My 2021 To Be Read (TBR) list is looking rather festive, how about yours?
I’ve got fiction and nonfiction, personal development and biographies, and even a couple of books about writing. I realize that last one will seem exciting for some of you and extremely redundant for others, akin to metacognition – thinking about thinking. I purchased several with birthday/Christmas money at the end of last year, and have acquired several more via Audible and mommy-daughter dates to Barnes & Noble with my girl, our favorite!
I’ve wanted to incorporate some book reviews for my readers, just in case you wonder what I’m injecting into my brain lately, and also in the case that you’d like to do the same or avoid it.
Late in 2020, I read Heroes and Monsters by Josh James Riebock (2012, Baker Books) and absolutely devoured it, it was so delicious! Five stars, highly recommend.
Why? I’ll narrow it down to three reasons, though they are countless. (Pray forgive my writing today, I’ve been listening to Jane Austen, Dear Reader.)
Riebock’s depiction of Jesus, whom he calls Jack throughout the book. It’s not only the re-naming of Him, though I thought that brilliant, it was the way he described Jesus as a friend in the room. “Josh sat next to so-and-so” for example. And it really made me re-think how I talk to Him and treat Him. I’m reminded not to merely talk about Him, but directly TO Him, because … well, because I can. Do I need another reason?
Brutal vulnerability bordering on self-debasement. No holier-than-thou in this author’s tone to be found, he draws the reader to her own self-reflection and candor. If there’s one thing I love about a writer of memoirs, it’s the balance between character (as in personal, not fictional) development and transparency. And for memoirs to feel relatable and realistic, the author must master the telling of both.
Illustrations. I know, “how unexpected” you’re thinking, but it’s true. I truly admired and appreciated throughout the creativity and novelty of Derek Geer’s illustrations that helped to tell the story Reibock was weaving. Apparently, I’m not too old to enjoy an illustrated book!
As a brief summary, in case you’d like to check it out, Heroes and Monsters tells the life story of the author, from childhood, and how his faith was found, lost, rediscovered, and strengthened. It’s probably all of our stories, if we think hard enough about it. The ways in which Jesus makes Himself real to us, individually, uniquely, strangely, in curiosity and wonder and pain and healing, and it’s all so lovely, now isn’t it? Riebock explains his difficult childhood when he was exposed to alcoholism and hoarding, an even more difficult adolescence and still more troubled young adulthood, with instances of Jesus reaching through the trials to reveal His love and guidance in the form of imaginary monsters and apartment-invading cows.
Here’s one passage I truly enjoyed, a conversation with Jack:
“I want you to let me love you. I want you to give me every part of you, the good and the bad, the exciting parts and the shameful parts, the things that you can’t wait to wake up to and the things that keep you up at night. I want all of you.”
“Kind of demanding, don’t you think? All of me?”
“And you think I deserve less than that?”
… “Intimacy isn’t fair. … Intimacy is about what’s real. Sometimes the difference between intimacy and unfairness is simply a matter of perspective.”
“I guess so.”
– Heroes and Monsters by Josh James Riebock
So, now, I’d love to hear from you? What’s on your 2021 TBR list, and have you read Heroes and Monsters yet? If not, do you think you’d like to after reading my review?
And oh by the way, could you do me a quick favor? I promise it only takes 30 seconds. Would you please subscribe by putting your email into the box? That helps ME communicate well with my readers, as well as gain standing in the writing industry, and it helps YOU catch all of my fun words. Thanks!
“Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me!I am always overwhelmedwith a desire for your regulations.”
Psalm 119: 18-20 (NLT)
Many people find the Bible boring at first. Or occasionally. However, no one I know who has ever really given it a healthy, hearty attempt has ever stayed with that opinion over time. Some portions of Scripture are dryer than others, and that’s okay. Remember how I said before that spiritual fitness takes time? Yeah, that’s where we’re at here. There’s no easy, lazy, flabby way around or out of this one. Take time or MAKE time to read God’s miraculously preserved, living, breathing Word each and every day. And I can 100% guarantee that you will not think it’s boring for long!
Work with me, here. You’re looking good. Don’t stop now. Ten more reps to go. You’re getting stronger.
It doesn’t really matter where you start. I’m guessing you have at least a bit of the Bible under your belt if you’re reading this, so now I’m going to take that small muscle and really make you toned.
If you typically read 5 minutes or one verse a day, you need to increase that to 15 minutes or about 4 chapters. If you don’t usually read daily, it’s time to get disciplined and start. If you already do a devotional, it’s time to add a couple of chapters to that too. Want a super-intense challenge? I did this once, so I know it’s possible: If you carve out 60 minutes out of your day for your Maker, you can read 10 chapters a day with Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System. You’ll grow to really know the Bible and be able to contextualize what you’re reading among the whole of Scripture.
Whatever you’re consuming of the Bible already, (mentally) write that here: _______________________
Now, for the next week, how can you take your daily consumption up one level? ___________________________________________________________
Begin today. Why? Because this food, this Bread of life, this is your nourishment that will give you the fuel to become strong. This spiritual nourishment is even more crucial than the food you put in your stomach.
Let’s look at what Ezra, the author of Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) has to say about the critical role God’s Truth plays to your soul. What adjective is given to the person who walks in God’s Law? ____________ [v. 1-3] (blessed)
What adverb is used in verse 4 to describe how God intended His precepts to be kept? ___________ (diligently)
What do we avoid if our eyes are fixed on God’s Word/commandments? [v. 6] _____________ (shame)
Alright, I need to pause here. Don’t you just hate it when a fitness instructor says, “hold it there,” and then proceeds to explain the technique or form of an exercise while you have to keep going? Yeah, I hate that too.
Psalm 119 is all about this man’s love for God’s Law. I’m going out on a limb here to say the majority of people, not only now, but especially now, don’t love rules. They aren’t in love with reading, memorizing, or doing God’s or anyone else’s regulations. So, was this guy Ezra crazy? Drunk? A few too many days in the desert? I don’t think so.
In complete (though counterintuitive) sanity, I believe he was in love with God’s words, both spoken and written, by the prophets and historians. He needed it, depended on it for direction and instruction, and was enamored but the fact His Maker would speak and write to him. He desired to know and obey what God ordered. Why? Because he had experienced God’s love first-hand, as the One True Supernatural Being used Ezra to rebuild His Temple, and had kept His previously-stated promise to bring the remnant of the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem in order to reestablish worship in that holy place. You can read all of this in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Because Ezra experienced God’s wondrous, loving promise fulfilled, He loved God’s words, even the Law.
I’ve personally experienced two different seasons of similar love for God’s Word. The first was right after a major, stressful transition in which my husband and I moved away from my childhood home of Colorado with our two small children. Everything we knew changed. It was traumatic in a way only a move can be, and though we were all in good health and excited for new opportunities to minister, everyone and everything seemed foreign.
Every comfort zone shattered, every familiar path washed away, I remember clinging to the side of my couch on my knees, pleading with God for comfort. I looked high and low for something, anything recognizable, and found it on the pages of my Bible. And I found that I really truly honestly loved it. Loved the Word became Flesh and desired more than anything the ability to obey it. Perfectly sane and completely desperate, I adored God’s Law. New and Old Testaments alike, the Bible was my tie to Him, my rope to reality, my anchor to the rock in the storm.
“They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”
-1 Peter 1:12 (NLT)
The other time I recall loving God’s Law and commands was right after a painful emotional trial and sifting in which I found myself completely confused, lost, and in a dark emotional pit. My marriage was strained and my husband felt distant, I viewed myself as a failure in every aspect of my aspirations, and I mourned the loss of relationships with loved ones like I never knew I could. In the end, my desperation drew me to the one place of faithful comfort that I’d always known, and that was my Bible. I found God there, and found His love to be the salve my heart needed.
You can’t and shouldn’t try to manufacture a crisis in your life, but if you are in the midst of one right now, then you need God’s Word more than ever. If you’re not in a crisis right now, then it’s likely that one is coming sooner or later, and there’s no better time than the present to cultivate the love of the Bible like never before. Then, when a crisis arises in the future, your spirit will not be in a state of emptiness and famine.
You are not able to wield the power of revelation. You cannot make the verse leap into your heart and mean something new, though you’ve seen it dozens of times before. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But 100% of the verses you don’t read will not leap off the page in revelation. So, when it comes to God’s Word, open it. Read it. Wait for God to reveal its truth to you. Repeat.
“The Bible was precious to me in those days. … And now, methought, I began to look into the bible with new eyes, and read as I never did before; and especially the epistles of the Apostle Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and indeed I was then never out of the bible, either by reading or meditation; still crying out to God, that I might know the truth, and way to heaven and glory.”
-John Bunyan (biography)
How about you? What does the Bible mean to you and how do you consume it for your sustenance and strength?
If this post was helpful to you, please consider subscribing so you never miss a post! I’ll be posting more about Spiritual Fitness, in advance of my next book of the same title. Stay tuned, Beloved Reader.