The God Walker: a book review

What happens when a Christian publisher with charismatic, evangelical, Anglican roots embarks on a Catholic pilgrimage? Tony Collins (of Monarch Books and Lion Hudson) took a month and two days to walk from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to the west coast of Spain, the city of Santiago de Compostela.  The Camino de Santiago is four-hundred-and-ninety mile journey across the hills of Northern Spain. In Taking My God for a Walk, Collins recounts the journey—sharing his reflections on pilgrimage and the people and places he met along the way.

walkingThe book provides a chronology of Collins’s pilgrimage, each chapter, a journal entry of a days or two’s walk, recounting the sights, sensations and encounters. He relays the hardness of the path, his conversations with fellow pilgrims and the way made by walking. This is a travelogue describing Collins three-fold journey: a journey of cultural discovery of the sights, tastes and culture of Northern Spain, a historic journey into the politics and demographics of the region, and spiritual journey undertook to seek ‘sources of reverence'(17-18). He meets God on the pilgrim road and is profoundly impacted by this journey.

I was interested in this book because the pastor of the church I am attending, recently came back from the Camino and came back with fascinating stories about her journey (which made their way into many sermon illustrations). Collins walked the same path. He weaves his theological musings with descriptions of towns and countryside, and particular interest in the friends forged along the way. 

I enjoyed reading about Collins reflections on life and faith, his embarrassment (early on) of the impropriety of having a traveling companion called his ‘girlfriend,’ the ways he braved boredom and bed bugs as he sought out the gifts of the journey. I enjoyed the book without necessarily finding it a compelling read. I found I could only read it in fits and starts. I don’t think this Collins fault. He is a good writer, witty, observant,insightful. But pilgrimage unfolds circumspectly. He walks the way of St. James and meets God in the walking and at the culmination of his journey. I give this book three and a half stars.

Note: I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. Monarch Books is an imprint of Lion Hudson and is distributed by Kregel in the United States.

The Power of Presence: a book review

Neil Anderson, author of Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker has been a passionate advocate for the freedom we have in Christ. Past hurts, spiritual commitments and brokenness have held people in bondage. Anderson has pointed Christians to the real freedom available to those who are in Christ; however this hasn’t always been an easy road (his autobiography is called Rough Road to Freedom). I haven’t always agreed with Anderson (I think his description of bondage from ‘ritual abuse’ is inaccurate and unhelpful) but I respect the ways he has opened up a way for evangelicals to experience God’s healing for their past. His newest book The Power of Presence: A Love StoryThe Power of Presence: A Love Story tells a story of freedom and struggle.

9780857217318Anderson’s wife of 50 years, Joanne, is in the midst of the long decline of agitated dementia. Her illness has necessitated that she spend her days at an assisted living facility. Neil is with her during the days.Joanne at times feels isolated and alone, longing for Neil’s presence with her. The Power of Presence tells the story of how Neil has learned to love his wife in this stage of life. Anderson also uses his wife’s struggle as a metaphor for our own desperation for God’s Presence.

This is a short, six chapter book. Chapters one and two feel the most vulnerable. Anderson describes the absence of God’s presence and the times where He feels absent (having suspended his conscious blessing).  Chapter describes coming into God’s presence and praying in the Spirit with thanksgiving. Chapter four describes ministry in God’s presence. Chapters five and six describe resting and being fully in God’s presence.

I appreciate this book for the way that Anderson shares the vulnerable and difficult journey it has been for him to internalize these lessons. There are poignant lessons that Anderson is learning in his wintering years. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from Kregel in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Sid and Rosie’s Christian Year: a book review

Penelope Wilcock is the novelist behind the Hawk and Dove novels (haven’t read them) She has worked as a Methodist Minister and chaplain and been a tutor and trainer for Methodist preachers. In 52 Original Wisdom StoriesWilcock takes us on a journey through the Christian year following the stories of Sid and Rosie. Sid and Rosie are an older couple. Sid is a Catholic turned Quaker.  Rosie is a spiritual-but-not-religious soul  who has left regular church attendance behind. Both are thoughtful believers despite their distance from the church. Sid draws on his history with liturgy. Rosie’s reflections bring her into contact with the East– Buddhism, Taoism, etc. They are remarried and have children and grandchildren, though none together.

Wilcock begins with Advent and ends with the feast of Christ the King. Each narrative ends with questions for ‘sharing and wondering’–discussion or personal reflection–and a prayer. And all the stories are fully-photocopiable, free-of-charge for use in churches and groups. In addition to the broad liturgical rhythms, some of these stories reflect on feast days for particular saints. The breadth of the Christian year allow Wilcock to engage the whole human experience and each story is a revelation about the spiritual life, the human experience, and Sid and Rosie.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured this would offer me some liturgical reflections, a way to beef up my preaching, especially in high seasons like Advent, Lent and Easter. But I got something different. By placing her reflections in the voice of Sid and Rosie, two ‘Dones’ who had left mainstream religion behind, she offers us an insider-outsider perspective of those who believe but don’t readily belong. There is also a quotidian quality as they fit Christianity into daily-life, unadorned by ecclesiastical vestments.

But Sid and Rosie aren’t theological lightweights. They deeply engage the Christian story and seek to follow Jesus. They reflect on hosipality, love, life,  death, brokenness and more. I liked meeting them in these pages. I give this three-and-a-half stars. My point of critique would be, I wish that Sid and Rosie came to a richer engagement with Church as a body of caring believers. They engage the tradition well, but I think there is something to the experience of the Christian life they are lacking.

Note: I recieved this book from Kregel Publications (and Monarch Books) in exchange for my honest review.