Each summer when I was a boy, there was nothing I looked forward to more than spending a couple of weeks with my grandparents. They lived in what today is called "old Florida," and their house was at the end of a short dirt road, shaded by several fine oak trees. The Spanish moss hung so low from those great, old oaks that even a small boy could jump up and tug the long gray beards.
And then there was the river. My brother and I slept on the back screened porch where, just a few yards from the porch steps, the Alafia River ran toward Tampa Bay. At night we could hear all the river sounds, punctuated now and then by the rolling hum of long-distance 18-wheelers as the big trucks passed over the Highway 301 bridge just downstream. We fished in the river with cane poles, searched for arrowheads along its banks, skipped stones on its surface. It was just exactly what a 12-year-old boy would have dreamed of.
Yet more than all of this, what I remember most is the affection of my grandfather for the two boys who were his grandsons. The last time I saw my grandfather I was 15 or 16. One evening I went to his room to say goodnight. Our family were all Methodists, and every night before he fell asleep, Grandpa would read his Bible. Of course I knew it was the Bible in his hands that evening, but I asked him what he was reading anyhow, just to make conversation. He looked at me and said, "Son, can I ask you to do something for me?" I nodded.
Grandpa went on, "If there's just one thing I could have you do, it would be to make some time each day to read the Bible." I said, "Sure." But I didn't really feel a conviction about it. And I certainly didn't know this would be the last summer I would see my grandfather. He passed away the next year.
To be honest, I didn't keep my promise right away. The teenage years pulled me in different directions. But by the time I was in my early 20s, the Bible actually had become a part of my daily devotionals. You see, a friend had introduced me to Christian Science, and an important aspect of following this Science of Christianity includes regular Bible study along with "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy.
As I became interested in Christian Science, I loved how it illuminated the spiritual significance of Bible verses. "Science and Health" became vital to me, revealing the depth and substance of Jesus' teachings, opening up the inspired meaning of Old Testament passages, demonstrating the healing power of New Testament narratives. The Bible was being unlocked. It was no longer a dusty collection of antiquated morality tales. It was the living Word, an entirely practical guide to contemporary life, and a constant source of spiritual renewal.
Here's one of my favorite Bible verses. It's in the words of Jesus: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). The Bible itself does that for me. It gives me rest. No matter how difficult life might be, I find peace and comfort in the inspired message of God to His children. I have a friend who sometimes laughs out loud when he reads the Bible - such joy!
It was many years after my grandfather had made a special request of his teenage grandson when I realized that my promise was being kept. I still have the first arrowhead I found on my grandfather's place along the Alafia River. And I still read the Bible.
All scripture is given
by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished
unto all good works.
II Timothy 3:16-17