Friday, August 31

Book Review: The Story

I knew little about the book or the author before I received it in the mail...Story: Our Journey of Heartache and Grace From Eden to Evermore, by author Steven James.

A book that "recaptures the mystery of the ancient scriptures," read one description.  "James (the author] leads readers to (re) experience the greatest story ever told."

I have heard the "story" in all of its varying versions since I was a small child in Sunday School. The Christmas story, the Easter story and everything in between. But, while I have heard it all of my life, it seems that sometimes, as we become adults, and parents and professionals-- people living out our own stories here on earth and all of the busyness that accompanies them, that sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the bigger story-- the story of Christ's entering into our stories by arriving as a baby and then ultimately giving his life as a sacrifice for our sins. It can be so easy to end up in a place where we take our salvation, and the significance of what Christ did for, us for granted and forget that none of this is really our story after all. 

It was for all of those reasons that I was interested to read James' Story.

Through 30 short chapters, James retells key elements of the Christian story-- from Adam and Eve to the Garden, to the Israelites plea for freedom and the love/hate struggles between humans and God in the Old Testament. Story illuminates Jesus miraculous birth and daring ministry on earth, building to the "rising terror" of the crucifixion and rediscovery of freedom following the resurrection.

To me, it was as if James took Biblical passages that many of us have heard throughout our lives and added the grit and blood and dirt back to them. His emotive writing style prompts you to emotionally experience many of the Bible's key stories; the Israelites gratitude for their freedom and how quickly they turn back to their sinful behaviors, the gratefulness of the bride who experiences a miracle of water turned into wine at her own wedding, the Christmas story, which James describes this way...

         "And then the child grew and the word spread. He was different. So much like us,  yet so different from us. We have both light and darkness threaded into our hearts. We can see both dawn and dusk in our souls, but he was light with no shadow, illumination with no night. 
         "That first Christmas God sent a light so strong we would never have to be afraid of the dark again. 
          "Daddy, will you smile at me?" the children of Israel asked. 
          "Yeah," said God, climbing into the manger.
Interwoven at the beginning and throughout the chapters are poems written by James. When asked in an interview why he included poetry in the book  he says, "Because a poem is a way of saying something that cannot be said any other way. Some truths can't be explained, they have to be experienced."

This is very true in general and in particular to the scope of what James tried to accomplish in this book.

As a whole I would say the book is incredibly poetic. I will admit that while I appreciate poetry, it can be inherently challenging for me to read at times (ahh, the short attention span of a busy mom with young very far from my days of studying British literature and Shakespeare in college!) and I would say that that is the case here...The book requires focus and attention. It is not a quick and easy read, but something that needs to be worked through at times (a bit like salvation I suppose!). I would say it is not a book that you should expect to pick up and read through like a novel, but more as a devotional...bit by bit.

And as you read through it bit by bit you will find all of these little nuggets of truth told in surprising and refreshing ways.

This book is a wonderful resource to add to your collection of theology and devotional reading. It is a book that I will look forward to pulling out, particularly during the seasons of advent and lent, when I'm looking for something to really do the work of helping me to meditate on Christ's life here and his death on the cross. It's a book that helps the reader to see those moments and re experience them on a deeply spiritual level.

I'll leave you with two short poems from the chapter titled "Mystery":


mystery of mysteries,
truth of all truths,
finder of the lost.

here i am.
unriddle me.


i don't name you, you name me.
i don't understand you, you understand me
and the paradox of this love is that you uncover me as you unveil youself

the mystery of this discovery swallows all of who i am.
that's the esssence of faith.
if I could understand faith it would cease to be faith.
i only know the mystery
because the mystery knows me.

About the Author
Critically acclaimed author Steven James has written more than thirty books including Flirting with the Forbidden and the bestselling Patrick Bowers thriller series. He has taught creative writing and storytelling on three continents and is a contributing editor to Writer's Digest. Steven lives in Tennessee with his wife and three daughters.

(*This is an honest review given in exchange for a copy of the book from Revell Publishing Group. A good deal for an avid reader!)

Available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Click here to read more about it on Amazon. 

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