Flicking to my journal entries from this time last year was a deflating exercise – not only because there were so few pages to flick through, but because the scribblings under the heading New Years Resolutions were largely unrealised.
I made some feeble initial efforts, but life shouldered in on these well-intentioned plans to build character, skill and achievement.
Oh well, there’s always 2016!
But I want to tell you about the one aspiration that did become a reality – and so much better than I could have anticipated.
I love reading. For me, the holiday sensation comes when I am diving headlong into fiction narrative – from the comfort of an armchair, banana lounge or hammock.
I read to escape. Which is why, pre-2015, were you to espouse the merits of so-and-so’s latest autobiography, self-help book or account of lifechange, my eyes would have glazed over.
I wanted to like those books. I wanted to allow my life to be altered by them. I wanted to rave with friends over the way those books had opened my eyes. But when I went to pick one off the shelf, I suddenly remembered that the utensil drawer needed sorting.
This was a discussion I had with God over many years.
It’s not as ludicrous as it sounds – God just kept gently prompting me towards books that did more than take me on a fictional character’s fanciful adventure. He encouraged me to challenge my Weltanschauung, to dig deeper, to learn from others’ stories and to seek out the many facets of His character. But motivation limped sickly along with the idea.
Solution: book club.
We’re a group of 10 or so women who have come together rather organically to feed a hunger for ‘mind renewal’ of the spiritual kind. We’re so normal and yet so spangled in our differences. Our lives and yearnings are disparate and similar all at once.
We call ourselves The Romans 12:2 Project.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So once a month we meet to dissect a book of our choosing, unpacking its luminescence, the take-homes, the bits that leapt off the page – while slurping tea and gobbling scones. We look at the same thing from different angles. It’s like one of us brought a smashing dress and as we each try it on, we notice the good bits and the not so good bits, in both the cloth and its occupant.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” is what we’re experiencing (Proverbs 27:17).
In fact, this is a form of ‘church’ – but that train of thought is for another time perhaps.
We’re a melting pot of creatives and analytical thinkers. We’re older and younger, experienced and not, sensitive and touched by hardship. Some of us talk a lot, some need prompting. Some of us think we’re not smart enough or spiritual enough, some drink theological terminology like a paleo does green smoothies.
But we’re all keen to improve in our understanding of God.
Further on from the verse and namesake of our book club, you’ll read this (verses 4-5):
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
So there I was looking for motivation and God gave it to me alright – through a fellowship of like-minded people. In the midst of these people I receive motivation aplenty, with a hearty dose of challenge, encouragement, support and freedom.
1. From Tablet to Table by Leonard Sweet.
2. Anything by Jennie Allen
3. The Mercy Prayer by Robert Gelinas
4. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
5. Face to Face with Jesus by Samaa Habib and Bodie Thoene
6. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson
7. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
8. In the Arena by Isobel Kuhn
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday December 28, 2015.