(Photo: Nelson Books)
"What qualities does Katniss possess that I wish I could attain?" "What personal characteristics does Bilbo rely on to defeat Smaug that I have within me?" "What do Thor's challenges with his brother Loki teach me about my own relationships?"
For anyone who has found themselves mulling over or emulating particular character traits of film, comic and book protagonists, Kristen Parrish's new devotional book, No Cape Required, offers readers an opportunity to reflect on the lives and decisions of 52 heroes, drawing out a particularly noteworthy quality in each.
For Parrish, her veneration and love for heroes emerged out of growing up in an itinerant military family.
"When I was growing up I was an air force brat," Parrish told The Christian Post. "I was constantly having to leave my friends so I chose at that time to immerse myself in 'Star Trek.'"
The self-professed "'Star Trek' nerd" said she found herself drawn to "the friendship between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock."
"They became my friends as I was moving around. They were my constant when everything else was changing. I grew up with them," said Parrish.
Parrish, who works as the editor-in-chief of Nelson Books, said she was inspired to write the book at a time when she felt the spirit of the nation was particularly gloomy and cynical.
"It was the summer before the last election and the two main fellows were just slinging mud at each other. It was very ugly. Things were not going well in Afghanistan and the economy was just totally in the dumps," she recalled. "It was a lousy time, frankly, for America."
It was then when Parrish realized the power that heroes could have in affecting the nation's mood.
"Then this movie came out called 'The Avengers' and people just flocked to it. It was amazing how many people in a lousy economy would spend money on this movie …," the author observed. "I realized that we're looking everywhere for heroes and we're not finding these in real life so we're turning to these fictional heroes for our heroes."
Ultimately, Parrish's exploration on why Americans sought inspiration on screen and in literature turned into the book, a series of vignettes on fictional characters from Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Dobby in "Harry Potter," Eliza Doolittle from "My Fair Lady."
Parrish concludes each devotion with a prayer and several character-themed challenges, like donating blood, reading particular passages of Scripture, signing up to be a Big Brother/Big Sister, or writing an encouragement note.
"If you think that you have to do only big, huge important things, you may never find that big important thing," said Parrish. "What you may consider small could be huge to another person."
"Don't let the fact that it's not an earth-changing event keep you from doing what may be a life-changing event for someone else," she emphasized.
Parrish, whose favorite superhero of 2013 is "The Hunger Games'" Katniss Everdeen, says that it is healthy to spur oneself to be a better person using the inspiration of "heroes."
"It's good to see there are more heroes coming out in our movies because I think we do really get a lot out of it, seeing what they have to offer and maybe adopting a little of that into our own lives," she noted.
Yet, she reminds readers that only Christ is "the one true hero."
"I think it's pretty easy to immerse yourself in books and movies when you're looking for something else outside of yourself and I think that's what most of us do when we're trying to escape from own reality. It's really not the right place to look," said Parrish. "The right place is Christ and that's where we should be looking be looking for our heroes."