Book Review: “Acts Journible: The 17:18 series”

romans journible
A Romans Journible

This is a Journible.

Is it a journal? Yes.

Is it is Bible? Yes.

It’s a Journible.

What is It?

Let me explain. Basically, the Journible is a hardback journal meant for writing out the text of Scripture. The top of the pages have the section of Scripture meant to be written out, and  verse numbers to guide the writer along.

I’d seen this before and always thought it’d be a neat thing to use–but I actually was totally wrong about what it was. I thought it was the complete text of the book–I thought that the Acts Journible was the complete text of Acts–just with extra space on the sides for writing, commenting, drawing, doodling, or whatever. I was wrong. The book does not supply the text, you supply the text. This is the journal aspect of the idea: you journal the actual text of Scripture.

On the left side of the page there are questions related to the text you’re supposed to be writing. They’re meant to take the reader deeper into the Scriptures through cross references or questions for further study.

What’s it for?

The publisher writes on the inside cover:

Why the 17:18 series? In Deuteronomy 17, Moses is leaving final instructions concerning the future of Israel. As a prophet of God, Moses foretells of when Israel will place a king over the nation (v. 14). In verse 18, the king is commanded to not simply acquire a copy of the law (the entire book of Deuteronomy) from the “scroll publishing house,” but to hand write his own copy of the law. Thirty-four hundred years later, educators are “discovering” that students that physically write out their notes by hand have a much greater retention rate than simply hearing or visually reading the information. Apparently, God knew this to be true of the kings of Israel also.

Essentially, the Journible is aimed at bringing Christians back to the text of Scripture, and encouraging readers to slow down and and write it out.

Evaluation

You must understand that I was totally surprised by what it actually was, and for that reason was, at first, a bit disappointed. I thought it was going to be the complete text of Acts and when it didn’t have any text of Scripture in it I was a little bummed. But as I read the inside cover and learned what the thing actually is, I started to like to idea. So that night, I started writing.

I’ve been doing it regularly for almost a week, and I like it. In a world that pushes efficiency and rush, I appreciate the push to get people in the habit of being a “scribe” of Scripture. The process of physically writing–not typing–is slow. It forces one to think about what’s there. It is a form of meditation, where you linger over each word, each letter. In the process, you see things you haven’t seen before, and it stays with you.

Now, having said that I like the process, I like the idea, and I would wholly recommend it to anyone interested, I have a few suggestions to make it a better product. Here’s what I would do:

  1. I’d eliminate the questions on the left hand page and use it for more scribing space. This would make the book half as thick. Also, the questions take away from the journal-ness of the product. When I’m journaling, it’s me, my thoughts, and God. I don’t want any other voices to be asking me questions or distracting in any way.
  2. I add the entire text of the book the end. This would make it duly functional. Not only would you be able to scribe without carrying around both the Journible and your Bible around, but you’d be able to mark up the text like a mad-man.

Conclusion

I highly endorse the process of “scribing,” though I don’t think I’d ever purchase one of these, unless they made the two changes I listed above. Really, you’re actually just buying a journal with a light study guide and a few directions for where to write.

As someone to teaches and preaches the Bible every week, I’d be very interested in purchasing Journibles if they made them like I described: with the text of the book I’m preaching through, enough space to doodle and mark and write, space to scribe it out, and no study questions.

Interesting people are interested people

“You can often tell if someone is busy being the star of his own show by the ear buds, which are worn in situations that don’t really call for them. In fact, the only reason someone would be wearing them in that situation is if they needed a soundtrack for their own personal movie, starring them, as they walk down the avenue looking at reflections of themselves in shop windows. This is not the discipline of the effective writer.

Interesting people are interested people. Interesting writers are interested writers.”

Douglas Wilson, Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life

 

Wordsmithy, by Douglas Wilson

wordsmithy

Doug Wilson gave us a real gift when he banged out Wordsmithy on his blog June 2010. The writing has been captured and set to print in a fine little 120 pager. It was excellent, and here are a few reasons why:

First, the tips are for the writing lifeEmphasize life. A plumber could benefit from many of them. Wilson rightfully connects your life and your writing, clearing up the false idea that you can write an interesting book without living an interesting life. He sees the mundane responsibilities of being human as essential to the writer’s development. And so I quote:

My point is that the time in between was not wasted–submarine service, marriage, college, bring up three kids, starting a school for them, and so forth. This kind of life experience is not distracting you from your appointed task of writing. It is, rather, the roundabout blessing of giving you something to say.

He likes rules, and breaking them too. This strikes the balance between the literary legalists and libertines. Quote:

Oscare Wilde once defined a gentleman as one who never insulted somebody else accidentally. In a similar spirit, a competent writer wants to be the kind of person who is never guilty of a solecism accidentally. If you do it, do it with your eyes open.

This approach creates a sense of spontaneity and surprise, which gives way to punch and wit. That’s why he recommends reading books on writing mechanics and books on slang. His rule is “Master the rules before you assume that you have the right to break them.” Mastering the comma usage will prevent grandpa from being dinner (Let’s eat, grandpa!). Though mistakes of this nature can be quite funny:

Justin Taylor, editor of Crossway, cites the example of one writer who wanted to thank “my parents, Jesus and Ayn Rand.”

So we listen to grammarians and libertines. And we make sure we’re able to communicate who our real parents are.

These things can be learned and developed. Yes, genetics are a thing. And they have something to do with your make-up and how you play with words. But discipline is a thing too, and hard work and time and practice can make a writer. Chestertons exists, but they are anomalies and don’t offer the best help to become a writer. Most writers, like 99.99% of them, became writers because they worked hard and practiced a lot. Is writing hard to you? Good, you’re human. Writing is hard, wake up.

Does this lesson really need repeating? Yes, it does. You became good at basketball because you shot hoops after school every day until the sun went down. You learned piano because mom made you take lessons every Tuesday for three years. Malcolm Gladwell was on to something when he wrote about the 10,000 hour rule. I’m not sure one can be so precise, but the point is clear: becoming an expert on anything takes time. Yes, even writer. So,

Be at peace with being lousy for a while. Chesterton once said that anything worth doing was worth doing badly. He was right. Only an insufferable egoist expects to be brilliant the first time out.

There are seven main tips, each with seven sub-tips. They read quickly, so if you want a plunge into an icy pond to shock the writing senses, this seems like a good place to jump. I could see myself picking this book up again in a year to revisit some of the things I’ve been taught. I highly recommend it.

Be done with big, juicy hamburgers: A tip for writers

Dr. Simons, my advisor in college and my favorite teacher, one of the big influences on my adult life, used to always remind me of a simple rule for better writing. Here it is:

Stay away from “big, juicy hamburgers.”

How is that a writing tip? Here’s what he meant: show, don’t tell. Show me a big, juicy hamburger, don’t tell me the hamburger was big and juicy.

Big and juicy are abstract words that mean different things to different people. They are not effective in producing an image in the mind of the reader. They lack gumption.

Instead of saying, “he ate a big, juicy hamburger,” say, “he opened his mouth wide to bite into the burger, and when he did, a flavor gushed into his mouth and ketchup dripped onto his shirt. He needed a napkin immediately.” Create an image. Let the reader figure out that it’s a big, juicy burger.

Writing too overwhelmed with adjectives is tiring. Always aim for specific, definite, and concrete. But don’t take my words for it, consider Mark Twain’s words, one of the finest writers in the English language:

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God’s adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.

If you want captivating writing, stop telling me about roses; show me a rose. Stop describing what they’re like; show me a petal. Don’t give me a big, juicy hamburger; let its taste burst into my mouth as I bite.

Mark Twain, again:

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English–it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them–then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.

Becoming a book reviewer

A couple friends sent me some links to help direct me in this venture. The first comes from the world famous Challies, who inspires hacks everywhere to take to the keyboard and blog. I wonder how many stay-at-home dads are banking their retirement on finding a niche in the blogosphere because of this guy. Here’s his article:

How to Review a Book

The second is from John Starke (not to be confused with John Starks), a guy over at the Gospel Coalition who edits book reviews:

How to Write a Great Book Review (Or at Least How Not to Write a Bad One)

As part of my attempt to master the book review, I am going to be trying some new things.

  1. I will be commenting on chapters from Steven J. Lawson’s Pillars of Grace, the second volume in his Long Line of Godly Men series. The goal is to process, evaluate, and review small portions of the book at a time in preparation for later full book reviews.
  2. Also, I am going to try and review at least two short stories between now and January 1st. As for now, I’m trying to avoid anything longer than 10 pages.
  3. I’m now keeping up my Goodreads account. Though there are probably millions of bad book reviews on this site, it at least encourages you to share your opinion about the things you’re reading. I intend to write 1-3 sentences on each book I update (if I can remember them enough) without using too many cliches.

Anything else I should try?

Mastering the book review

I am committing myself to learn how to write good book reviews. Why do I want to write good books reviews? Here’s a few reasons:

  • Writing reviews requires critical thinking and discernment. By committing to mastering the book review, I am committing to read well.
  • Writing reviews requires writing. And writing is an important skill that takes practice to master. The people who leave dents in history are notable writers. How do we know that? We read their books.
  • Different books require different measures of attention. Writing book reviews will force me to learn how to evaluate books. It will force me to understand the piece good enough to take what’s good and discard the junk. Also, I’ll learn how much time I should spend with a book.Bacon writes: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
  • To write a good review, you have to have convictions. Book reviews are not like pre-school tee-ball. We keep score here. Not everyone gets a blue ribbon. It’s important to develop the ability to determine what is good, and what isn’t. The best reviewers stick to their guns even when the tides of popularity are against them. For instance, Challies’ review of The Shack is constantly his most popular post. And the reason the review is so good is because he stuck to his theological guns even when the whole world was caught up in Shack-fever.
  • You don’t really understand something until you have to teach someone else about it. Writing about the books I’ve read will bring me into a deeper understanding of them. For me, writing and thinking go hand in hand. Articulating what I’ve had to think about will solidify the thoughts in my mind. I am among the number of those who must “write themselves clear.” Writing is the wind that blows away the mind-fog.
  • Free books. Seriously. If you become a reputable book reviewer, writers will be drooling for your endorsements. Kevin Deyoung has new manuscripts on his desk every week. Imagine that.

If I can master the book review, I will be a better scholar for it. Oh, and let me in on some resources if you know any.

 

100 words a day

Summer is always a hard time for me to blog. My schedule is inconsistent– traveling, seeing friends, and doing a bunch of youth ministry stuff– and so blogging gets put on the backburner. All that to say that this week I’m planning a comeback.

For the next 30 days I’m going to focus on writing. My goal is to write 100 words each day. 100 words is not very much, but if I try writing a little bit every day I will end up accomplishing more if I had not tried.

Figurative Language for teaching: Allegory

After a little break from going through the parts of figurative language, I’m back.

We’ve covered the simile, the metaphor, and personification. I particularly enjoy looking at some of the great preacher’s use of these linguistic tools, so I’ve included a paragraph from language-master Charles Spurgeon and contemporary preaching-poet John Piper in some of the posts. Hopefully these refreshers will help salt up your language as you teach.

Here’s the lesson on allegory. Delvin writes:

An allegory (from the Greek allos, other, and agoreuein, to speak), is a form of expression in which the words are symbolical of something. It is very closely allied to the metaphor, in fact is a continued metaphor.

Allegory, metaphor and simile have three points in common, –they are all founded on resemblance. “Ireland is like a thorn in the side of England;” this is simile. “Ireland is a thorn in the side of England;” this is metaphor. “Once a great giant sprang up out of the sea and lived on an island all by himself. On looking around he discovered a little girl on another small island near by. He thought the little girl could be useful to him in many ways so he determined to make her subservient to his will. He commanded her, but she refused to obey, then he resorted to very harsh measures with the little girl, but she still remained obstinate and obdurate. He continued to oppress her until finally she rebelled and became as a thorn in his side to prick him for his evil attitude towards her;” this is an allegory in which the giant plainly represents England and the little girl, Ireland; the implication is manifest though no mention is made of either country. Strange to say the most perfect allegory in the English language was written by an almost ignorant man, and written too, in a dungeon cell. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan, the itinerant tinker, has given us by far the best allegory ever penned. Another good one is The Faerie Queen” by Edmund Spenser.

* * * Application for Teachers* * *

I would caution teachers to be careful with allegory. It is a tool best used in the realm of the written word, and not as much as the spoken word. If they are used, they should be short and illustrative. They should fill in the white spaces; they should season the meat. Never allow them to serve as the main course of a service. Spurgeon said it in a previous post:

“Illustrate richly and aptly, but not so much with parables imported from foreign sources as with apt similes growing out of the subject itself.”

 

 

Figurative language for teaching: Personification

We continue again today in looking at different usages of figurative speech that are helpful for the teacher/preacher. We’ve already looked at the simile and the metaphor. Now, our interest is in personification.

Joseph Delvin, our teacher on the subject, and the writer of the free ebook How to Speak and Write Correctly, says this:

Personification (from the Latin persona, person, and facere, to make) is the treating of an inanimate object as if it were animate and is probably the most beautiful and effective of all the figures.

“The mountains sing together, the hills rejoice and clap their hands.”

“Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat, Sighing, through all her works, gave sings of woe.”

Personification depends much on a vivid imagination and is adapted especially to poetical composition. It has two distinguishable forms: 1) When personality is ascribed to the inanimate as in the foregoing examples, and 2) when some quality of life is attributed to the inanimate; as a raging storm; an angry sea; a whistling wind, etc.

* * * Application for the teacher* * *

John Piper is a notable preacher who often uses personification. He describes himself as “romantic rationalist”, and his books and sermons often reflect his poetical inclinations. For example, take this section from his book, Don’t Waste Your Life:

Affliction raised his sword to cuff off the head of Paul’s faith. But instead the hand of faith snatched the arm of affliction and forced it to cut off part of Paul’s worldliness. Affliction is made the servant of godliness and humility and love. Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. The enemy became Paul’s slave and worked for him an even greater weight of glory than he would have ever had without the fight. In that way Paul– and every follower of Christ– is more than a conqueror.

Instead of saying something like: God used affliction to grow Paul’s faith, and that makes us more than conquerors– Piper creates the image of a battle scene. Affliction is raising its sword. Faith, pinned against the ground, not only escapes the attack but uses it for his benefit. Intangible concepts are given concrete actions, and in doing so an image is created. Personification resurrects what could be a dry dead concept into a living battle scene that captures the mind.

When thinking through concepts, think of scenes that capture truths. Give truths life by ascribing personhood to them. Make justice stare unflinchingly. Make love into a relentless prince. Make mountains cry out for mercy and forests rejoice over grace. Take the dust of your dry language and breathe life into its nostrils, and behold a living sentence.