Making Manifest [Book Reflection & Giveaway]

pencil and paperDuring my Very Hard Year, I meet the church ladies every Thursday morning at a coffee shop.

It was dark when I drove there and dark when I left, and in between, there was a fill-in-the-blank Bible study on the book of John.

There was homework that we were supposed to be doing. There were small spaces for answering leading questions, all of it meant to guide the reader toward a deeper understanding of the Bible.

Like most studies, it was pragmatic. It was meant to help you learn, and in that learning, to grow stronger in your faith.

But it was my very hardest year. I was in the deep winter of Depression and didn’t know it yet. But what I did know was the answers to questions 1-10 in Chapter 1. After years of Sunday School and AWANA Clubs, after high school Bible study and youth group retreats and four years at Bible College, those questions were so insultingly simple that I resented them.

The questions I was battling through in my own heart during those months had to do with loneliness and sadness and feeling like God was nowhere. Like he had up and left my life.

I tried to write the complex questions in the margins and in the spaces, but there was no room for them. It was a fill-in-the-blank Bible study, and it wasn’t about the questions. It was about finding the exact right answers.

*

Here is what I am not saying. I am not saying that fill-in-the-blank Bible studies are bad. I am not saying that you are simple or stupid if you love them, if they speak to you, if you are being changed by one right now.

We are all in different places of learning and growing, and sometimes that word – the one you write in the small, blank space – is the word you needed to find. The one that will change everything.

What I’m saying is that during that time in my life, it was just not doing it for me, and maybe you’re there.

Maybe you’re desperately trying to interact with God or with your faith community, but it all feels dried out and stale – a very old crust instead of Bread of Life.

*

Making_Manifest_CoverI met Dave Harrity at the Festival of Faith and Writing last April. We’d connected online a bit, but at the conference, he handed me a postcard about his forthcoming book.

I wanted it to be available immediately, right then, because it is the book I needed so desperately that very hard winter.

It’s the one I need now.

In his introduction, he describes Making Manifest as a “28-day devotional book grounded in the acts of writing, creativity, imagination, solitude, and community building, all designed to help you ‘re-vision’ the way you understand and interact with the kingdom of God.”

It’s a totally different kind of “devotional” – a workbook filled with meditations and writing prompts. It asks that you make space for quiet. It asks that you write freely and that you pay attention to your life. That you value the words you write in the quiet space of this book, not because they are perfect, but because they are holy.

I’m not all the way through it yet. It’s meant to be a 28-day devotional, but I’m ambling. I’m taking my time with each prompt, feeling my soul get a little wider in the reading and writing.

Making Manifest doesn’t ask you to read large swaths of Scripture. Instead, it incorporates small bits and goes deep into the complex, life-giving truth about who God is. It would have been perfect for my cynical, winter-bare 24-year-old heart. The one that could not take one more fill-in-the-blank study of John. The one that could barely open the Bible without feeling inexplicably angry.

In the back of the book, there are discussion questions, workshops and exercises that allow you to use this book in a group context, and I’d like to start a group at some point. I’d like to try it in community.

I think it’s the kind of book that you can work through again and again and find it entirely different and uniquely beautiful every time.

*

I’m excited about this book because in the end, it was a series of writing prompts that helped me find my way back to God – not in a devotional book, but in grad school. It was hundreds of free-writes that were eventually refined into essays that turned into chapters that turned into the book I’ll publish with Convergent this fall.

But in the beginning, it was just prompts.

Just a notebook and a pen. Just me and the God I couldn’t seem to get to in the traditional, evangelical ways.

And somewhere in all of that messy cursive, something happened: I found him again. Somewhere in all of those imperfect, holy pages, He met me, and I was Found.

*

I’m so excited to have one copy of this beautiful workbook to give away, but really, I think it’s worth every penny. (It’s available from Seedbed here.)

You know the drill – leave a comment (Any comment! No brilliant insights necessary!), and you’ll be entered into the Random Generator of Awesomeness. I’ll announce the winner this Friday (the 10th).

In the meantime, stop by antler, Dave’s organization that’s committed to helping people engage in creativity as a devotional practice for spiritual formation. These are some seriously cool people bringing something that we desperately need to the faith conversation. Check it out!

172 thoughts on “Making Manifest [Book Reflection & Giveaway]

  1. I can’t stand fill in the blank studies. Whenever I prep for a Bible study or a Sunday school class, I always ask questions that people have to look to the text to find an answer to or are very open-ended in order to encourage discussion.

    When I attended a church for a period of time where the sermon outline was fill-in-the-blank, I’d play a little game with myself by filling in all the blanks ahead of time and seeing how many I got right. I think I had about a 95% accuracey rate.

    1. kelly,

      i’m with you! one of the things i wanted to do with this book was make something for those open-ended folks! you can do the exercises over and over and really discuss the questions, not just answer them!

  2. I have felt this way often. Piling up pages of “fill in the blank” pages that I have no interest in revisiting because it didn’t challenge me in my point of life.

    1. i think that ‘making manifest’ will be a great fit for you! it’s made to be a totem–journalistic and creatively provoking!

  3. sounds great… thanks for the good links. I find your thoughts inspiring and encouraging – thanks for being so vulnerable!

  4. I am not a huge fan of devotionals, but there is a part of me that desperately wants to be as I know that I require structure in growth! Perhaps this is the one I have been looking for! Thank you for all that you do. I love reading your posts!

    1. i think it might just be the one you’ve been looking for! let me know if you want to discuss what you’ve written!

  5. This sounds like exactly what I need. I’m going through some pretty intense stuff right now and I’ve come to the conclusion that the traditional methods of seeking God as I work through it all simply aren’t going to work for me right now.

    1. i hope this book will really help you! it will most certainly help you put down your thoughts and work through your life! let me know what you think!

  6. This books looks FANTASTIC! This topic and this devotional sound like what I need right in this moment – keeping my fingers crossed for the giveaway! 🙂 Thanks for doing this!

    1. thanks sarah! i think you’ll really get a lot out of it! it’s hard work, but good–worthwhile–work. work that adds to the world!

    1. cara–i hope you like the book! when you get into it, please email me and let me know how it’s going! maybe share something you’ve written!

  7. I think this kind of book will be written more and more. People are desiring to go deep and I have their soul needs met.

  8. Thanks for (again) putting into words some things that were in the back of my heart/brain somewhere. I’m doing a fill-in-the-blank study (again) and the questions are far too leading, the blanks far too tiny. (“Making Manifest” sounds too awesome!)

    1. “the questions are far too leading, the blanks are far too tiny.” That sums my experience up perfectly. Thanks Molly.

  9. You ‘ve explained so eloquently why I so frusterated. I’ve grown up going to church. I’m so tired of the “right” answer. I want to know the God that doesn’t fit into a box or a “blank”!

  10. I have an AWANA degree in God – Jesus – Bible – Satan – answers and an advanced degree from Bob Jones on Salvation – Faith – Hell – Repentance – answers.

    HATE fill in the blank Bible studies. Love “I wonder” (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd questions).

  11. Sounds like something for people who already know the answers, have all the information but need a deeper experience; need to find a deeper relationship with God than “fill in the blanks.” I am up for that.

  12. This sounds great! I’m in, and definitely going to buy a copy if the random generator of awesomeness doesn’t pick me.

    1. awesome janice! thanks for the support! once you get into the book a little, please shoot me an email and let me know how it’s going, and feel free to share something you’ve written!

  13. Sounds really good – love to be chosen so one gets to Europe.

    More seriously, for Dave, any planned UK distribution yet?

    Blessings

  14. Will be a must read (even if I don’t win the durn thing). Have a big thing against fill in the blank anything (bible studies, sermon outlines etc.). Wonderful post.

    1. eric! grab a copy of the book and then shoot me an email with something you’ve made from it! i’d love to be able to offer some constructive comments!

  15. Sounds good, I think. I have difficulty with so many Bible studies, I guess because in writing a study for masses of people many authors end up taking out the more personal aspects of studying the Bible. And that’s the thing about studying the Bible, it is so ridiculously personal. I also struggle with many of them because they are so full of “how does … make you feel?” and I’m not sure how something makes me feel really matters.

    Anyway, yada yada. I’m interested to read this one and see.

    1. kristin… this book would be great for you! it stays personal and asks the same from you in return! i hope you’ll get a copy and get in touch with me after you do!

  16. Love Antler and trust everything Addie Zierman says. So of course I long for this book.

    Addie, I broke down and ordered my first fill-in-the-blank bible study in years the other day. I’ve been feeling out of sorts and like i don’t know how to get back into scripture reading. I don’t know how my spirit will interact with the bible study: Maybe I just needed a break of a few years or maybe I’ll never be able to do it again. I’ll let you know though. Thanks for these thoughts…

    1. You’re so kind to me. I’ll be interested to see how your fill-in-the-blank one goes. You never know what’s going to speak…and I hope it does. Love to you friend.

  17. I’m on my second Beth Moore study. Its the only way to get to know women at my new church. Though I think I make more enemies through it than friends, because I just can’t keep my mouth shut, haha!

    1. charity–this book will allow your artistic sensibilities the freedom to move around! and no apocalyptic flim flam 😉

    2. I joined a Beth Moore study when we were with our last church for the same reason — that’s where the women were, and I needed to connect with them. I had to kind of check some of my snark at the door and I had to give myself the freedom to not do the homework (the fill-in-the-blanks just weren’t working for me)…but I got some great things from the video…bits that have stayed with me.

      AND I did end up making some great connections. Early on, I started inviting the younger women out for a glass of wine afterwards. We’d catch the 9pm Happy Hour at a local restaurant, and that’s where we ended up sharing our stories and the bits of our lives. It ended up being the best thing I did all year.

      All this to say, I’m proud of you for going to something that’s not exactly up your alley. Maybe it’s not exactly what you need, but maybe it’s what they need, and in the end, what we really need on this faith journey is each other.

    1. I feel you. I have a very limited amount of insight and brilliance these days, and it’s usually spent by 8am.

    1. yes! we’ve been piloting the book through lent and it has gone quite well. if you decide to run it with a group, please contact me and i will help get you set up!

  18. I met Dave at FFW as well, and I remember thinking Antler sounded like the most awesome thing ever. I didn’t realize he had a book coming out, and now I’m excited to rush out and buy it the next time I get a B&N coupon. It sounds like a great first devotional book for me–as a Catholic, I’ve never gone through a devotional book before (maybe that’s a good thing?).

  19. Thanks for the recommendation, Addie. I do sometimes get frustrated with cookie cutter studies. I tend to over think them 🙂 or get distracted trying to figure out what the “right” answer is. This sounds interesting and like a good study for this spring season.

  20. This reminds me so much of the ever-so-alienating-mega-church-services where you are handed your bulletin that simultaneously acts as a fill-in-the-blank-take-home-devotional. I hated that. i remember I always had different answers for the blanks, and even if I don’t win, I have to find this book and remember that creativity and truth stems from experience and personal expression.

    Thank you for this reminder!!

    1. You should do it mad-lib style next time. Whisper to the person next to you “Give me an adjective. OK, a noun. OK, a boy’s name.” Best sermon outline strategy ever.

  21. After going through Preston’s “Sacramental Baking” e-course, I’m completely in love with exploring new forms of spiritual discipline and formation! Would love a copy of the book. Definitely bookmarking antler, too.

    1. that sounds awesome! can you tell me more about that class? what was it like?

      enjoy antler! feel free to send a pitch to contribute!

      1. The class was fantastic! It was an experimental online course (here’s the official description from Preston Yancey: http://seeprestonblog.com/blog/2013/02/when-im-inviting-you-over-to-bake) and there were about 15 of us who signed up. Each week we focused on practicing a new (or old!) spiritual discipline in connection w/ a specific recipe. E.g. the Ignatian Examen, praying while kneading, Lectio Divina and visual Lectio Divina, cultivating silence, praying the hours, praying in color, gratefulness, etc.

        After spending the last few months healing and deconstructing my faith, this class reconnected me to God in fresh ways. The whole experience helped my spirit heal. Preston was wonderful…in fact, I think he’d probably love to connect with you!

        I’ll certainly consider sending in a pitch at some point! If you have a chance, I’d love to know more about exactly what that means! (jacquelineegardner@gmail.com)

  22. I laughed when I read how you dislike the fill in the blank bible study questions. They appear written for shallow, quick, discussion that avoids conflicting points of view, and rarely meet the needs of anyone. So often I have refused to even ask them, and developed questions myself.

  23. I sometimes sit in Bible studies wondering what the point actually is. It’s like, ‘what does Paul say is his priority?’ [pause] ‘have a look in verse 7’, [pause] ‘just in the second half there’ [pause] and I’m sat that thinking (screaming in my head) ‘oh, for goodness sake, I’ve answered the last three questions – this one’s no harder, will somebody just say the word ‘teaching’ and we can move on’. I’m also thinking, ‘I’m not sure you’ve quite got the passage right here – teaching isn’t all there is to Paul’s ministry’ and then, after a pause, the Bible Study leader says, ‘it’s ‘teaching’ isn’t it … Do you see that towards the end of verse seven?’
    And another bit of my brain dies.
    And I’m also from the UK (don’t worry – we’re not *all* called Nick over here) and wondering about distribution this side of the pond.

    1. nick–

      i told the other UK nicks that i would be working on this with my publisher. in the meantime, shoot me an email and i will make sure we figure out a way to get a copy to you. looking forward to hearing from you!

  24. I feel bad that this is the first time I’m posting a comment, though I have been a reader for a while. My wife and I have a beautiful writer friend who is currently battling through illness that means she can’t really go outside much. I’d love to see what she could do with this book.

    1. john–glad this might be an offering to your friend! the are a couple exercises that ask you to go outside and sit. if that’s too much for her (and you decide to get the book), please let me know and i will send along some exercises that she can in her condition–i will tailor them to her needs! would love to help if i can!

      1. Hi Dave,

        That’s wonderfully kind of you, thank you! Our friend can walk for a few feet outside at the moment and she is getting stronger all the time. I’m not sure where her nearest good sitting spot is though — could be more than a few feet away. I’ll buy and send the book on to her and if she needs any help I’ll get in touch with you. Or perhaps I could put her in touch with you?

        Thanks again for your kindness, Dave, and you too Addie.

        John.

    2. Don’t feel a bit bad about not commenting. I love that you’re thinking of this for your friend. If I could sway the Random Generator of Awesomeness, I would send it in your direction.

  25. Met Dave at FFW last year. Missed him in Pittsburgh this spring. My pastor told me about this book. I think I need a copy too 🙂

  26. I would never buy a devotional book, well until I read your review. Just might buy this one, or better yet win it.

    1. It’s so not your typical “devotional.” I’m loving it so far, and as a rule, I grit my teeth and roll my eyes through devotionals. It’s usually a sure-fire way to bring out my inner-cynic.

  27. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even in the dark place anymore, or if I’ve just fallen off the map altogether. One day it will all make sense, right? Maybe? 🙂

    1. It will. It’s OK to fall off the map for a while if you need to. Sometimes the best things happen in the wilderness. Love and grace to you.

  28. I think the part that resonated with my experience the most was this:
    “Maybe you’re desperately trying to interact with God or with your faith community, but it all feels dried out and stale – a very old crust instead of Bread of Life.”
    My small group is doing a study on spiritual gifts right now, and it all feels so formulaic, so dry. I’m getting nothing out of it and feeling like a horrible Christian for not. Thank you for the reminder that I’m not alone.

    1. You are not a horrible Christian because something is not speaking to you. But I know how you feel. So much pressure to have these amazing insights… so much expectation…from yourself and (perceived) from others. I have been there.

  29. I need this.
    In fact, I’m ordering one right now and if I win, I’ll give that copy away.
    Self-discipline and lack of immediate gratification have always been an issue 🙂

    1. love that you did this! you rock!

      let me know what you think of the book! please be in touch! i’d love to see something you’re making!

  30. I need this. Doing a Very Hard Time (more than a year) myself. I’m a writer, and I’ve even lost my writing heart. This would so helpful.

    1. So sorry about the hard place you’re finding yourself in April. I hope that this helps you reconnect to your own heart and to God in some small way.

  31. I agree that fill in the blank studies can work for some – but they seem to aid my ‘checking off a box’ version of validation which for me is the opposite of walking with God through creative pursuits in which I find validation in Him. Thanks for sharing this!

  32. I hate those types of studies with clear cut answers- it’s so hard to relate them to real life! Thanks for the heads up about this one!

  33. Me, please…I’m 34, 2 small kids in tote, and “there”. Love your words, as always – I’m reminded I’m not too alone, unjustifiably angry, or without hope 🙂

    1. I’m so there, friend. (As I write this, my children are using me as a jungle gym.) Hang in there.

  34. This post almost made me cry with the longing it stirred in my heart. I will be getting the book and checking out Antler. Thank you for sharing this with us Addie.

  35. I’m interested in this book.
    I, too, was raised in Sunday School, Awana, and other activities to the point where most Bible studies and even churches seem too shallow and obvious for me.

  36. This book seems to be like a refreshing cup of cool water to a thirsty soul. I would like one.

  37. If I don’t win I wil HAVE to buy….and I really can’t afford that right now. I would love something that encouraged my writing. I loved it in college, and I still dabble, but maybe this is the push I need to do more. And to have it help my faith journey at the same time….now that would be a real blessing. I too hate the fill in the blank…but you would be amazed how many long time believers don’t know those basic answers, so they have their place.

    1. They definitely have their place…especially if you’re just learning how everything fits together. Different journeys, different places. ZERO judgment. Just the knowledge that at times, they fall short of what you need.

      I hope you win! And if you don’t, it’s well worth the $17…though I get the not being able to afford it business. Oh budgets…

  38. I love the word “manifest”. And this sounds very apt. I am still in a place where even the idea of a 28-day devotional (or anything called a “devotional”, really) makes something in my heart feel tight and anxious and cold, but I think I could handle this one.

    1. Isn’t it a great word? Also, I’m not really doing the 28-day-part. I had every intention of doing it, but I find that I like to take my time with each exercise…and sometimes that means working through it over a couple of days and then taking a day off. From what I’ve done so far, there seems to be space for that.

  39. As much as I’d LOVE to win a copy of Dave’s book, I’m actually writing in the hopes of discovering where I can pre-order YOUR book. :0)

    1. The Random Generator of Awesomeness is immune to flattery…but your comment sure made my day! (And the answer is, I don’t know. We’re still working on re-titling and cover design and stuff like that. But hopefully soon. When I know, you’ll know.)

  40. Once again, your words echo what I feel, but don’t really want to say out loud! And “Making Manifest” looks interesting!

  41. Hi dear Addie,

    I would love a copy of this book, but not as much as I would love a copy of your new book. Can’t wait for October!

    thanks

  42. Yup, fill in the blanks have always left me feeling pretty blank, too. The best one I’ve done (am doing) recently is The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer, which sounds similar in nature to this book. Still, I’m looking forward to getting this one at some point as well.

  43. I ended up buying the book after all. Just couldn’t wait. I posted earlier to hopefully win, so now if I win I’ll give the extra copy to a friend and fellow writer. 🙂 I’m thinking she’d really like it.

    1. Awesome, April. So glad! Hope it inspires and shakes loose some things for you like my writing prompts did for me in my hard time.

  44. This book sounds like just what I need! Thank you for sharing, because I plan on buying it if I don’t win…but winning would be oh so great 🙂

  45. Sounds excellent. Just what we need – more creativity and expression in our faith journey.

  46. Yes, yes, yes! This sounds amazing. And perfect. I hope to win the giveaway, but if I don’t, I may be desperate for such a wonderful devotional tool! So glad I stumbled on your blog. I can’t *wait* to read more!

  47. just dropped out of one of those studies half way through. Thought I was far enough healed to participate, but I wasn’t.

  48. Seems silly to only leave comments when there’s a giveaway, so to add to the fact that that may be the main reason – Thank you for your posts. They’re insightful and honest and lovely. 🙂

  49. Wow-a devotional and writing guide. Our God loves creative and inspired writing, as each book of his Word displays. I will be leading 23-29 yr old women this fall and think this book will fit perfectly with what they crave. Excited!

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