Doors. We all use them. Some are closed, so we turn the handle and throw it open, stepping through to our destination. Some are open and we push them slowly, peeking behind them to see what we are walking into. We've all heard the metaphor about one door closing and another one opening, meaning what has been shut off from our life is making room for something else. I'm neutral about whether or not that's truly the case. I don't think 'God' is running around closing doors on our lives just to open other ones. Sometimes things happen in life that are just the force of human beings, and while God or Jesus (I'm coming from the concept that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all separate entities, the last two born of God's love) may be walking with you through those doors, he's not flipping his fingers around opening and shutting doors. If he was, he'd spend all day doing it. Like many, I grew up in a Presbyterian church, attending service, Sunday school, confirmation and youth group. I followed the path of organized religion faithfully, and while I took time away from the church for a period of time, when my daughter was born, we returned to a local Presbyterian church somewhat lazily. We attended, though our children didn't attend much in the way of Sunday school (my kids are unique and couldn't deal with the cutesy songs and stories even at a young age, so we studied the stories at home). I can't say we attended regularly, until around 2011 or so. We then tried to attend on a more regular schedule, until my dad had a bad accident and we spent the summer helping my brother move back to Duluth from California at the same time my dad was going through surgeries and trying to heal from a bad fall. We used our busyness as a reason not to attend church as we had to drive 30 minutes one way to get there. However, even after that busyness had resolved, my husband and I found ourselves disenfranchised with going. I guess you could say we fell out of love with the church, and into love with Jesus again. We found when we took the church out of the equation and all the 'have to's' and guilt driven activities insistent upon by the church as the one way to worship and study the Word, we spent more time talking to the kids about Jesus, working with local groups as outreach and learning how to be spiritual without being 'religious'. We learned how to be loved by Jesus without the guilt of not attending Bible study, organized devotionals (you would be surprised how many wonderful devotionals are available for self study), or weekly service. We learned that Jesus truly did love all of us, and just like the woman at the well, we are worthy of offering him a drink from our well.
Many of you think that a lot of the books I write are 'faith based', which is actually inaccurate. Some of my books have themes about faith, but not in the liturgical sense of the word. My characters are always doubting, questioning, wondering, angry, or feel forgotten when it comes to religion, but haven't forgotten how to be spiritual. They're disabled, hurt, grieving, gay, or an outcast who have often been treated as less than by a church of people, and therefore blamed God, as he must have condoned that.
So what does this have to do with the price of pickles in Pickletown? I'm going to tell you. I'm reviewing David Gregory's fictional Christian novel, Open:Get Ready for the Adventure of a Lifetime today. My mom lent me this book through Kindle to read, but I almost didn't (Sorry Mom) because I've read so many books about walking through doors to 'walk' with Jesus, I wasn't sure I could handle another. Since it was short (161 pages) and my mom had read it already, I thought I would give it a go. I'm really glad I did! I was expecting the same old regurgitation of Bible verses being used to validate or guilt us about our choices in life as humans. That was not the story I read at all. Read on for the sample of the book from Amazon and my full review.
Whenever I see a fiction book with the premise being about an individual walking through Biblical times with Jesus I usually cringe and move on. Why? Because rarely do I find one of these books engaging or anything other than regurgitated Bible verses being used to inspire or condemn choices we make in life as humans. Let's face it, we're human, and none of us are free of sins in our daily life. Even the most staunch Christian who walks around spouting Bible verses and organizing Sunday afternoon devotionals is not free of sin. Our pastors are not free of sin. Why? Because as humans there are things we have to do just to get up and moving to our jobs every day that are technically a 'sin' in the Bible. It's modern times clashing with Biblical times, but we know as followers of Jesus that we are already forgiven for those little sins we commit, simply because we have accepted Jesus as our savior. Needless to say I opened this book with a bit of skepticism on my mind about it, but my mom read it and asked me to read it, wondering what I would think about it. I'm happy to report I thought it was very good! For the first time in my life, I read a book about a walk with Jesus that wasn't about lecturing or simply throwing out a verse, reminding us why it applies to our lives (even if it doesn't), and moving on.
Emma Jameson was struggling with her life after a particularly tough breakup with her boyfriend of two years. She's questioning everything, even the scripture and gospel. When she gets the mail one afternoon she discovers a handwritten invitation to walk through the closest open door for an adventure. When she does, she finds herself being tossed around on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus and the disciples. I will admit, I rolled my eyes at this point, but the author (and probably a touch of the Holy Spirit telling me to chill) put a whole new spin on this story. No one can see Emma in the Biblical world, no one but Jesus. He takes her on an adventure from the woman at the well all the way to his Crucifixion and the day he rises from the dead. Along the way he asks her to think about what she can do to be closer to him. She writes the things that any 'good Christian' would write, but what happens each time he reads them made me smile. I won't go any further, because I don't want to ruin it since it is such a short book, but you won't be expecting it.
I will say for the first time in my adult life I felt like my choice of how I worship was understood and accepted. I don't need acceptance to believe what I believe and follow my own path as a follower of Christ, but it felt spiritually fulfilling to discover there are others out there who walk that same kind of path. Anyone who wants a new take on an old story should read Open. There's a study and devotional guide in the back of the book for anyone who might be thinking about using it as a basis for a Bible study group or what have you. If you feel like you're missing something in this journey as a follower of Jesus, something you aren't finding in a pew on Sunday morning, you'll find it in this simple story of a woman who found herself doubting and distanced from Jesus, only to discover him within her when she took the modern way we live away from the equation. I've never given a fictional book of this type five stars, but this book deserves it with no hesitation.
I give Open: Get Ready for the Adventure 5 cups of filled by the Holy Spirit coffee!
David returned to graduate school, earning a master's degree from the University of North Texas with concentrations in communication and sociology. During that time, he began creative writing in the form of two short screenplays, one dramatic and one science fiction. He also started a periodic newsletter before joining a Christian ministry as staff writer and editor. While there, he coauthored two nonfiction books, The Marvelous Exchange and The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out.
While earning another master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, David entertained a new craft: writing fiction. He decided that in a culture dominated by sound bites, reality TV, and the Internet, communicating through story could reach otherwise untapped audience. Taking some material on worldviews that he had planned to put into nonfiction form, he began writing Dinner with a Perfect Stranger.
David's current study focuses on the postmodern worldview and how it intersects with the Christian conception of God, meaning in life, and the process of knowing (epistemology). He is currently writing his second novel.
David lives in Texas with his wife and two children, where he works for a nonprofit organization.