Sunday, March 31, 2013
Consider the Cross: A Book Review
I met Kirsten Oliphant in graduate school when we were both TAs for the English department. Since we have graduated, I have kept up with her through Facebook and her blog I Still Hate Pickles. After reading her book Consider the Cross, I wish I had more of an opportunity to get to know her while we were still in school together. Kirsten's writing on her blog is often funny and frank, but is also reflective and raises serious or provocative questions. These latter qualities take the forefront in her new book.
Consider the Cross is an Easter devotional. Released on Ash Wednesday in order to be read through Lent, it contains forty devotions focusing on the last week of Jesus's ministry before the crucifixion. At the beginning of each day's reading is a primary scripture reference, along with parallel references from the other gospels. The text of the Scripture is not provided, and while this does de-emphasize translation issues (since you will use whatever translation you have), toggling between Bible and devotional on an e-reader is tricky--you'll probably want to go old school with your print Bible. Each entry is short--a reflection on the scripture and several thought-provoking questions at the end. Oliphant intentionally avoids getting into study-driven theological issues. She writes, "These daily devotions are less me trying to teach you something, but more to engage you in thinking about what God might have to teach you" (2). The approach is well-suited to the Lenten-season when we often reflect and meditate on the meaning of Christ's sacrifice for us.
I think one of Oliphant's biggest strengths is in setting a scene by pointing out details: for example, the intimacy of the Last Supper or the look Christ gives Peter at his denial in Luke's account. Her second strength is in the questions she raises: they are pointed, even piercing, but they are clearly questions she has already asked of herself. Although some of these questions are best-suited for self-reflection, I think that many of them would be great for group conversation--the book as a whole could be easily adapted for group study.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the experience very much. I find it difficult sometimes to truly focus and prepare for Easter--we often are so busy that it is over and gone before I even let it touch my heart. Reading through this devotional for the last six weeks has given me an opportunity daily to reflect on Christ's work and love. Although I plan to return to it again next Lent, it certainly does not have to be reserved specifically for Easter-time. Anytime is a good time to "consider the cross."
Kirsten's book may be purchased from Amazon, here: http://www.amazon.com/Consider-Cross-Devotions-Lent-ebook/dp/B00BF9C6C0/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3
Check out Kirsten's blog here: http://www.stillhatepickles.com/