What is your first experience with the Bible?

When I write a book, it comes after years of experience, research, and writing in a particular area. I wrote a novel set in Uganda where I lived seven years and listened for hours on end to stories of ordinary and extraordinary Ugandans. I wrote a book on a doctor in Honduras after interviewing and conferring with more than one hundred people.

I’m researching for an upcoming book and I need your help to understand the wide range of experience people have with the Bible.

My experience with the Bible began in the 1970s when I was given my first King James Version Bible by my parents, Terrel and Charlotte Taylor. In the featured image of this post is the title page where my Mom wrote, “[Presented to] Gregory Taylor [by] Dad and Mom: We love you and pray that you will always want to study God’s Word and follow what it says. May God bless you. November 6, 1975. 

While I heard Old Testament stories from Bible class teachers as examples of faith, that two thirds of my first Bible seems untouched, unread. I read and marked New Testament passages about belief and baptism. For those first few years of my experience with the Bible, I wanted to believe and be baptized so I could go to heaven when I died and not go to hell.

To say that I read the Bible with confusion and fear would be an understatement. Anselm’s motto, “Faith seeking understanding” is a good description of my search for God as an eight year old. My early experiences were also marked with what felt like failure. We were given reading plans and encouraged to read the whole Bible. I never did, and tripped up weeks into any plan, growing bored, confused, and feeling like I was missing something.

One last and important thing: As Adam and Eve had a competing desire and sinned, so also in those early years I was introduced to a competing desire and sinned. I was living the early Bible story already and didn’t realize it. Television images, girls, and a magazine that my neighbor, aptly named Adam, pulled us breathlessly into the woods to show my brother and me competed with the words of God for my imagination. Doubts would come later, and I’ll write more about doubt and this competing for my imagination in my book.

What is your first experience with the Bible? I’m looking for brief responses about your first experience with the Bible, and I may contact you for an interview by phone about your other experiences. You are welcome to respond on comments below, or send email to gregtaylormail@gmail.com. Answer the question, “What was my first experience with the Bible?” as deeply and honestly as you can.

Thank you, and I look forward to your responses!


My Son is Also My Hero

Jacob Taylor speaking at 2017 BAHS Graduation

Two years ago, my son watched my daughter, Anna, graduate from Broken Arrow High School. That night Tram Le gave a speech because she was the top student of the class of 2015.

Jacob decided that night he wanted to be a hero like Tram Le.

Two years later, May 15, 2017, Jacob gave that speech in the same slot in the program as Tram.

Listen to Jacob’s Speech – start at 33:00

He called seniors to choose: be a villain or a hero. There is no middle ground.

I’ve gotten a front row seat, an inside look these last two years as Jacob has struggled to live out this decision. There was no middle ground in the last two years of many sleepless nights as Jacob set out to study and do well in AP classes and on the PSAT in order to become a National Merit Finalist. There was no middle ground when he decided night after night to stay up late and finish studying. There was no middle ground when he decided to not only study but also serve and lead in school, church, and community.

After commencement, Jacob left for Project Graduation in a hurry and left a few things on the table.

There was no middle ground when he ate healthy food and went running–he told me one time that studying is “dynamic” and sometimes an idea comes clear to him while running.

This reminds me of the Chariots of Fire story where Eric Liddell says when he runs he feels God’s pleasure. I can tell that as Jacob learns and grows, he’s feeling God’s pleasure, and he’s not just a student of science and math but also Scripture. And he knows his own wisdom and knowledge is not enough. He seeks God’s direction and Spirit’s guidance in daily prayer.

So Jacob gave a speech along with two of his classmates. All three of the speeches Monday night worked well together. Lexi Bagrosky spoke about senior memories and her laugh line was, “No one has all the answers, unless of course they cheat off of Jacob Taylor.”

Jacob, Jada, and Johna graduate!

Noah Osborne spoke about living with a passion for a cause bigger than ourselves. Then he said a line from the senior class motto, “Remember, if anyone is interested, I have some free love to give.” He followed that by saying, “But the only reason I have that love to give is because God sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, and I can’t help but express my love back to my one King without an act of worship, so if you know this hymn sing along.” Then he sang “Amazing Grace” and many in the crowd of 10,000 sang along. He stopped singing to listen as the crowd finished, “was blind but now I see.”

Jacob grabbed most of the guys’ attention with his speech when he started, “In my favorite movie, The Dark Knight . . .” He quoted Harvey Dent: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.” What he meant, Jacob said, was that there are two paths in life. Then he quoted “a man he admires,” who said, “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no middle ground.”

Jacob with Sammy, our driver and helper in the fish food project while in Kenya Summer 2016.

There was no middle ground when Jacob decided to join a team of young engineers developing a sustainable way to feed fish in Kenya.

There was no middle ground when Jacob has stood up as an example for other students, even when he felt embarrassed or wanted to see others awarded or congratulated as well.

Jacob has made his choice. He has chosen to be part of the solution. Another example: the day after graduation, Jacob traveled with a school group to help with Special Olympics in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Jacob has taught me so much in his eighteen years of life. He’s the first to coin the term in my hearing at least of a “missionary-engineer.” I’ve gotten a front row seat to watch Jacob as he’s been preparing himself to change the world, to be a hero.

One of my favorite things to watch over these last few years is the relationship Jacob has with his mother and my wife, Jill. She is the AP lead at Broken Arrow High School and teaches calculus and Algebra 3 there. It has been fun listening (without comprehending) to their conversations about calculus and the learning environment of Broken Arrow High School. Jill has had a greater role in Jacob’s academic success by far, and not just by genetics but also by her hard work and dedication to working with Jacob over many years of school.

One of the things we have talked about with Jacob since he was old enough to understand–which wasn’t very old for Jacob–is this: “Jacob, God has blessed you with a great mind and heart. Now give back to Him by using your gifts for God’s glory.”

I believe Jacob is doing that. Yes, I’m proud of my son. But I’m also a student of my son’s life, work ethic, courage, and wisdom. Though my son, Jacob is also my hero.

Watch this video as my hero celebrates with some of his friends!