mean for us now, and it’s also helpful to see what works for other people.

Riley’s Bible

How do you decide what to read?

RILEY: I’m reading through the Bible this year, so I just do 5 chapters a day, in order.

JAEL: I am reading a Bible plan that is on the Youversion Bible app that is in canonical order.

Follow up question. Which ones were hard to get through, and which ones were the most interesting?

all of the other books are ok

Hardest book exodus cause I had 2 bsf years over it
Favorite Ruth or 1 Samuel

What are you reading right now?

RILEY: I’m in Proverbs.

JAEL: I am reading 1 Samuel currently.

What Bible do you use?

RILEY: The NIV Journal the Word Bible. It has space on the sides to add notes/annotate.

JAEL: I use an NIV study bible.

Do you use a devotional or a journal?

RILEY: I journal my thoughts.

JAEL: I use a journal to record any notes.

Riley’s highlighters and pens

Do you mark/write in your Bible?

RILEY: Yes, I will underline/highlight things that seem meaningful to me and take notes on what the passages mean.

JAEL: What I do is kind of weird cause I use another Bible which is my everyday church bible and every time I find something I want to highlight then I go to the smaller everyday bible and highlight the verse.

When and where do you read?

RILEY: I read before going to bed and just in my room.

JAEL: I read it at night and at my desk in my room.

What has your this looked like for youin the past, and have you ever failed to continue the habit?

RILEY: YES, last year I tried to do the same thing as I did this year, but I only got through about 3/4 of the Bible.

JAEL: I have tried to make a goal last year to read the entire bible but then I didn’t make it past February, but this year I am doing it with my dad so he is keeping me accountable.

What’s the most helpful thing you’ve learned about reading the Bible?

RILEY: I like using lots of colors and just trying to do it at the same time every day is helpful.

JAEL: The most helpful thing I learned is to find a spot to read every day that is designated for reading the Bible and assign a time that you have to read your Bible.

Have you heard of the Bible Project or She Reads Truth before?
How do you read the Bible?
Does your church follow the liturgical calendar?

14 thoughts on “Three things that help me actually like reading the Bible”

  1. This post is awesome, Annie! I feel really inspired after reading it, and also a lot more prepared with all the resources you just gave, so thank you. :))
    First off, the Bible Project! Quite a few years ago, I would say maybe the year I was in seventh/eighth grade (so maybe like 2016/7?), my Sunday School at the time (which was grades 6-8) decided to read the Bible in a year. So we watched those videos every Sunday at church and it was supposed to correlate with what we should have been reading at home. I agree that they’re hypnotizing to watch, but maybe not the best to get things out of. I ended up stopping reading at about 1 Kings, but I think I watched a ton of those videos. I’m going to check out the podcast and the classes though! The podcast would be great to listen to while driving, once I can drive places normally again. My friend also told me about a podcast the other day called the Bible Recap, and to my understanding, it recaps a book of the Bible in each episode. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I thought I’d still mention it, because she seems to like it.
    I have a She Reads Truth Bible! It’s really nice because it has introductions to each book and also room for journaling. Also, I think your explanation of the liturgical calendar was really good! I’m Methodist, and we talk a lot about it and go by it more than some, I think. For example, we do observe Ash Wednesday- what happens at my church is that we get an ash cross drawn on our forehead and they use the ashes from the last year’s palms from Palm Sunday, and it marks the beginning of Lent. We also do Advent candles, and Lent, which I feel like is common, but then again one of my friends is Baptist and her church doesn’t really talk about Lent that much. Anyway, that tangent aside, the She Reads Truth plans look great! I might have to look into buying some of those.
    I agree, talking to friends about the Bible is super encouraging! For me, it often feels like a lot to take in- like we have this one book that’s the Word of God and is supposed to guide our lives and it can be really hard to know where to start or how to start. But talking about it with people can make it less intimidating.
    Sorry for this really long comment, but I loved this post! It was great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you :))
      Whoa dang, that’s cool that your Sunday school did that. Okay, I’m glad you agree. I texted some friends about it, and two of them also agreed with the “harder to retain” part.
      Oh my goodness, please tell me what you think if you check out the podcast or classes! One of my friends has done most of the prep class, and he said he thought it was going to be boring but it wasn’t hard to pay attention at all, which I thought was a pretty strong endorsement.
      No way! That does sound nice. What does the journaling layout look like? Is it on the sides?
      Ahh, thank you! Ohh, that’s so interesting. Do you by any chance know what is unique in Methodist churches? If someone asked me about all the differences between denominations, my best guesses would be that Baptist puts some special emphasis on baptism, and Anglican has some more emphasis on the Book of Common Prayer?? No clue.
      Ohh yes, the podcast host mentioned how it’s the palms from the Palm Sunday before! My church doesn’t do palms. How do you guys do it? We don’t talk about Lent at my church either.
      Yes, they are!! One thing I would say is to make sure you look at the description to see how many weeks the plan you get is for because all of them are different.
      I KNOW. And everybody sees and notices different things. Like one time at church we were doing this thing with the Lord’s Prayer, and it was crazy that even in this short, famous passage, somebody said things about how they thought about it that had never ever crossed my mind.
      Nope, I do not accept your apology for the long comment–thank you for leaving it!! :))

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I will! Aww, that’s awesome.
        Yeah! There’s a lot of room on the sides for writing and there are also introductions to every chapter and timelines and graphics that are really nice to help with understanding.
        I don’t know a lot about other denominations- though one of my friends is Anglican, and we seem to share a lot of the same traditions in church. For Methodists, some things that set most Methodist churches apart from most Baptist churches is that Methodists allow for baptisms of infants, like I was baptized when I was a few months old, while baptists baptize people when they’re older and more when they make the choice for themselves. At my church we have Confirmation in middle school, which is when you more have that declaration of faith, rather than with baptism. Also, Methodists have open communion for believers and non-believers, while others have a closed communion. I think there are some more differences in the appointment of pastors and who is allowed to be a pastor as well as other things, but I know less about those so I don’t want to say something that goes against either denomination.
        Yes! Okay, so for Palm Sunday we normally have all the children in the congregation leave the service and go get the palm leaves, and then they come down the aisles waving the leaves while we sing a hymn, and it’s supposed to emulate how Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem the Sunday before he was crucified.
        Got it, thank you for the tip!
        That’s so awesome! I love that.


        1. Oh wait, I didn’t know that Methodist churches allowed baptism of infants. I feel like that is basic information I should know. Ohh okay, thank you for explaining the difference in the baptism. Okay, I do know a little about Confirmation (from the podcast That Sounds Fun because the host grew up Methodist). Ohh, that’s so interesting about the communion. Wow, I feel like I definitely should know that too. And I think I know what you mean about the pastor differences, but I think it was very kind of you to not want to say anything that’s doesn’t apply to a denomination.
          Whoa, that’s so cool! You get to participate in Palm Sunday in a literal way that I’ve never seen.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I grew up with that being the norm, so I haven’t known it any other way! Though I can definitely see the value in getting baptized at a later age, I do wish I could remember my baptism. At my church after the babies are baptized my pastor always holds them and walks them up and down the aisles to introduce them to their new church family and it’s so cute!! And yes, the Palm Sunday literal interpretation is always really cool. :))

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ahhh, I love that! Are there any traditions your church has? One thing my church does is give out roses to moms on mother’s day–and wow I promise I didn’t think of that because today is mother’s day. And ah dang, I just realized we won’t be doing that this year.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. That’s so sweet! I think on Mother’s Day we usually have the kids make cards in Sunday School and then they pass them out during the adult service. We do have a tradition of having a Chili Cookoff in the fall and a Pie Auction in the summer (in which people bake way more than pies). I feel like we must have a lot more traditions but none come to mind at the moment!

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I love these food traditions! Our church splits into small groups for Friday’s (maybe your church does it on Wednesday’s?) and we’ll have potlucks at people’s houses or at church for different US and Chinese holidays. That’s the food tradition we have that comes to mind.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. That sounds so fun! I’ve always wanted to do one of those traveling dinners where you eat appetizers at someone’s house, then salad at the next, and so on. I don’t know if anyone actually does them but I read about it in a book once, haha.

                    Liked by 1 person

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