Different Bibles, Different Purposes

At first glance, my bookshelf and desk may lead you to think that I’m simply a collector of Bibles. To say I have a lot of them would be a vast understatement.

But honestly, I don’t just read them. I interact with them—and in different ways, too. So much so, that I decided to sit down and think critically about why and how I read the various Bibles I do. And it became obvious very quickly that there truly is a rhyme and reason to my methods.

In short, at any given time I have three Bibles that I’m currently and consistently using:

My “beater” Bible is always an inexpensive, lightweight (usually newsprint) version that I keep inside my purse. Sure, I could (and do) use a digital version loaded on my phone, but I personally enjoy the interaction with a physical book much more.

My beater Bible is far from pretty. It’s strictly utilitarian and it’s usually falling apart, too. If you peeked inside, you’d see lots of notes scribbled in ballpoint pen, underlined verses and a wide variety of small sticky notes throughout. Yep, this particular Bible takes a beating, but I use it constantly—whenever and wherever I am. To help it endure a little more wear, I usually cover it with a little clear Contact paper.

I also have what I refer to as my “beautiful” Bible. This Bible is the exact opposite of my beater version. I keep it pristine: no notes, no underlining, no marking of any kind and only a simple index card for a bookmark. (The latter serves as a great place to make a quick note if I simply can’t stop myself.)

My beautiful Bible is reserved only for reading or praying Scripture, and as such is usually only a text Bible, not a reference or study version. (This means it’s free of any cross-references or commentary notes. It’s the actual Scripture text only.) When I’m overwhelmed, stressed or simply craving peace, I turn to the pages of my beautiful Bible. The lack of notes and extra reference information means there’s more visual breathing room. It’s literally only God’s Word and my own thoughts at that point and time.

Lastly, my “broken-down” Bible features all my personal notes and Bible mark-up. Essentially, this is my study Bible and where I (literally) break things down in writing. Inside, are all my notes, highlighting and questions I may have. I strive to only use acid-free, fade-resistant pens and highlighters in this Bible to ensure all my notes will stand the test of time.

It may seem odd, but I usually opt for a pew Bible for this purpose. That’s because pew Bibles are often made with more tear-resistant paper and are constructed to last a long time. In other words, they’re designed to be handled and I handle my “broken-down” Bible a lot. To make my pew Bible a little more personalized, I usually wrap it with an old-school paper bag book cover or with a homemade Duct tape cover.

Like this post? Watch the video to get a glimpse at the three specific Bibles I’m currently using daily.

The Benefits of Writing by Hand

Do you benefit from writing stuff down? You’re not alone.

Sometimes it’s far easier to find our way through our thoughts by writing them down. A bit like making our own mental road map, it’s easier to stay focused, to not forget, to go from point “A” to point “B” and often gain clarity in the process of getting there. When we only mentally log our thoughts, distractions abound. We forget things and it’s tempting to stop short of completely thinking something (all the way) through.

In light of science and the very way our minds work, none of this is surprising. But yet so many of us still sit typing away in front of screen—and that’s if we write at all. So, why go analog with paper and pen when we can go digital and access it anywhere at any time?

Turns out there’s a number of good reasons why…

Writing by hand improves memory. The process of putting pen (or pencil) to paper activates specific areas of the brain that help comprehension (understanding), retention and recall. Ever feel like if you write it down, then you’ll remember? You don’t just feel this way. It is this way. It’s the way your brain was designed to work. Don’t fight it.

Writing by hand involves more senses. Journaling, note taking or just plain writing something down involves a wide variety of senses which increases brain activity and keeps you mentally alert. From the visual contrast of the ink on the paper to the feel of the pen gliding over a notepad to the sound of a pencil scratching the writing surface, writing the “old school” way is a sensory-rich experience that keeps the brain alert and active.

Writing by hand can reduce stress by increasing focus. By putting pen to paper, we can free up our brain to continue thinking rather than wasting mental energy trying to hold on to thoughts in working memory. It’s important to actually shut down (or restart) a computer completely from time to time so that it can flush its RAM (or random-access memory). This is the memory that’s accessed for stuff that’s not permanently needed. Writing by hand enables us to do this for our brain, too. In a sense, writing enables us to dump out all the “stuff” that our brain is holding on to and wasting precious mental energy and space on.

Writing by hand can increase our creativity and critical thinking. Writing is a personal process and not surprisingly it can be adapted and shaped to best meet our own individual needs and preferences. From creating thought or idea maps using shapes, lines and words to using various colors to represent meaning to just dumping thoughts out on a page to revisit later, writing offers us the opportunity to extend our thinking in more creative, critical and deeper ways.

Writing by hand can help us lighten our burdens. The process of writing by hand can actually help us improve our daily lives by enabling us to better let things go. It provides the opportunity to reassess (privately) what is and what is not worth our mental energy and effort. Additionally, it can be a wonderful way to practice an intentional perspective, too. In other words, are our feelings and thoughts truly representing where our hearts and heads need to be: in line with God?