U.S. Route 66 has a legendary place in the heart and soul of a car nation.
That highway was taken by wagons, Okies, truckers and beatniks. It led from the windy business metropolis of Chicago to the sunshine opportunity of the Golden State and the Pacific. In between, it went through a microcosm of the U.S. This is Jack Kerouac country.
As Nat King Cole sang:
It winds from Chicago to LA
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.
If God’s story is a road like that, Route 66 is a great vehicle for getting you along it. This is the main resource book for Spring Harvest 2011, written by Krish Kandiah. I’m going to examine his machine component by component.
a) The chassis of the book is built in 8 segments. Like the 8 different U.S. states the historic route 66 passes through, these themes mark the 8 writing stages the Bible goes through.
Kandiah compares each Bible genre to a terrain -woodland, plain, city, etc. Each book within that genre is like a town on that terrain.
This resonates with me. For me, travelling in the Bible has moments in the mountains, all plunging rivers and hairpin bends. It has urban motoring and vast stretches of desert.
Route 66 maps it out like this:
1. Narrative- living faithfully
2. Law- living distinctively
3. Psalms- living poetically
4. Wisdom- living discerningly
5. Prophets- living prophetically
6. Gospels- living infectiously
7. Epistles- living purposefully
8. Apocalyptic- living hopefully
b) The bodywork: 40 chapters, which if you break up by 8 weeks, is 5 chapters a week. That’s a pretty good arrangement. It lets you read daily but miss a couple, or take the weekend off, or read it all on a Saturday.
Kandiah writes lightly, clearly. He takes you into deep water but doesn’t do so by boring you. He’s easy to read but there isn’t a gram of fluff in the book. He tells the odd tale, but is message-focused, not anecdote-reliant.
He employs the simile of a road trip, but he hasn’t locked himself in his car with this. If the image of gas stations and motels isn’t enough to get you through a book, plentiful other metaphors and vignettes furnish what he wants to say.
He insists the purpose of getting familiar with the Bible isn’t to build up an impressive store of trivia. It’s to be able to get through daily life, with its opportunities and temptations, and through extraordinary life, with all its celebration and grief.
“I aced my driving theory test. By memorizing the Highway Code I could tell you the precise stopping distance of a car travelling at 60mph in the wet and I could identify any traffic sign that you could throw at me, whether low bridges, duck crossings, or bio-hazards. I walked out of that office with my head and my certificate held high and then begrudgingly got into the passenger seat of the car. Despite passing the theory exam, I was still totally incapable of getting a car to go from A to B. Three months later, I succeeded in providing my driving-test examiner with several near-death experiences in a 25-minute test of faith. I am not sure if it was the stray piece of scaffolding in a skip which barely missed his head as I took a corner, or the whiplash he got from my emergency stop, or simply the sheer look of panic of the faces of passers-by that led him to fail me.
“There is a huge difference between theory and practice, not only regarding to drive, but also when reading the Bible. Knowing the theory of how to navigate the Bible is a very different set of skills to knowing how to navigate life with the Bible.”
c) Tyres: Travel journal studies at the end of each chapter, designed for individual use. This is where I’d say the vehicle hits the road.
In the past when I’ve come across this format I’ve skipped these bits, but Route 66 somehow made me want to get into the selected Scriptures and go through the questions. That’s a mark of Kandiah’s ability to get to the good.
d) Seating capacity: 8 small group studies summing up each section, with a chart to fill in and questions to answer. Route 66 will work great as a small group series, but equally would make an enlightening series of talks.
I meet up once or twice a week with a bunch of friends. One girl, who loves cooking and isn’t fazed by mass catering, makes a great dinner for us. We chat about our lives. We open the Scriptures together and ask questions about parts. I might try out Route 66 with them, see what they think.
e) Turbocharger: 8-week Bible reading challenge: This programme to get through the whole thing in 8 weeks is ambitious. I love reading the Bible, but still balked at Week 1: Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.
But Kandiah points out that together this is about as long as a Harry Potter novel. I can read that in a week. Route 66 has so drawn me in that I’m seriously contemplating taking on that challenge.
Who’s it good for?
Route 66 is a solid entry-level, general purpose outline of the way the Bible is structured by genre. If you’re less than clear about how it all fits together, this is a great read.
It’s designed for people who follow Jesus and are pretty familiar with the Bible already. But there’s nothing to stop you and some curious friends who don’t follow Jesus grabbing a copy of Route 66 and going through it together.
Kandiah’s hearty and winsome personality comes across in the text and makes a friendly invitation to you to get in the car and set out on the road. Thumbs up.