Barbara Hosbach invites the reader to come away to a place of quiet refreshment in the company of often overlooked biblical heroes. Taken as a whole, Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes, outlines a self-directed retreat or a series of twenty-eight daily meditations. The author sets the stage for each meditation with a substantial biblical quotation. She then expands on the scriptures looking for the untold story behind the often brief description of the featured character. The author then carefully illustrates each character’s impact and applies the lessons learned to modern life. Each chapter concludes with four to six questions that assist the reader to effectively internalize the biblical teaching.
What impressed me most about this book was the way that Barbara, a retreat and workshop facilitator makes personal contact with her readers in each meditation installment. I could almost smell the coffee as Barbara figuratively sat across from me to share her own quiet reflections on biblical bit-players reminiscent of ordinary people we meet every day. She brings the fools, liars, cheaters to life, including an Old Testament helicopter mom, the wallflower who got the last laugh; the prostitute and several other “aliens” hiding in the family tree of King David and Jesus. She introduced me to the original, “Ms. Understood” and encouraged me through her account of the woman who marked her household with the Red Cord, declaring her allegiance to the One God.
Among the other heroes, Barbara ranks the disabled, doubters, a pampered beauty queen, home bodies, the rich, the poor, the arrogant, the humble, prophets, orphans, widows, worriers, outcasts, silent partners and a secret admirers of Jesus. One after another the heroes share the spotlight. Barbara recounts biblical themes that could have come from today’s tabloids–marital infidelity, the role of women in society, women in the military, espionage and psychological warfare. The impact of heroic deeds by these seemingly minor characters, form the matrix that binds together the greater biblical message.
For example, Anna the prophet and widow, age eighty-four, “never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” She lived to see the Messiah her dream realized when Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple of Jerusalem. Barbara shares her thoughts on this brief description, noting Anna’s youthful widowhood and long but solitary life. Barbara asks, did Anna choose to fast or was that the effect of her economic limitations? Barbara prompts me to consider the lives of local elders who frequent daily Eucharist. They were once newly-weds, but now live alone, taking consolation in the liturgy and church community. One of Barbara’s end-of-chapter questions asks if I (or you) or any of my friends have ever experienced a similar, abrupt change in circumstances, and “What opportunities for spiritual growth were present in those times?” Life springs “opportunities” upon us all the time, if we see tragedies as such. Barbara reminds us to trust in God. God’s grace provides guidance. She also reminds us that God selects the weak and the improbable because God sees things differently than humans do. I feel good about that.
Clearly, I will re-read Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes on a regular basis as part of a program of spiritual enrichment. The good news is that there are many more characters waiting in the wings for inclusion in one of Barbara Hosbach’s future books.
If you want a sneak peak at Barbara’s stories, go to http://www.biblemeditations.net/
Hosbach, Barbara. Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes. Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media. 2012.
(Photo and review, © 2013 Donald J. Mulcare)