Stories that Shape Someone Like Me: Two Reviews

Why go to Church at All: Reflections and a Review
August 22, 2015
Os Guinness on Freedom
September 15, 2015

A Review of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible

I had a theatre professor in London, England, who saw me several years later, wondering why I did graduate study in theology. She said “I don’t believe a word of it, but it’s the greatest story ever told.” To this day, I am not exactly sure what she meant, but I think she wanted to convey that while faith is difficult, the enduring story captured in the Bible should at least be known. In fact, I dare say that my professor likely read the Bible more than many church-goers because she truly understood the narrative.

The new NIV Zondervan Study Bible is massive. At over 2800 pages, it’s hardly one that will be tossed in the rucksack for a weekend trip. With that said, it’s amazing. Full color photos, diagrams, charts, and a useful concordance. General editor, D.A. Carson assembled a first rate set of scholars and the notes are clear, readable, and helpful. There are also over 60 pages in articles that could be read on their own. I own Bibles written in Greek, Hebrew, and about every English time period in history, but this one seems to have every modern resource crammed in to one volume. For its exhaustiveness, I say, “Yes, get it….” It’s a small library rolled in to a large text and it’s truly a helpful study tool.

In the late 1500’s and well in to the 1600’s, the educated of the English speaking world were known to have a working knowledge of the Bible and of Shakespeare. During the U.S. Civil War, Lincoln often quoted from two primary sources: Shakespeare and the Bible. Here in 2015, we find ourselves at an interesting point in history. While English is on the rise worldwide, neither Shakespeare nor the Bible characterize much of the English speaking world. Having been truly shaped (as an English/Theatre double major) by Shakespeare and the written word, I recognize I may be just as comfortable being born a couple hundred years ago. Yet, this new version of the NIV study Bible is a compelling way to get to know the most influential text in history. Whether it remains as influential will take people getting to know it all over again and this resource will certainly help.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella: A Review

I have met Jena more than once and both times while my daughter was quite young. My daughter is nearly 11 years old now and more and more, I hope she finds someone like Jena for a mentor. One Thousand Wells is compelling not only because it’s the story of one woman’s spiritual journey as well as the birth and ongoing life of a non-profit called Blood:Water Mission; it’s compelling because Jena’s story is put within reach, so that we’re able to explore what it would be like to truly believe, truly cry, truly laugh, and truly care.

Let me quote a bit from page 192: “I decided I would try to act out justice every day even when I didn’t feel like it–choosing to step in when I’d prefer to step out.” Now, isn’t that just about all of us? And isn’t that also like few people you know? I guess that this quote jumped out at me because I resonate with seeking to bring compassion and grace in to a fractured and broken world and many times I just don’t feel like ‘it’…whatever it is that’s supposed to motivate me. Then again, how many young women (or men for that matter) on our city street or in your block, devote themselves daily to helping those in need of clean water and hope from HIV/AIDS?

Later on we read these words: “I had been so convinced that love was the greatest force for change in the world that I forgot that love could hurt,” (213). Like Jena’s own story, the longer you engage with her narrative, the more love, wisdom, and grace you encounter. At some points, this is a hard story to read because it’s real and because it’s true. At all points, this is a beautiful story to read for the same reasons.

It’s a bit difficult to put one’s story out in the open for others to look at, but it’s also difficult to ignore the many stories that Blood:Water Mission and Jena Lee Nardella have encountered and recounted back to many of us around the world. So, this is one person’s story and you should take the time to know it. It may make you want to love the world a bit more today than you did yesterday. And that would be a very good thing.

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The viewpoints are my own)




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