About twice a year I choose to take a day out from regular SU work – a kind of retreat. Over the years, I’ve walked up hills, meditated in chapels, or spent a day in silence; but this time I ended up in the city – an urban retreat.

So I found myself in an upstairs coffee shop on a drizzly Monday morning in Glasgow – looking out across a busy square. I had decided to listen to the book of Ecclesiastes. I often do a whole book in a one-r, and I also like the change of listening to, rather than reading, Scripture. When you listen to Scripture your eyes are free to look around you and people-watch. So I looked, and I listened.

In the square there were a lot of busy people, rushing to get somewhere.

What’s there to show for a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? (1:2)

Some people looked quite intense; whatever their purpose – it was quite important.

We work to feed our appetites; meanwhile our souls go hungry. (6:7)

There didn’t seem to be much fun (I suppose it was drizzly), people so intent on their business you wondered if they ever had time to enjoy it.

Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. (11:7)

Ecclesiastes came to an end and I left the coffee shop quite fascinated by how much my engagement with the Bible had been shaped by my location. I’ve sat in many Bible seminars which help you identify how your background, culture, churchmanship, etc become the lens which hugely affects how you read the Bible. However, I hadn’t fully appreciated that where I choose to sit would also have such a bearing on my understanding of it.

Now I’ve seen the effect, I’m keen to have another go. (Suggestions for a book plus location will be gratefully received!) I’d certainly encourage you to get an audio Bible on your phone/tablet, lift your eyes off the page, choose somewhere you wouldn’t normally read Scripture, and change the place of your Bible reading.