Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Reader questions

Thanks to MOPS International mailing out 110,000 copies of my book Breathe in May, lots of folks are reading it over the summer. And many of them have written to me with questions, observations, critiques. I really do appreciate hearing from everyone.

Here's one question that a reader posed, and since it's one that others have asked about as well, I thought I'd answer it here.

She asks: "I have a question about chapter 8... I am confused by the story of the Jewish girl named Naomi. I understand the beauty and focus of Shabbat however, I don't understand the piece about her getting a divorce. Why was this included in the book? The Jewish faith is rich in tradition but lacks the focus of Christ and divorce is the last resort in the Christian faith. I felt like I was missing something. I had to reread 3 times to see that I had not. I was left with confusion on why a Christian author and Christian organization (MOPS) would include something like this. We are doing a bible study on this book and are not sure how to explain this."
If you haven't yet read Breathe, it's about simplicity, slowing and Sabbath. It includes the true stories of real women. the chapter that includes Naomi's story is about Sabbath. Since Sabbath is a practice of both Jews and Christians (and frankly, a much richer tradition in the Jewish faith), and because Naomi has a compelling story, she agreed to be interviewed.
As a journalist, I don't get to decide the facts of people's lives. So Naomi's story is her story, not mine. I'm just conveying it, asking questions about the parts that interest me. I wanted to give a glimpse of her spiritual journey, which is in large part a Sabbath journey.
Other readers have asked why I'd include the story of a Jewish person in a Christian book. Well, the Bible is a Christian book and the overwhelming majority of its stories are about Jewish people. I'm not trying to be flippant, but it sometimes seems like we forget that the roots of the Christian faith are in Judiasm. And that Jesus was in fact Jewish. I'm not suggesting we convert to Judiasm, but only to be aware of and appreciate our faith heritage. To not be afraid of it.

I wrote back to this reader to remind her of that, and also, to try to address her question about divorce. Christians divorce at about the same rate as the general population. Perhaps we feel more guilt about it, but it does happen. And the reasons are never simple. But I included that fact in the book because it affected Naomi's life, especially her practice of Sabbath, which was the focus of the chapter. And God used that painful situation to draw her toward himself, and toward loving others. That's a step of growth in her journey.

Also, here's the thing about how I write--because I know myself to be stunningly imperfect, I prefer to tell stories of people who are real, people who don't have every little aspect of their life neatly boxed and shelved. Group leaders who've written to ask about Naomi and why she's in the book only made me question the other stories--were those people too perfect? While we need role models, we also need to know that no one, even role models, is perfect. Ife we think we can't learn from people who are in a different place spiritually, then the fact is we simply can't learn from people at all.

If you lead a group, don't worry so much about "how to explain" everything. Spiritual growth is less about figuring out the answers as figuring out which questions are even worth asking.

Think about Jesus. Did he typically "explain" things? Or did he answer people's questions with more questions?

I love Naomi, she's a friend and a treasure. She's on a spiritual journey just like the rest of us. She's asking questions, and I hope those questions resonate with readers.


Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Hey Keri! Thanks for visiting my blog. :) I'll have to tell Dad you wrote--blast from the past! :) Thanks for voting for Matt; I wonder when they'll post the results? I sure hope he gets it!!!!!!!!!!


Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Oh, and while I'm here, let me comment on your entry. :) I haven't read your book, but I have to agree with you that real people are not perfect people. When I create characters, I always try to put myself in their shoes and think, "How would I react in this situation?" because heaven knows I'm as fallen as they come and imperfection is the hallmark of humanity. Kudos to you for not censoring your interviews and trying to "pretty up" folks' stories. It's hard to relate to people who appear to have it all together!

wardkri said...


I like many want to thank you for your books Breathe and Oxygen (I am on chapter 3 of that). I read Breathe last September right when we moved from MI to TX and my husband's father had just died, and I felt I was reading it at just the time I needed it.

I had signed up for your 3 hour session at the MOPS convention in Orlando, but now I am not going to be able to go and I am crushed. Do you know if it will be recorded, or can I get any materials you will be using? This intensive class was what I was looking forward to the most! Any suggestions? Until then, I will keep reading Oxygen and studying on my own!

Thank you --

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

I have e-mailed my contacts at MOPS to find out whether the session will be recorded. I can e-mail you (or anyone else who wants them) the handouts. actually, a longer version of the handouts since I had to condense them for the convention.
I'm glad Breathe was helpful to you. Keep reading, keep talking to Jesus, and listening to him. I know it's disappointing to not be able to go--but trust that God has good things in store for you in spite of disappointments.
I'll post an update when I find out if the sessions will be recorded.

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Hey Alison!
Thanks for stopping by. If you'd like, I can send you a review copy of Breathe, or of my newest book, a devotional (sort of) called Oxygen. Oxygen is perfect for your stage of life--you read one scripture passage each week and use various spiritual practices to reflect on it several times. It takes you deep without being super time consuming.
I'll post more later--I'm off to volunteer at the Leadership Summit!

Dianne said...

You gotta ask, why did God choose to include so many difficult & sad stories in his Word? So many stories are nothing like the ideal Christian life. I think it's okay to name things. Acknowledge things to ourselves, God and others. And tell our stories of how God worked through and in spite of our messes. Then we can move on.

I just finished Listen and will review it on my blog soon. Awesome book but I need to read it again - so much there. Looking forward to reading more!

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

Thanks Dianne,
great insights. the bible is full of stories of failure and mistake, as well as people who were heroes of the faith.
and even the heroes messed up once in a while.
Glad you liked Listen. Let me know when you review it and I'll post a link.

wardkri said...


If you could email me your handouts, that would be really amazing! (I have sent this a few times and am not sure if it went through...)

My email is and I look so forward to hearing from you!!