Cultivating the Art of Reading at Home

ANN MARIE MO|GUEST In a technology-driven world, books face stiff competition. Have a question about George Washington or what to make for dinner tonight? It’s just easier to google than to read an entire book. Books require time, concentration, effort. Reading War and Peace necessitates devoting weeks, if not months, to unlock the treasure within. In contrast, our handheld devices offer instant gratification. Why Read Good Books? Yet good books impart to their readers what no digital device can match: Some of my fondest childhood memories are the summers I spent living at the library immersed in one compelling hardbound story after another. I recall the summer before fifth grade when I discovered the genre of historical fiction and a few years later in middle school when I read Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and in high school, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Through these books, I learned the world is powerfully unjust and not everyone grows up with the same opportunities. By my junior year in high school, I knew I would major in English at college. Books were my gateway to understand another person’s experiences and be exposed to new ideas. Fast forward to adult life, teaching my children to read and cherish books has been of paramount importance.

Cultivating the Art of Reading at Home2022-05-04T00:41:13+00:00

Why Go to Bible Study

COURTNEY DOCTOR|CONTRIBUTOR I went to my first Bible study because I was lonely. I was in my early twenties with two small children at home and was desperate to meet other women and make new friends. The offer for free child-care only sweetened the deal and I signed up, eager for a few hours away from children and hungry for adult conversation. I did not go to this study because I had a burning desire to know God or his Word. However, while I did meet new friends and benefitted from a few hours away from the demands of small children, ultimately, I met God. And I have continued to attend Bible studies ever since. If you attend a weekly Bible study of some kind—in your church, neighborhood, or community—I want to ask you why? Like me in my twenties, perhaps you attend Bible study to make friends or enjoy child-care. The reasons that compel us to walk in the door will vary from person to person and from season to season. But the bigger question I want us to consider is, Why do we go to Bible study at all? It’s an important question because the answer shapes our expectations. What should we expect to be the result of going to Bible study? I’d like to propose that, while there are a myriad of good things that happen in and through Bible study—we deepen friendships, grow in our knowledge of God’s Word, invest in the lives of those around us—one of the ultimate things that happens is transformation. If you are a Christian, God is at work in your life transforming you. He is changing you into a woman who is better able to discern his will (Rom. 12:2). He is changing you so that you will be better equipped to join him on his mission to seek and save the lost. He is transforming you so that you will be more consumed with his kingdom than with your own, with his glory than with yours. And he is changing you to be increasingly more like Jesus in every way (Rom. 8:29). One of the most remarkable things about this extra-ordinary transformation is that it happens in very ordinary ways. And “going to Bible study” is one of the ordinary means God uses to do his extraordinary work. But this transformation does not just happen automatically—it requires your participation. Two ways you can actively participate with God in your transformation is by doing your homework and by showing up to discuss it with others. DO THE HOMEWORK A lot of women I talk with think of the homework provided in their Bible study as optional or something they will be better able to prioritize in a different stage of life. But time in God’s Word is vital at every stage of life! And a good Bible study will provide you with the structure and opportunity to spend that time productively. Most Bible study homework will ask you to read a passage of Scripture, answer questions about the passage, and consider how you are to respond to what you’ve read. The actual moments you use to go through these steps can feel so ordinary. Some of you do your study early in the morning while you’re still in your pajamas. Others study over lunch while sitting at your desk. Some of you try to finish it while you’re waiting in the carpool line. Very average moments for the most part. But, as we move through the homework of our study—reading, answering questions, reflecting, and thinking about how we are to respond—God is at work! Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This list is not exhaustive. As you read God’s Word, he, by his Spirit, is instructing you, teaching you, convicting you, encouraging you, rebuking you, feeding you, calling you, reminding you, humbling you, lifting you, comforting you, and loving you...

Why Go to Bible Study2022-05-04T23:18:34+00:00

Taking a Long, Hard Look at the Bookshelf

HOLLY MACKLE|CONTRIBUTOR Oh how I love to read all the things. When a friend asks me what my favorite book is I feel a tightening in my chest, sweaty palms, and the unmistakable tremor of panic. Did she just ask me which child I prefer?? I typically freeze. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes, if I’m feeling kicky, I toss out a line to see if the asker will bite. “Solely memoirs of SNL cast members.” “Dark political satire.” “Cookbooks before bed.” Sometimes I’m a jerk and I utter the (let’s face it, totally arrogant) response, “I read pretty widely,” before shifting the question back to them, “What kind of book do you like?” (Obviously it’s far preferable to riff off something a friend is interested in and ask if they’ve read a similar title rather than be put before that specific firing squad.) So since you (did not, and thank you for not) ask, for this specific enCourage audience, I’ll say I love books that trace the perseverance of God’s faithful. I’ll weep alongside the real life Sheldon Vanauken, or feel my heart beating out of my chest every time Francine Rivers’ fictional Hadassah narrowly escapes. I’ll eye roll at just how much contemporary Christian thought is borrowing from Augustine’s Confessions, and yell at the prison guards in Darlene Diebler Rose’s Evidence Not Seen. Give me the thread of redemption any old day, and please oh please allow me to see God’s faithful holding the line, from one to the next, shoulder to shoulder, generation after generation. As I glance at my bookshelves, one sad reality comes to light: while God’s faithful are all throughout history, real or fictionalized, my “wide” reading of their stories lacks the full spectrum of his faithfulness at best, and is stunted and narrow at worst. There are gaping holes on my bookshelves that are not so in God’s authorship of redemptive history. One of those holes hovers right over a wicked period in our country’s past, in the history of African American slavery. As I looked into titles that fit the bookshelf gap, the work of author, biographer, and former slave herself, Octavia Albert, practically jumped off the page. Mrs. Albert was a believer, a teacher who viewed her profession as worship, and a curator of the voices and God-stories of others—that’s three checkmarks in the “someone I’d like to know” column...

Taking a Long, Hard Look at the Bookshelf2022-05-04T23:07:14+00:00
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