Heaven in Your Handbag

 Mazzi Binaisa, Heaven in your Handbag: A Modern Devotional for Women (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd., 2006)

This modern take on the traditional devotional is written with down-to-earth simplicity and humour. Binaisa aims to show how a strong spiritual life is central to a life full of work, shopping and entertainment. The handbag conceit describes the book's use ­ it is small enough to fit into even the most fashionable and impractical handbag. It is for those moments when God is forgotten, witnessing that God is always with us and never goes out of fashion.

It's also Binaisa's approach that makes this a modern devotional. She starts from the Bible and reflects openly on her life in the light of her faith. Habakkuk 3:17-18 is set alongside one of her own poems, 'The Lonely Walk', to illustrate the fact that God is present even in the difficult times. Her emotional honesty, as she recognises a whole spectrum of negative feelings in herself, will strike a chord in the reader through its authenticity.

Writing about what holds us back from prayer, and what makes us happy to be miserable, Binaisa hits right at the core of the modern lifestyle, the exponents of which she is writing for ­ self-centredness. Her description of prayer uses the language of human relationships ­ chatting, sharing, celebrating ­ in a way that is familiar from traditional spiritual literature but also speaks deliberately to the group she is targeting. The book describes a cleverly disguised path to holiness.

Her novel and down-to-earth readings of Biblical texts challenge us to let the texts inform our daily lives, and they manage to do this without forcing interpretations or trivialising the message. The parable of the Prodigal Son is illustrated with a story about buying clothes. John 13:1, 13:15 and 15:13 are applied to friendship. Binaisa witnesses to the fact that God is truly everywhere: within, but not pinned down by, life's practicalities. She shows how a busy secular life can be Christ-filled, as well as how human a Christ-centred life is.

The book will speak perhaps especially to women in their twenties and thirties who haven't realised their dreams in love and work, who aren't at peace with themselves, whose friendships need revitalising, and who hang on to their faith but baulk at believing that God can really help them with all this. A great antidote to putting God in a box.

first posted LONDON - 3 January 2007 - 400 words

Share this story