Tag Archive | Dagmar Vasby

My Mom and Me and Bibles

Mom and me praying c1954

Mom and me praying at a church program. We were “on stage” while someone sang a song about praying. I was wearing brand new red pajamas.

My mom got me hooked on exploring new translations and paraphrases of the Bible when I was a kid. Although I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s knowing that the King James Version was the real Bible – the one we used in Sunday School and church and the one to memorize Bible verses from – Mom was always searching for new ways to gain a deeper understanding of what the Bible means.

I remember one year she convinced my Uncle Helmer and Uncle Fletcher to chip in so that together they could give my grandma a Schofield Reference Bible for her birthday. It was still the King James Version, but it had lots of study aids. I knew Mom really wanted that Bible for herself, but she couldn’t afford it. Several years later when my grandma died, Mom inherited that Bible. I have it now.

When I was still in grade school I remember my mom beginning to get newer translations of the Bible to read along with the King James. The first two I remember were the J. B. Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament and the Amplified New Testament. They were about as different as could be in terms of everyday language versus precise word-for-word translation. Mom loved reading them both.

Amplified Bible - Phillips NTWhen I was in high school, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusades were periodically showing up on TV, and with them came offers to get a free book of the Bible that had just been paraphrased into easy-to-understand English – a series of books that would eventually become The Living Bible (LB). Mom received most of the Living New Testament this way – book by book. She just loved reading the books in the Living Version. She usually was smiling when she read it because the meaning of each paragraph was so easy to understand. In the mid-’70s when I was living in Chicago I remember walking to a religious book store in the Loop during one of my lunch hours to buy Mom a leather-bound Living Bible for Christmas to replace all her separate paperbacks of each book. I inherited that Bible from her.

Moms Living Bible

New English Bible 2In 1961 the New English Version of the Bible was published in England. My mom didn’t get that version, but Dagmar Vasby, a retired missionary nurse originally from Denmark who had become a member of our Methodist Church in Cambridge, frequently read from that version whenever she spoke in church. During my freshman year in college, one day when I was browsing the campus bookstore I came across the cutest little 3” by 5” leather-bound New Testament in the New English Version. I couldn’t resist it. I spent $12 on the first installment of my own library of Bibles. Its tiny size made it easy to fit into my suitcase over the years, and it traveled with me on most of my business trips throughout the ’80s.

After my college years I followed Mom’s preference for The Living Bible. I liked how easy it was to read and understand – just like Mom said. But then some well-meaning friends in a Bible study informed me that The Living Bible wasn’t as accurate as “real” translations. It was just a paraphrase and couldn’t be trusted for accuracy when doing any in-depth study. That embarrassed me enough to make me switch to the New International Version (NIV) – the gold standard for Evangelicals. Unfortunately, that conversation also cooled my enthusiasm for exploring different translations and paraphrases as Mom and I had been doing for years.

Many years later, in 2009 when I was starting to assemble a small library for guests to use at our retreat house, Whispering Winds Retreat Haven, I included three Bibles – The King James Version (KJV), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and the New International Version (NIV). The only criticism I received about our book collection was that we should include more translations of the Bible. I guess that’s just what I wanted to hear. Mim and I made several trips to resale shops and used book stores. Our book case quickly reached the point of overflowing. The top shelf was filled with nothing but Bibles – more than a dozen different translations. The rest of the shelves were filled with inspirational books by our favorite authors.

Bible Stack 3Most importantly, I finally resumed my old habit of exploring different translations and paraphrases. Probably the paraphrase I enjoy reading most, just for fun, is The Message (MSG). It provides fresh images for my mind that help me gain new insights into what a particular passage might mean. Another version I’m enjoying is The New King James Version (NKJV). It tries to retain the poetic language of the original King James Version as closely as it can without sacrificing readability for today’s readers.

The most recent version I picked up and am currently exploring is The New Living Translation (NLT). This version is actually a revision of The Living Bible. Like its predecessor, it’s a very readable Bible.

There are a lot more versions out there. But just as my mom didn’t have the money to buy herself a Scofield Reference Bible, I don’t think I can go and buy every translation I’d like to explore. However, I always scan the religious books section in every resale store I enter. I’ve also learned about websites like www.BibleStudyTools.com where you can look up any verse in almost any version you want to read.

I guess I could be hooked on worse things than exploring different translations of the Bible. After all, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:15:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (NKJV)

Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. (LB)

Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. (NLT)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. (NRSV)

Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. (MSG)

Mom was right. The Living Bible says it best, especially the last part, “Know what his Word says and means.”

Bible-candle-praying hands

 

Happiness Engineer – One of My Favorite Job Titles

happiness-engineersLast week I received an email from someone with the job title of “Happiness Engineer.” It made me smile. The email was from WordPress, the Internet service I use for hosting this blog. Earlier in the week I had contacted WordPress through their website to let them know that I had been charged twice on my credit card on the same day for a one-year renewal of their hosting and software service. Someone at WordPress with the title of “Happiness Engineer” checked out my concern, apologized for the error, and assured me my account would be credited. The “Happiness Engineer” made me happy.

In another company, the person who resolves minor customer concerns like mine would probably be called a “Customer Service Representative.” I guess that’s an appropriate job title, although if I were the person doing the job, I think I’d prefer the title of “Happiness Engineer.” I think this title would help me keep focused on trying to create happiness as part of the solution to every problem I had to solve.

Dagmar Vasby

Dagmar Vasby – former Missionary to China and Africa, and my neighbor for many years.

“Happiness Engineer.” That got me thinking about some of the job titles I’ve had over my career: English Teacher, Editorial Researcher, Business Systems Analyst, Manager of Financial Systems, Business Consultant, Real Estate Broker, Innkeeper, Organist, and a few others. The one title I really didn’t like was “Functional Analyst.” I guess it was better than “Dysfunctional Analyst,” but that’s what I always thought of when I saw the title “Functional Analyst” after my name.

A week and a half ago I went to the funeral of a 106-year-old former neighbor who had been a missionary to China and Africa. She had many job titles, too – Missionary Nurse, Teacher, Mother to a widower’s five children, Writer, Speaker, Lay Minister, and many more.

At the lunch following the funeral I talked with several old friends, and I met a few new people. When I was introduced to one person, I was shocked to hear her say to me, “the author?” when she heard my name. I guess that’s my favorite new job title. I like being seen as an author.

In this month’s “Monastic Way,” Joan Chittister focuses her readers’ attention on a self-portrait by Mary Cassatt. She begins her pamphlet with these words:

Mary Cassatt - Self PortraitTo paint a self-portrait, the artist is required to look into a mirror or study a photograph of themselves as they work. They do what few of us ever sit down and do consciously: they look themselves square in the face and try to draw a picture of what they see there. The difference between what they see there and what another artist might set out to express of them is that the person doing a self-portrait knows what every line and furrow, every cast of eye and hunch of shoulder says about the soul within…

What does a job title have to do with a self-portrait? They both provide glimpses into who we are – as we see ourselves, and as other people see us.

Jesus talked about this, too. In all four Gospels, Jesus is recorded as asking his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples answered by saying that some people said he was John the Baptist. Others said he must be Elijah, or one of the other prophets. And then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him by saying, “You are the Messiah.”

I guess we could say Jesus’ job title was “Messiah.” And we could say Peter’s job title was “Apostle” and “Father of the Church,” based on his early recognition of Jesus being the Messiah and his getting the early church in Jerusalem organized.

Smiley FaceAs I think about who I am – as if I were trying to do a self-portrait by giving myself the perfect “job title” to describe who I am, not just the work I do, but who God created me to be – what would the job title be? “Happiness Engineer” might be a good start, but I’m not sure that’s exactly how I think about myself.

I guess that’s something else I want to think about this year – what job title would I like to create for myself? What kind of self-portrait should the job title reflect?