This summer I participated in a book study on Facebook. It was an interesting experience. I kept forgetting to check the group because it was rarely listed on my "Home" page. In general, I have opted not to join many groups on Facebook because every time I have my browser locks up. I also read about how Facebook tracks everywhere you go and accumulates that information. That makes me very cautious and skittish about how much I associate myself with on Facebook. And the fact that Facebook keeps changing things on users without warning makes me even more skittish. Yet, I keep using it! My decision sounds crazy--to continue being a user of Facebook. But, I've seen a lot of good things come out of facebook--connections to friends and family as well as spreading information amongst folks that matters.
One of those good things was this book study. It seemed like several women were very encouraged by the discussion. It was difficult for me to engage in because I am a very people oriented person. There is something about seeing a person face to face and discussing a topic with them that is very different than doing it online. You can't ask them any questions or affirm that you agree with them by your facial expression online. You don't necessarily learn what anyone else thinks of what you've shared as well. One time I shared something and it was deemed a tangent--which it was. I'm notorious, according to my husband, for taking rabbit trails during Bible Study. I think I thought it would fill a hole that I longed to fill. This summer I longed for fellowship and discussion about the Word and walking with the Lord. It didn't work for me. But, I think it may have for several women--or at least encouraged them.
Reading the book Distracted a few weeks ago has really made me consider more and more how my interactions on the computer affect me. And I actually need to make this entry short so that I can get off of this computer and detach myself. I need to be attached to my children and the people who are face to face with me and not distracted by the computer. When Maggie Jackson talked in her book about "the room where the lights are always on", she was right on target! It is possible to avoid what is right in front of you by turning to the internet where you control your interactions with other people. It is much messier and harder in person than it is online.
The book is a collection of short devotional entries, about 2 to 3 pages each. The book is small in size, so the pages are not big ones. It is typical of devotional books, I think. With most devotional books, you can pick up the book and turn anywhere in the book and read an entry out of order. It should make sense as a stand alone entry. Usually, I've found that there is a theme among the book--whether chronological or topic. This book is about a theme, but the entries can be read out of order.
The group discussion picked and chose from among the entries. I discovered several things about myself and books by reading parts of this devotional. But, they aren't what you might expect. Two months ago, I read Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian. It was also about purity. It was very good, surprisingly so and it caught me by surprise. Though the author shared some things from her life, she shared more personal stories about other women and women who had written or spoken with her. In this book, the author is not very personal about her own life in the entries I read. She does the same thing that the author of another book I'm reading does.
It was explained to me by a friend who writes in this way: Authors are now being told by publishers and editors that they are to be the experts and that if they share the personal stuff then that undermines their credibility. When my friend shared this with me, it grieved me. It is the books like The Silent Seduction of Self Talk by Shelly Beach, Cynthia Heald's studies and Jerry Bridges books, which have impacted my life the most. Each of these authors shares a lot of hard things from their own lives and their own hearts in their books. It helps me know that they really do understand what they are talking about. It also tells me that they are human and gives me hope that I can grow and work through the things I'm struggling with. At first, I wondered if it was just pride that was the source of my desire to know the author's stories. But, I think it actually comes from the fact that I almost view the authors of the books I read as mentors and friends in a way. A friend doesn't just say "I understand" and placate you. A friend says "I understand because..." It is the because that tells you that they really understand and that you're not alone. I long for the "because" part in the books I read. But, if you are more logical than emotional, you may not want that "because" part. I'm coming to realize that.
As I participated in the study, I watched a few of the videos and read several of the entries. Then I started reading them out of order. I read one in the car with my husband and he was really concerned because he felt it was twisting what the Bible says about suffering. That gave me a read flag. It also prompted us to have a good discussion about suffering. The entry actually sounded right on and it resonated with what I thought about suffering, but after talking to him, I could see his point and his concern. That discussion though made me cautious about reading more of the book. I flipped through another day and read another entry. I thought it was great! I was encouraged and hopeful again about this book. But, then I turned back two pages and read another entry and was disheartened. Ms. Brownback inferred a great amount of details into the story of Dinah in the Bible. It is not sacrilegious or explicitly unbiblical to infer. But, I have deep concerns about this practice that is common among many authors today. If we read books that pose hypotheticals about the details in the Bible or that ask us to infer how the people in the Bible felt or acted, it is a very slippery slope to the point of believing those inferences and thinking that those details we have inferred are actually in the Bible--unless we know the Bible really well.
Several years ago, I loved Warren Wiersbe's commentary books about the Bible. I still do. He looks at the details that are in the Bible and the ones that aren't. But, he looks very purposely at the Word with the understanding that God put what He wanted in there. What's important are the details that are in the Word, not what we infer. Often inferring details in the Word and focusing on the people of the Bible puts the focus on the people and not on God. It reminds me of the Hebraic Roots Movement that a friend told me about. There is a movement among believers which believes that we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites and lived by the rules that they did in order to really understand God. That is not biblical--that is living by the law which we are no longer under because of Christ's death.
Ah, this entry has been full of rabbit trails--goodness! So, back to the devotional...
I opened up the devotional on another day and again was encouraged by the entry. It was written as a pastor would speak to his flock, not as a mentor or friend, but it was appropriate for the topic of that entry. In the end, I was encouraged by some entries and then was concerned by others. I found this book to be a mixed bag.
If purity is a topic that you would like to read more about, I would first recommend Mary Kassian's book. This devotional is a good supplement, but you just have to read it wisely and discuss any points that concern you with someone you trust. It is a good book for thinkers looking for a good womens devotional to read.
Here is a link to a sample devotional entry you can read to see what you think: http://static.crossway.org/excerpts/9781433512988.1.pdf
Please note that I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review by Crossway Books.