Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Faith and Fiction Bible Study

Recently, I was very excited to receive a complimentary copy of Her Restless Heart: A Woman’s Longing for Love and Acceptance by Barbara Cameron the second study in A Faith and Fiction Bible Study series from Abingdon Press. This six week Bible study revolves around characters in Barbara Cameron's novel of the same name. Although reading the novel is not required to complete the study, I promptly read the novel which I enjoyed immensely. This novel is the first in Barbara Cameron’s Stitches in Time series. I had previously read Cameron’s Quilts of Lancaster County series and was pleasantly surprised to find some overlap in the characters and setting.

Her Restless Heart Bible study intertwines excerpts from the novel, scripture, and discussion questions to address the study contents. The excerpts from the novel set the stage for the concepts covered. This construct allows the topics to be addressed first in the character's life and then to apply the topic to the individual as well. For example, questions frequently follow the pattern of “Why did Mary Katherine (the main character) feel?” followed by “Have you ever felt this way?” This format allows the study to delve deeper into the participant’s emotional life although individual participants may or may not choose to be forthright in answering the questions. Scripture from throughout the Bible is utilized throughout the study. Scriptures have been chosen by topic as opposed to a straight through a biblical book study. Some scriptures are printed in the book while others must be looked up by the participant.

As mentioned previously, the Her Restless Heart study can be completed with or without reading the novel. As previously mentioned, I chose to read the novel and found it greatly enhanced my use of the study. Some questions in the study would have been difficult to answer without having read the novel as they referred to items not included in the excerpts. I read the novel straight through (I couldn’t put it down!), but I would recommend reading it chapter by chapter in conjunction with the study as well.

This study is appropriate for both new Christians and those who are a bit more seasoned. The issues of self-doubt, self-worth, and feeling loved and accepted, which nearly everyone struggles with at some time, feature prominently in the study. Counselors may find this to be an excellent study to use with an individual or group of women. As Amish fiction is quite popular with many readers, many individuals will be drawn to participate. As a six-week study, the study is short enough that it does not tie up a group for an entire semester, but is long enough to bond as a group and to really delve into the content. The study format includes a small portion to complete every day which helps group members to build good devotional habits. However, having only five portions per week allows some flexibility if participants miss a day. In addition the entire lesson is short enough that it could be completed in one or two long sessions if needed. An accompanying leader’s guide and DVD containing interviews with the author are available as well and provide an added dimension to the study.

I enjoyed using Her Restless Heart in my own study and look forward to sharing this study with other ladies in a group format. If you are looking for Bible studies for your fall programming or for something for the summer months, Her Restless Heart is perfect. I eagerly anticipate using other Bible studies which correlate to Barbara Cameron's Stitches in Time series. If you haven't read this series yet, you need to run to your local bookstore or library and get it.