'Confessions of an Ugly-Bible Reader': How a local teacher found life in God's word

Bishop Foley High School theology teacher and father of three Timothy McCormick holds a copy of his book, "Confessions of an Ugly-Bible Reader." McCormick was inspired to write his first book after noticing the pages of his favorite Bible were worn and marked up, which he says is a sign of a healthy devotion to the Scriptures. (Photos by Michelle Samartino | Special to Detroit Catholic)

The more tape, the better, says Bishop Foley teacher Tim McCormick in new book highlighting the beauty of Scripture

MADISON HEIGHTS — Coffee spills and stains on a Bible might look “ugly,” but it can also be a sign of one’s devotion and commitment to reading sacred Scripture — and finding the beauty in it.

That’s the kind of Bible that theology teacher Timothy McCormick has. He was inspired by “The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition: The Bible in Contemporary Language” to help him interpret Scripture from a different angle. With this, he put his experiences into his own book, “Confessions of an Ugly-Bible Reader.”

His 64-page book was written to inspire others to pray in a new and meaningful way: “My book is an attempt to encourage Catholics to really engage the spiritual senses of Scripture by committing to a daily encounter with the living God in His Word,” McCormick told Detroit Catholic. “It is essential that we bring our everyday experiences into reading the Bible.”

As a theology teacher at Bishop Foley Catholic High School in Madison Heights, and at the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan, “Both of these situations were life-giving and amazing experiences where I was being fed by the Scriptures,” he said, “but, to be honest, I was getting a bit burned out.”

Though not initially inspired by Eugene Patterson’s “The Message” when he first came across the book in 2013, he decided to pick it up again “just because I was in the mood to pray with a Bible translation that had a different feel and tone to it,” McCormick said. “As I began to slowly pray with ‘The Message’ during my morning prayer time, I found his translation style felt more personable, inviting and intriguing.”

McCormick continued reading the book, and said, “It was speaking to a particular need I had at that moment in life. To this day, I enjoy using ‘The Message,’ among a couple other Bible translations, for my morning devotional time. I think it can be a great tool for engaging in more meditative ways of reading the Bible.”

McCormick flips through the pages of his "ugly Bible." God shows His presence through the Scriptures, McCormick says, and is accessible for anyone to find.
McCormick flips through the pages of his "ugly Bible." God shows His presence through the Scriptures, McCormick says, and is accessible for anyone to find.

God interacts with humanity in more ways than the parting of the Red Sea, or the miracles of Jesus, McCormick added. “God is regularly found in the Bible engaging people where they are. Yet, God is there in the mundane moments of life, the ups and downs of our everyday experiences.”

He used the Book of Ruth and Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well as examples. “So, I was beginning to really bring the joys and struggles of my daily life, including my vocation as a husband, father and high school theology teacher into my daily reading of the Bible.

“I found myself journaling more and writing in my Bible far more often,” he explained. “That particular Bible became a place of encounter, where I would daily ask questions, prayerfully listen to and ponder over those sacred words, and engage in a much deeper form of prayer than I had ever experienced.”

His family’s support was essential when it came to writing his book. “As I began to more fully engage the Scriptures in this new way, my vocation as a husband, father, and teacher became the primary lens through which I was engaging the text,” he said. “For example, I mention in the book one instance of entering my morning prayer time after a difficult night with our kids. You know, the typical life of the parents of three young kids under 10 years of age!”

The next morning, McCormick was feeling deflated as he entered his prayer room with his “ugly” Bible. But, he said, “I remembered a particular passage in Paul’s Letter to the Romans that encapsulated how I was feeling at that moment, so I quickly opened my Bible and meditated on it for a good while.

“Ultimately, that time of prayerfully bringing my life experience into this time of prayer allowed me to process the previous night and be reminded of the Father’s daily guidance and provision for me and my family,” he recalled. “I felt very much at peace as I left my prayer time and continued on with the day.

With age comes wisdom: “As I have continued to get older, it is prayerful moments like these that continue to be an important part of my morning prayer routine,” he said. “I have found that these moments do not come randomly, but only after I have committed to daily praying with my Bible, as well as realizing that God accompanies me along all the ups and downs of life."

His wife, Rakhi, said her husband’s book is true to his experience and spirit.

“It is an authentic presentation of his own wrestling with his love of Scripture and the transformation that has taken place in his own prayer life,” she said. “His dedication to the contemplative reading of the Word has long been something I have admired, and try to emulate more often now.”

Rakhi’s support was instrumental in his first book-writing venture. “I was excited for him to be able to share his wisdom and passion for the Scriptures in such an approachable way, though a little surprised because of the two of us, his first inclination isn't to write long reflections or essays.

McCormick says the purpose of his book is to help others discover the beauty of the Scriptures and cultivate their own devotion to regular Bible-reading.
McCormick says the purpose of his book is to help others discover the beauty of the Scriptures and cultivate their own devotion to regular Bible-reading.

“It was clear that this was a prompting of the Spirit,” added Rakhi, who has been married to Tim for 12 years, and are also members of Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson. “I was able to read snippets as he was writing to be able to encourage him in the process, as well as provide some levity so he wasn't in his head about every little word.”

McCormick’s friend and co-worker, Frank Accavitti, also enjoyed reading the book, adding that it also inspired him in his own Scripture reading.

“I really felt the non-judgmental tone that Tim uses in the classroom with the pages of ‘Confessions,’ and the encouragement to read Scripture for oneself in a personal manner that allowed me to connect with God's Word,” said Accavitti, principal of Bishop Foley Catholic High School. His book “made sacred Scripture more accessible to me.”

Though there are no scribbled notes or messages in his Bible, he added, “I have been more comfortable to dog-ear pages in my paperback of ‘The Message,’ and more cognizant of setting time aside for daily readings.”

McCormick hopes his readers will commit to a lifelong engagement with the Bible, “so that over many years their own Bibles will begin to look ‘ugly’ due to it being worn out from regular time with it."

“When I see someone who has an old Bible that is filled with personal annotations written over the course of many years, with a cover that is being held together by duct tape, and has prayer cards and sticky notes peeking out of the pages, I know that person has committed to building their relationship with God through pouring over the scriptures daily.

“And outside of my wife and children, I think there are very few things more beautiful than an ugly Bible like that.”

There could be another book in McCormick’s future. “But, as with anything, I would need to find the time. Being a husband and dad are my first priorities, along with my work as a high school teacher.”

“Confessions of an Ugly-Bible Reader” is available through Amazon or actapublications.com.


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