I love to read. It is my escape to adventure and relaxation. Recently, I received an audio book subscription and find it truly luxurious to let someone else read to me! What indulgence!
Don’t you find your “me time” precious and maybe a little harder to come by than you would like? I do. When I think I’m going to have time to snuggle up and read (or listen to) a good book, there’s a little dance going on inside me. I like to think about what kind of drink I will put on the coaster beside me and what fuzzy socks I will wear. Will I push back the curtain and let in a flood of sunshine to light the page, or will it be a dark and stormy night when my bed and lamp or firelight are more in order?
If it sounds to you like I fantasize about my alone-time, you could not be more right! You may not be an avid reader but what do you love to do to wind down? If you had an unexpected afternoon off to spend however you wanted to, what would you do? Spa day? Shopping? Baking Day? Run in the park?
Hey, wait… are you fantasizing about your alone time!?
Let’s face it, leisure time is not filling up most of our calendars. Those moments when we can relax and recharge are a limited commodity and therefore valuable to us. That’s why when a few years ago a sweet saint gently challenged me to change how I use that leisure time, I balked at first.
Here’s the story…
As early as my teen years, the classic “who dunnit” genre captured my fancy. I particularly enjoyed the work of the British sleuth writer, Agatha Christie. I loved her ability to bring to life the human personalities in her books. She was also the master of nailing the surprise ending where all the puzzle pieces fall into place so neatly and yet you are shocked and dismayed that you never suspected the perpetrator for a second! I had read many of her works, but always looked forward to the next book, so I asked my mother-in-law who was running a used book business to keep her eyes open for any of the titles I hadn’t read.
Ladies, I highly recommend finding a man to marry whose mother loves you like a daughter. What a blessing! My mother-in-law spent the next couple of years combing her inventory and other sources and eventually acquired for me EVERY work ever written by my favorite author. I knew that the acquisition of these sometimes rare books was a labor of love, and my heart was warmed by her effort on my behalf. One day when my collection was nearly complete she was handing me a rare copy of one of Agatha Christie’s romantic novels, and she casually remarked that she had found it enriching to start reading only Christian and “uplifting” material in her leisure time.
Read only Christian and uplifting material… In my leisure time… My “me time.”
If you have been a believer long, you may already anticipate how I was feeling. Now my precious mother-in-law had not even SUGGESTED that this was something I should do. But I was feeling uncomfortable. Why? Because my flesh did not want to submit my leisure reading to God, and I immediately knew that was the crux of the issue. I did not want to entrust what I held as my own, private, valuable, treasure to God to change it however He wanted. Ugh.
So I dithered around and made excuses mentally and basically pouted for a while. I don’t remember having a particular moment when I surrendered this fight against God, but the Holy Spirit, ever so gracious, helped me to come around.
Now, I joyfully confess that my absolutely favorite genre is Biblical Fiction, a subset of Christian Fiction in which the author takes a text of the Bible and imagines personalities and details to bring the story to life. For example, I’m currently reading a series about King Hezekiah. Passages about him can be found in the Bible in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Isaiah. Lynn Austin has used a vast amount of research and inspiration to make this hero of the Bible into someone who lives and breathes in my imagination. In the current chapter, the walled city of Jerusalem is surrounded by the Assyrian Army.
The general of King Hezekiah’s army has been captured, tortured and hung on a stake to taunt King Hezekiah who stands on the city wall and weeps to see one of his dearest friends tortured. But Hezekiah refuses to surrender. Why? Because within Jerusalem’s wall is God’s Holy Temple and he chooses to die rather than let pagan soldiers defile the house of God. Things are very tense and King Hezekiah is waiting to hear back from Isaiah what the Lord says about what they should do. And let me tell you, I.AM.DYING to go to the Bible and read the end of the story!!!
Some of these authors do a wonderful job of researching historical details. I can learn so much about the context of the stories God included in His Word for us to read! The sleuthing I do nowadays is to listen to a book and then go find and read the Biblical text from which the skeleton of the plot is taken and enjoy how closely the author can weave the way she imagines those people to have been to the actual Word of God.
The best authors can also write their stories to carefully illustrate God’s truth that we should glean from His Word. I’ve noticed that as I hear these stories, I remember the Bible characters better. I rejoice when they make the right choices. I grieve when they stray from God’s will. I laugh and I cry and I praise God. Seriously, I actually caught myself starting to pray for one of the characters the other day before I realized that she lived thousands of years ago and is already home with the Father!
So. My dear mother-in-law was right. Submitting my leisure time to God has been enriching. If anything, it is even more precious to me than it was before, because it brings me real joy by drawing my heart closer to His. Isn’t that just God’s way? He will ask you for things, beloved. Things that you may not want to hand over. His way is always better. More joyful. Deeper.
If you want to get your feet wet in Biblical fiction, may I recommend One of Janette Oke’s more recent works, which she co-wrote with T.Davis Bunn? These books bring to vivid life stories of the early church just after the life of Christ.
Acts of Faith series
· The Centurion's Wife, 2009
· The Hidden Flame, January 2010
· The Damascus Way, 2011
Some of my favorite Christian Fiction Authors are:
Jamie Langston Turner for modern day stories of everyday (but inspiring) faith.
Jan Karon for stories that will make you laugh and cry in a peaceful small-town setting.
Francine Rivers for gripping stories (Biblical or straight fiction) that illustrate God’s truth.
Some of my favorite Biblical Fiction Authors are:
Lynn Austin who does a broad cross section of Biblical, Historical and straight fiction that all speak to God’s faithfulness.
Jannette Oke who does both Biblical and Christian fiction with a flair for holy romance.
T.Davis Bunn who is a prolific writer of all kinds of works from the Christian worldview.
I believe on Saturday our blog hosts will reveal some of their favorite Christian authors. I can’t wait to see their list!
Andrea Harper grew up in Longview, Texas and earned degrees from Southern Nazarene University and University of Texas Health Science Center before she was transplanted to Tennessee as she pursued a medical career in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a partner at the Woman’s Clinic, PA in Jackson, TN. With her husband Scott and daughter Darcy, she attends Cornerstone Community Church in Jackson. In her free time, when not reading, she likes to cook with her daughter, do paper piece quilting, and travel.