Soul Reading Journal by Soul Librarian
Reviewed by Katy-Anne Binstead
I love stories. I’m a writer who writes mostly memoir and personal essays, I have a master’s degree in English and Creative Writing, and I’m currently pursuing a master’s degree in English Literature. Stories speak deeply to me, both fiction and nonfiction. I get lost in fascinating adventures with vampires (and anyone who knows me knows about my vampire obsession), or in a good memoir. Even fiction contains important truths. The Bible itself is a library of books rather than a single book and contains allegories, myths, poetry, erotica, horror, and stories about how people related to God. God spoke through stories because stories speak to us.
A story does not need to be in the Christian genre to speak truth to us, and to be honest I don’t read a whole lot of Christian stuff. So then, how can I or anyone else get profound truths from secular works? Soul Librarian tells us one method: applying the concept of Lectio Divina, which is an ancient method of engaging with the Scriptures and prayerful meditation. Soul Librarian’s Soul Reading Journal is a lovely (I’m Australian, therefore I over-use the word lovely) journal that engages our very soul in literature. The world lovely does not do it justice.
The concept is to engage deeply with the texts that we read. It is centered around four main concepts: impression, exploration, reflection, and transformation. It’s about using the texts we consume as tools of transformation, which is what stories are designed to do (except for possibly those trade paperback romances which I have absolutely no love whatsoever for, and yes, maybe it sounds snobby but please forgive me I’m a literature major). The reflection and transformation sections are my favorite, but that is coming from me whose favorite season of the Church Year is Lent because it’s very introspective and I’m also an introvert.
One of the books that I journaled about in the Soul Reading Journal was a young adult vampire novel (remember, I have a thing for vampires) called Loved by P.C Cast and Kristin Cast and is a miniseries that goes along with their House of Night series. Going through the journal as I read the book helped me to derive even more out of the book that I might normally have done. One of the main characters in the House of Night series is a teenage girl named Aphrodite. She has a personality that is somewhat abrasive and arrogant, but she’s also open to learning. During the entire series, Aphrodite struggles with drug and alcohol addiction and has let some mistakes in her past continue to define her.
Reading this story and documenting it in the Soul Reading Journal helped me see the world through Aphrodite’s eyes, I saw her struggles and her fears, and about how in the end she had to confront who she was and who she wanted to be. I was at this crossroads myself earlier this year. I had a priest tell me every time she saw me, that God loved me, because she knew I did not believe it after a lifetime of abuse. I was struggling with ditching the past and embracing the future. I turned 34 in March, and I had to make a conscious decision to believe that God loves me, and I did. The reason I had not done so earlier was that I was scared. I knew that it would fundamentally change my life, and it did.
But back to Aphrodite and the Soul Reading Journal. Aphrodite’s story in this book resonated with me, and journaling it helped me sort through my thoughts. I explored my first impressions of the book, with the guided questions, which ask anything from what drew me into reading this book, to more probing questions such as how my life relates to the book and how it makes me feel. As I explored this story through the help of the Soul Reading Journal,I learned for myself that my choices matter, and I can overcome addictive behaviors with God’s help. I also discovered that I am stronger than I think I am and can overcome my past and addictions. I realized through the guided questions that all people are valuable and created in the image of God (yes, I learned that from a secular novel). With the help of the Soul Reading Journal in meditating on this book (the journal is like a guided meditation without the sickly-sweet condescending voice), I realized through this story that I had more power than I thought I did. I could choose to walk towards healing. I was given hope through a fictional character that I had grown quite fond of.
This process is a Biblical process, even Jesus in the Gospel’s told stories that contained truths to live by. We call these stories parables. This is because, for as long as humanity has existed, stories have soaked into our very hearts and souls and had power to transform us. Stories are a gift that God gave us, and I use the Soul Reading Journal to enhance that gift.
The Soul Reading Journal by Soul Librarian is a product available exclusively through Sacred Ordinary Days.