For My Fellow Read-Through-the-Bible-in-a-Year Failures

images[2]Confession: I am a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year failure. A repeat failure to be exact. As in, I’ve given it my best shot several times and have never finished on schedule. Not even close. Not even once. I did it in two years one time, but that was when I was single, still living with my parents, and my biggest responsibility was maintaining a proper Florida tan. Needless to say, those days are long gone!

Every January for the past decade someone in my life – a pastor, Sunday school teacher, mentor, or friend – has challenged me to read through the Bible in a year. And every year I try really, really hard. I print out the reading plan, put in in the front of my Bible and convince myself that this is the year I will actually succeed. But by the time February rolls around I’m still hanging out with Abraham when I ought to be watching the Israelites cross the Red Sea on dry ground. I’m pretty disciplined to read my Bible almost every day, but somehow I never seem to read enough to keep up with “the plan.” I get hung up on a certain verse, or I have to stop and ponder a particular truth, or a passage utterly confuses me and I stop to do some research, or my eyes won’t stay open because I stayed up too late the night before, or my sweet little boy decides that he wants to wake up an hour early – you know how it is.

This January was different. For the first time in many, many years I didn’t print a one-year reading plan and I didn’t buy a special one-year Bible.  Instead, I got myself three bookmarks – one for the Old Testament, one for the Psalms, and one for the New Testament. Each morning I get up, get my coffee, sit down in my special quiet time spot, and simply pick up where I left off the day before.

I read a Psalm or a portion of a Psalm first. Reading a Psalm is a good “warm up” for me. It focuses my attention on the Lord. Aside from that, I can’t think of a better way to start the day than with some praise. Well . . .  coffee, then praise. When it’s really early reading the Psalm out loud is usually my only hope for staying awake. You know, since it takes a few minutes for the dark roast to do its job.

After I’m finished in the Psalms, I find my bookmark in the Old Testament and pick up where I left off the day before. Then I do the same with the New Testament. I close by jotting down at least one truth from my reading in a notebook. Sometimes I get through a whole chapter or two in each Testament. Sometimes I only get through a few verses. But with my bookmark plan, it simply doesn’t matter. What matters is that I get up . . . that I sit before the Lord . . . that I marinate in His Word . . .  that I listen intently to His voice . . . that I surrender to His will . . .that I marvel at His grace.  That stuff isn’t necessarily a function of how much you read; it’s a function of how well you read (i.e., how well you listen to God’s voice and apply His truth to your life).

A one-year reading plan is a really good thing. The last thing I ever want to do is discourage anyone from making that a goal! It’s one of the best ways I can think of to get a “big picture” view of God’s Word. It’s something I definitely want to accomplish before Jesus calls me home. But I’m finally convinced that it isn’t the “holy grail” of spiritual maturity. I’ve finally let myself off the hook for never successfully checking all the boxes of my yearly printout on time. I’ve finally accepted the fact that it’s okay to hang out with Abraham a little too long. Moses and the Israelites will still be living their lives in the book of Exodus whether I get there on schedule or not. (For a girl who is task-oriented, always likes to be on time, adores detailed schedules, and always plays by the rules, this is huge! We’re talking major growth here, people! You should stop right now and clap for me.)

If you want to be successful at “marinating” in God’s Word, I sincerely believe you must have a plan. But for that plan to be fruitful, it has to be doable. It has to accommodate the ebb and flow of your life. If you are a mom with young children, it must allow for a lot of interruptions.

Today is February 6th and I just finished up with Noah and the Sermon on the Mount.  For the first time ever, I’m okay with that. Why? Because my bookmarks are moving, God is speaking, I’m growing, and “life” is no longer interrupting like it used to.

Don’t have a reading plan? Is the one you have not working? Get yourself some bookmarks, a pen, and a notebook. Commit to “marinate” every day and watch those bookmarks move ahead at whatever rate works for you.  When something stands out, write it down. Keep it simple and keep it going. One year may not be enough time to get through the Bible, but I know from personal expereince that it’s plenty of time for the Bible to get through you. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).





  1. Genius idea!!! I’ve tried MANY times to read through the Bible in a year, and actually made it to the middle of July once…then getting ready for vacation, going on vacation, and recovering from vacation…put me weeks behind. I got so discouraged, I vowed to not try it again. It always depressed me. Why? I think it’s because the schedule is MANMADE…it doesn’t allow for freedom!
    I wanted to comment on that post you did about Verse of the Day. I am reading through Streams in the Desert…but this year I’m approaching it differently. At the beginning of each day is a verse. Before I read the devotion, I open my BIBLE, and read the entire chapter the verse is in. It makes such a difference. It spurs me to all kinds of cross referencing, context checking, etc. Then I go back and read the devotion. Not only is it more meaningful that way, but the Lord has spoken to me first, then I read the devotion author’s take. So far I’m loving it. Then I jot a few thoughts in my prayer book about what I’ve gleaned, and then I pray. It takes longer, but I’m in that season of life where that’s ok. Just thought I’d share 🙂

    • That’s SUCH a great idea Teri! An awesome way to “marinate”, especially for those of us who like variety. And the classic devotionals like Streams in the Desert are incredible – I’m a HUGE fan. Love how you’ve turned it up a few notches!!

  2. I’m like you, many attempts which always fizzled out with guilt. But last year I did something very different …signed up for (English Standard Version) reading plan which has one chapter from 2 different OT books and one chapter from 2 different NT books. Ended up doing Psalms twice and NT twice. I couldn’t believe that I actually didn’t miss one day … because it came in e-mail and I could read it on any of my devices. The best thing, was that instead of reading e-mail from a friend or hobby site, I actually heard from God FIRST every morning. Doing classes and e-mail devotions and studying questions. The thing that was so amazing doing it this way, was the way the OT and NT passages were so parallel. And if all 4 were, I knew God was hittin’ me upside the head.

    Incidentally, my very structured hubby reads through EVERY YEAR and has since Pastor Bob Reccord gave each of us a Bible somewhere in the 80s. …. oh, and he reads in Spanish or French … this year it’s French. Just like walking by his fitness room every day … a tad of guilt. But no more 🙂

    • An electronic reading plan is a great idea! I’m so happy to hear that you found something that works so well. Reading through the Bible in French? Wow!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Liz.

  3. Saw this via a friend posting on FB….I love this! I’ve tried to read the Bible through in one year many times and like you life happens. Sigh…But this is an awesome idea! I can do this! Bless you for sharing.

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