The Longsuffering of Old Bibles (NPM ’16-Day 20)

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Do you have a collection of old Bibles in your house? We do. Old Bibles in various versions stand neatly on shelves in the basement. They can also be found stacked with other books on my bedside table, buried in trunks, and in my study. I’ve found a slim New Testament in an old purse and tract-size copies of the Gospel of John with a bunch of brochures.

When, some time ago, Diane Lockward’s newsletter contained a poetry prompt with the lament of old wedding dresses, I decided my lament of old things would old Bibles. “The Longsuffering of Old Bibles” is the result.

What should one do to rejuvenate (our Spiritual Journey Thursday word for today) old Bibles? I wish I could send mine to places on earth where people are longing for just one Bible. Trouble is, they usually don’t want them in English but in their mother tongue.

How do you rejuvenate your old Bibles?

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The Longsuffering of Old Bibles

They stand upright, next to each other
the leather NIV beside the family King James
the paperback Message beside the patterned Phillips,
in fellowship and righteous support
version rivalries long forgotten.
On dark nights their longings
rise from the bookshelf, hover
a myrrh lament in the air:
How long, O Lord?
Will they forget us forever?

Sometimes the old Scofield
will whisper memories of past mornings
when light from his pages blended
with light from the sun
and he was written in, marked up, and lined.
I even have the stain of tears,
he says one day. The hardly touched Living
finds this hard to believe
but the Illustrated Children’s smiles
recalling her own rips and scribbles.

Who will read them now? Who will find them?
The wine leather birthday Bible, gold-embossed
in its zippered cover with pockets and pen holders?
The weighty red study Bible
at the bottom of a pile somewhere?
The first Bible—where is it,
what closet, what box?
Where is the burgundy New Testament
gifted in Grade 5, the one with the gold jug
on the cover? Languishing on the shelf
of a thrift store perhaps
or giving tattered testimony to the dump?

From closet floor to attic trunk
with eternal patience, faith, and hope they wait:
We have family members in hotel drawers…
Our pages could still be scattered as packing, wrapping…
One of us once even revived, with his leaves,
the cleaner of latrines in a faraway prison.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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This is not a new poem, but was written before this poetry month. It recently won an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Christian Poetry Contest sponsored by Utmost Christian Writers. Go HERE to see the list of winners and read more winning poems (they’re good—you’ll love them!).

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Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

Photo: Pixabay.com

 

Annie Vallotton

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Annie Vallotton Bible illustrations

Annie Vallotton drawings from Good News For Modern Man, pp. 114 and 165 (1966 edition).

Annie Vallotton

“I drew some of the drawings eighty to ninety times before I achieved the one I wanted. I wanted to get to the truth, which is the most important thing.” Annie Vallotton ( from an interview on the Bible Illustration Blog)

Pharisee stands tall
hands clasped over robed paunch
beatific smile on heaven-raised face
while tiny Publican (rendered in five lines)
crouches in the distance
head down, shoulders stooped.

Beat-up rag of a traveler lies
arm out, helpless. Good Samaritan
kneeling beside grabs attention
with the tilt of his featureless head.
Even donkey across the road
looks concerned.

Minimalist, stick-figure theology
cartoon-like but not funny
iconic, simple
elegant, out-of-time
“maximum expression
with a minimum of lines”
more literal than interpretive
emotion-filled as freeze frames in a play
Annie Vallotton’s black-and-white
line-drawings illuminating
Good News for Modern Man.

Illustrations so simple they look
like a child could draw them.
So clear a child can grasp their truth
and adults looking on become
children again.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All Rights Reserved)

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I was fascinated by the Annie Vallotton illustrations when I first saw them long ago in my once new, now yellowing paperback Good News For Modern Man. When I was putting my children’s devotions online some years ago and seeking pictures, I contacted the Good News Bible people and they actually gave me permission to use the Vallotton illustrations on the blog (with attribution)!

Annie Vallotton was born in Switzerland in 1915, lived much of her life in France, and died only two years ago (in December 2013) at the age of 98. Articles and interviews reveal that she was a gifted but humble woman who valued truth, loved the Bible and its stories, and wanted people everywhere, especially children, to love it too.

Today I draw attention to her patience, obvious from the epigram in the poem above. Imagine drawing something 80 to 90 times to get it right!

Her example is a nudge to me to let things take the time they need. As a writer, I want to have the patience to ruminate, to give thoughts, ideas, and opinions time to form, to proofread carefully, to revise after the piece has had some time to cool, to curb my fingers from typing the flash emotional response on social media. Above all, I want to take the time to step back and consider, am I being loyal to God’s truth in all that I write—even the things that make no mention of God at all?

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spiritual-journey-framedThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning, where the theme this week is PATIENCE.