…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Some friends in Tennessee sent us a card today, one of many, many cards offering prayer and support in the recent loss of my mom. It’s been a little overwhelming actually. I get emails from people I never speak to, and cards from people I can’t remember.
The card today was the fifth one we have received from someone who donated Gideon Bibles in her memory. It made me smile.
About seventy year ago mom stole a Gideon New Testament from the closet in the basement of the Methodist Church in Naples, Florida. They kept them there as a gift for kids in Sunday School on their birthday, and of course she didn’t realize a Gideon would give her one any time she asked.
Her dad, who was still struggling with the loss of her mom in an automobile accident on the way home from church, had rejected faith. Mom herself was in a coma for several days, and they held up the funeral, thinking she and her mom would be buried together. Mom had a brother who was mentally handicapped as a result of the wreck, and still lives in institutional care.
In the middle of all this loss she stole the Bible and hid it in a palm tree on the beach. At the base of the palm frond is a small pocket, where it connects to the tree and she put the Testament in a plastic bag to protect it from the rain and hide it from her dad.
There is no way to calculate the value of that stolen Bible in her life, or in mine. One day she read about Jesus looking up and having compassion on the multitudes, and she believed then and for the rest of her life that he could have compassion on her too. She needed a friend, and Jesus was it.
Later she introduced him to my dad, a seventeen year-old drifting through town looking for his alcoholic father. And later she introduced him to me, when she was a young mother far from home and often alone.
Finding comfort in the Scripture, and in the Christ it reveals, was important to her all her life, and it has been the place I’ve turned in the days she was dying and in the days since.
But the Scripture has provided more than comfort; it transformed a family and turned us toward grace, anchoring us in our losses and our failures, pointing us toward the hope of redemption.
Paul tells us (Romans 8) that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
“In this hope,” he says, “we were saved.”
I wouldn’t know about this hope if it weren’t for that Gideon New Testament, just one of the 1.3 billion they have distributed since they started 100 years ago in 1908.
And so I smile, praying that someone somewhere will hide their Bible in a palm tree. And in their heart.
(You can give Bibles here.)