Monday, 7 January 2013

Book Review: Where God Finds You by Anita Higman

About the Book: Have you ever longed to crawl into the pages of the Bible? to walk on the Judean hills or feel the spray of the Red Sea? to know what it's like to confront a king or pour perfume on a Saviour's feet?

In forty devotional tales, Where God Finds You breathes new life into ancient Bible characters.  Through reflection on Scripture and prayer, you'll discover a place in each of these lives of vulnerability, tenderness, truth, and love - a place where you can find God ... and where God finds you.

Either on your own or in a group, live with and learn about more than forty Bible men and women, including: Pontius Pilate's wife, Esther, John the Baptist, Hagar, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and many more....

My Thoughts:  Each chapter or daily devotional centres around one biblical character.  First Anita creates a fictionalized version of the biblical account that brings the character to life in a way that only fiction can.  Then Higman provides the story straight from the Bible in The Story from God's Word.  Next, she provides insight into the character's life and the event she chose to focus on, and some things we can learn from them in The Story - from Then to Now.  And, finally, in The Story - Questions to Think About, Anita provides questions for personal reflection - some easily answered, and some requiring deeper thought.

I have never read a devotional book quite like this one and I really enjoyed it.  It's definitely a well rounded devotional - it draws you into the biblical account, lets you realize how much we actually have in common with biblical characters and what they could have been thinking and feeling, makes you think about how God was working in their lives and how you can relate it to your life, and makes you realize how very personal our God is.  I also love how Higman included both well known characters (such as Leah, Esther and John the Baptist) and more obscure ones (such as Noah's wife, Pontius Pilate's wife and Puah - bet you have to look up Puah in order to even know who she is!), as well as both males (Paul, Lazarus) and females (Queen of Sheba, Eve).

If you're looking for something a little different than your traditional devotional, this is the book for you!

Thank you to Joni Sullivan Baker from Buoyancy Public Relations for providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Q&A with Anita Higman

1.         Anita, let’s start right there with God’s interaction with mankind. You’ve spent your career writing stories, so you must have thought about this before—why do you think God uses stories so often to communicate his truth?

I believe Jesus used storytelling (parables) because he knew that we could truly relate to this form of communication. After all, our lives are like living storybooks with each chapter being written every day. Stories go right to our hearts—stirring us, challenging us, inspiring us, changing the way we think. And most importantly, ever moving us toward redemption.

2.         You are an award-winning writer, a best-selling writer – you are still writing fiction, also, right? Or have you achieved all you set out to do with your fiction writing?

Yes, I’m still writing novels, and I hope to do so for the rest of my life. I have dozens of stories yet to tell. I just hope people will continue to want to read them!

3.         How do you see this book being used?

I believe Where God Finds You would make a good book to read while you’re sipping your morning coffee, or it would work well for a group Bible study.

4.         What did the experience of writing these stories bring into your own life?

I have never felt so close to God as when I was writing this book. The experience felt a little like when you turn up the volume on your phone, and you can hear someone’s voice with more clarity. But it was also sensing his nearness—the warmth of his love and the light of his presence—that also made me well up each morning with worship and wonder and gratitude.

5.         Why did you decide to tackle this particular subject matter?

Good question. I generally write contemporary romantic fiction, so working on a devotional book infused with Biblical fiction was not an easy task. Also, I’m not a Biblical scholar, so at first I was overwhelmed, knowing how much research it would take to write a book of this kind. In fact, I said no to the editor who’d asked me to take on this project, but then he asked me to pray about my decision. That weekend I did pray about it, and felt strongly that I was meant to write this book. I may not have a degree in theology, but I did want to be obedient to God. Writing this devotional book, Where God Finds You, turned out to be an amazing experience.

6.         What do you think readers will take away from the book?

My hope is that people will enjoy discovering how relevant the Bible stories are to our lives today. I wanted to bring the characters to life and show that these ancient people were very much like us with similar hurts and tragedies, hopes and transgressions, joys and triumphs. Even though the culture was dramatically different, our hearts are the same. Those famous Bible folk needed God back then just as we need him in our daily lives right now.

7.         What do you like about this book?

Getting to know these Bible characters and writing their stories in first person was a seemingly impossible undertaking, and yet the experience inspired and encouraged me. I hope readers will be equally moved.

8.         Beyond your research, did you do anything special to prepare for a day of writing Biblical fiction?

During the months of research as well as the writing of this book I held to the routine of listening to the scriptures on CDs while I was in my car running errands and while I was getting ready in the morning. I did this hoping to absorb the Bible’s rich language, dramatic metaphors, and epic nature. In the end, this technique of preparing my mind for the day’s writing worked well. On some days the words flowed with little effort, almost like taking dictation, and on other days I struggled to complete one or two pages. But amidst my routine and aching back from long hours at the computer, the one thing that helped me more than anything was prayer. God really was faithful in helping me prepare this devotional book.

9.         Do you have a favorite Bible character?
If I were to choose a favorite Bible character, I’d say that I was drawn to Mary Magdalene. I wept when I read the exchange between Mary and Jesus just outside the empty tomb. I could not only see the Jesus who loved the masses, but I could see a more intimate portrait—the Jesus who loved Mary Magdalene as a precious friend—the same Jesus who loves me and you.

10.       Any other thoughts about the book that we didn’t cover?

Through the writing of these devotions I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering, “This book is going to change your life, Anita.” And I have to admit—it did. Even though all my troubles didn’t vanish when I finished the last page of the book, I did come away with an awareness—that the same God who set the stars in the heavens also knows the number of hairs on my head. Jesus is nearer than I imagined, and he cares more deeply than I’d hoped. And he’s constantly working things out for good in my life. And in your life… 

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