About Shelley Neese

My modus operandi is to spin various plates at once. I am married to a physician in the Air Force and we, along with our four children, move every two years. I am the president of The Jerusalem Connection, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. I am also a graduate student at The Bible Seminary, studying biblical history and archaeology. With those spinning plates in mind, I can hardly explain why I chose the year of my husband’s deployment to the Middle East to launch a project that required me to read, research, write, and produce, via podcast, a commentary essay each week on the Minor Prophets.

Everyone is wired differently, and, in my case, I knew that if I started watching YouTube videos of soldiers returning home to their dogs, I would quickly fall into depression. Also, I knew that spending every extra minute of the deployment year reading the Bible would be my best antidepressant.

Additionally, somewhere in the back of my mind was Julie & Julia, the 2009 movie about the true story of a writer in New York named Julie who, in one year, cooked all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In Julie’s case, she distracted herself from her monotonous dead-end job and found purpose in the art of culinary creation. My psychological tool for survival became a life-changing love of the prophets. I suppose one woman’s French cooking is another woman’s stack of Bible commentaries.
I could have picked any part of the Bible for a year-long reading challenge, but I selected the Minor Prophets because I knew the shorter prophetic writings were the least-examined pages in my Bible. When I scanned the prophets, I focused on verses that still sounded relevant when plucked out of their larger contexts. However, to experience the consistency of the Minor Prophets’ messages and their unified declarations, the 12 books needed to be read together and in order, with an eye on their historical and cultural contexts.
The fundamental message spoken through the prophets was Yahweh’s distress call: “Return to me, and I will return to you.” Not only does the message of the prophets still ring true today, but they served as my anchor throughout the year-long deployment. Getting through one prophet at a time got me through one month at a time, until we welcomed our airman home at the airport. I know every Bible reader has his or her own countdown and a hurdle to cross. I recommend the Minor Prophet challenge as a healthy, faith-forming distraction.