Last year I read and reviewed a devotional by Matthew West and Angela Thomas entitled The Story of Your Life (you can read about it here). In a nutshell, I really liked it. And if you have been listening to contemporary Christian music stations you have probably heard many of Matthew West's songs from his album, The Story of Your Life, released in 2010. The album was a unique project in which Matthew West asked his fans to submit stories from their lives as inspiration for his upcoming album. His previous songs were written based upon his own life and he wanted to try something different. (You can read about it on his blog here.) The response was huge and led to the CD (obviously) and the devotional (Matthew and Angela's responses to many of the letters) and to this study.
I don't really know how to begin describing this study to you. I did it with several of the ladies at my church. We began by meeting every other week and we grew so much and were so anxious to see what was next we began to meet weekly! It was amazing how these five chapters and journal changed us.
Each chapter focuses on a different area. From start to finish we looked at how we view our lives, to look past the highlights reel and begin to really examine our whole story. Once we begin to look at our lives as a whole story we have to determine who the author is. Next, who are and how many supporting characters do we allow into our story? (That was the chapter that sparked the compassion project!) The last two chapters focus on the hard parts of our stories and how to begin healing.
The overwhelming theme is obviously to view your life as a story, and in each session you will read about portions of other people's stories as they relate to that theme. Many of them were very personal and resonated with at least one of us in the group. The study never felt "preachy", but it felt like hanging out with a good friend who was sharing with you what they had learned.
What I loved: The DVD that accompanies the group study is set up so that you watch the video session AFTER you have completed the chapter. This was great for us because it helped us to get back into a similar frame of mind as the one we were in when reading the chapter. It also highlighted portions that we may not have "got" when we read it. What I really liked though, was seeing some of the real life people who shared their stories.
The workbook is all in one. Once you buy it you really have all you need, the study, the questions and the journal. While I HIGHLY recommend having either the CD, DVD or both you can still grow with just the workbook making this a very economical study.
Works great in a small group environment, but would also be good as a personal study. In the small group setting we were able to share our chapter responses with each other. Many of us "got" one thing while others "got" another. This led to great discussions and increased understanding. While my group has always been great about opening up and sharing EVERYTHING with each other, it was still nice to have the personal journal sections that allowed me to delve into my own story on a very personal level. That is what makes this great as a stand alone study also. My sister did the study at the same time as my group did but was unable to attend out weekly sessions due to her schedule. She said that she didn't feel like she had less of an experience because of that.
I loved that there was a song that went with each chapter. I would download the song and listen to it all week long. Now I can't hear the song on the radio without being reminded of what I learned in the chapter associated with the song. It's great!
What I didn't like: It was short. We all felt like there should have been one more chapter. The last session helps us to remember that we need to surrender all of our life to God and allow Him to finish writing our stories. We would have liked to see another chapter about beginning that process.
Overall, I really enjoyed the study and feel like I grew closer to God. I know I was able to let go of a few of my broken chapters and I am now more conscious of letting God write my story instead of me. Still, don't take my word for it. Here is what a few of the gals in the group with me said.
I really liked the study for several reasons.
1. I think we should all realize the hurt around us.
2. Even if we have such blessed lives that we don't experience much pain, there are others who struggle each day.
3. But mostly, likely almost all of us, we have to deal with some painful thought, habit, character trait, etc. on a regular basis.
4. The study helps us to know God is always with us.
5. And that He loves us.
6. He can bring peace.
7. Most importantly, the study helps me realize this is not my home.
I loved how the book, dvd and cd tied it all together. The songs kept the stories fresh in my mind; the journaling forced me to dive into areas I never thought or wanted to submerge. The deep look into how my life is what I allow God to do through me was a wakeup call to many of us. It’s too frequent a choice we make to do our will, and not God’s. When I let go and allow God to truly be the author, the story is amazing; and I want to shout it from the mountain tops. When I try to write my own story, nothing seems to go right; and I want to lose myself in the deepest valley. To know that God is writing my story makes me feel like my story is worth sharing.
Sound like something you might be interested in? You can find the book and CD at your local Christian store or you can order below:
Small Group Kit available August 1st, pre-order now. This contains the workbook, CD, DVD, devotional and leaders guide
The Story of Your Life: An Interactive Journey workbook available nowThe Story of Your Life: Inspiring Stories of God at Work in People Just like You devotional available now
Story of Your Life CD also available now
Still not sure? Check out the introduction portion of the DVD below
I want to thank Harvest House publishers for graciously providing this study for the purposes of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated and there was no compensation for this review.
Until next time,
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