Archives For Spirituality


A Faithful Journey.

A Brief Review of

The Pilgrim Journey: A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World
James Harpur

Hardback: Blue Bridge Books, 2016.
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Reviewed by Warren Hicks


In The Pilgrim Journey, James Harpur takes on the substantial task of summarizing the history of pilgrimage in the Western World. Given the slim volume he presents, I was dubious of just how well he would manage his objective. Given all of that, I think he pulls it off very well. Unlike the peregrinati or white pilgrims of the Celtic tradition, Harpur has a clear idea of his destination and moves there with alacrity, crisp language, and clear, compelling accounts of both legend and history while still allowing for the journey to inform as much or more than the destination. I consider that a faithful pursuit of pilgrimage and to be done efficiently in a book that could have easily been twice as long.

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The Process of Spiritual Awakening
A Feature Review of

Desperately Seeking Spirituality:
A Field Guide to Practice

Meredith Gould

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Jeff Nelson

Early in Desperately Seeking Spirituality, Meredith Gould writes, “Annoying reminder: spiritual awakening is a process, not a one-time enlightenment event” (7). There is so much to this quote that captures the book’s essence.

First, “annoying reminder.” You will not find here the typical air of reverence, awe, inspiration, and peace that characterizes most books on prayer and spiritual practice. As Gould notes from time to time and as the title indicates, spirituality is not a simple thing to nurture and pursue and it can and does feature moments of confusion, frustration, and irritation. She is very up front about the difficulty, patience, and trial and error involved in such an endeavor, both empathizing with any stumblings the reader might experience and providing reassurance that both having and naming them is permissible.

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One of the best new book releases of the last couple of weeks is:

Love, Henri:
Letters on the Spiritual Life

Henri Nouwen

Gabrielle Earnshaw, Editor
Hardback: Convergent Books, 2016
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Read the editor’s preface to this collection, and Brene Brown’s foreword:

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Enjoy Slowly and Attentively

A Feature Review of 

The Spirituality of Wine
Gisela Kreglinger

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2016
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Reviewed by Jeff Nelson

My first encounter with this book came about a month before I agreed to review it. While attending the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, a friend and I attended an after-hours wine and cheese party hosted by Eerdmans. As we walked in to the gathering, a woman—presumably the author—was reading an excerpt from The Spirituality of Wine to help set the mood for the evening, which was a relaxed time of enjoying food, conversation, and, of course, wine.

I regret that I didn’t make it a point to introduce myself to the author that night, but I remember the event being a time of joy and fellowship. At least partial credit, I think, could be given to the provided beverages. As I read this work, I naturally recalled that evening’s festivities, as they embodied much of what she describes over the course of the book.

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A Rare and Generous Gift

A Feature Review of 

Wild in the Hollow:
On Chasing Desire and Finding The Broken Way Home
Amber Haines

Hardback: Revell, 2015
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Reviewed by Matt Bays
We autopilot through our twenties on the fumes of our adolescence. Breakdowns are just around the next bend in the road—sin crouching, waiting on us to sleep with someone who doesn’t belong to us, or take up an addiction we thought we were immune to. I’m convinced that in our twenties there are two people inside each of us—the broken down twenty-something who’s waiting to be beautiful, while our future-self painfully paints our faces with the truth.

For those of us who’ve grown up in church circles, we got it honest. Because self-awareness isn’t on the “fruits of the spirit” list, most religious institutions never taught us how to take a good look inside.

“…people go to church to discuss how fabulous they are,” author Amber C. Haines tells us in Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home.

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Longing For Pilgrimage

A Review of 

A World Transformed: Exploring the World of Medieval Spirituality
Lisa Deam

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2015.
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Reviewed by Ellen Mandeville
With Jerusalem and Jesus’ crucifixion at its center, the Hereford Map orients East at the top, England in the lower left, and monsters at the edges. Created around the year 1300, it depicts the history, geography, and destiny of the world according to medieval Christianity. A single sheet of vellum measuring 5’ 2” high by 4’ 4” wide displays its artistry.  The original viewers were pilgrims to England’s Hereford Cathedral, some of whom made the pilgrimage annually. Hereford Cathedral still displays the map year round.

Lisa Deam holds a Ph.D. in medieval art from Chicago University. Attempting to maintain a scholarly eye while writing her dissertation on the Hereford Map, Deam discovered “that there was really no way to separate medieval art from medieval faith and spirituality — and from my own faith.” (1)  The crossroads of Deam’s scholarly work and her Christian faith has resulted in, A World Transformed: Exploring the World of Medieval Spirituality.

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Entering the Night

A Review of

Gifts of the Dark Wood: Seven Blessings for Soulful Skeptics (and other wanderers)
Eric Elnes

Paperback: Abingdon, 2015
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Reviewed by Michelle Wilbert.
Not long after I completed my education and training in spiritual direction, I found myself inexplicably launched on an uninvited foray into what St. John of the Cross called, “The Dark Night of the Soul” experience. After more than three years of intense exploration, immersion and formation in response to a convincing sense of call to the vocation of spiritual direction, I suddenly found myself mired in doubt, anxiety and a sense of utter bewilderment surrounding the idea—now seeming like utter folly–that I had anything to offer a spiritual pilgrim seeking guidance.  Mind, not only did I receive a top notch education in the discipline but ongoing discernment of “call” was central to the process and I was under the direction of experienced Jesuit Priests and educated and experienced lay leaders—in short, I had been thoroughly vetted and was graduated from my program with the assumption of a clear charism in spiritual direction.  Yet, only months later, in Dante’s familiar words: “In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in a Dark Wood where the true way was wholly lost.”  And it was a very dark wood indeed. While sparing the gory details, suffice it to say that I entered an immersion experience of darkness and doubt that nearly destroyed me spiritually and emotionally.  I was well and truly lost, and it took an exceptionally long and torturous time to locate and live into the light and blessings this challenge presented to me–the “Gifts of the Dark Wood” that I now understand to have been an absolutely necessary “Vision Quest” without which I couldn’t possibly have done the work that had been given me to do.

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Come Listen. Come Learn.

A Review of 

A Faithful Farewell: Living Your Last Chapter With Love
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015
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Reviewed by Brandon Waite


My first night as an on-call chaplain, I came to know how little I know.

I’m a seminary grad, so it’s not as if I know nothing about matters of ultimate concern. I can speak of pain and suffering, death and dying, theodicy and providence as ancillary pieces of the grander theological project. I can define the terms and review the books. I can document sources and fill up pages, if that’s what it takes to make the grade.

But as my body lay taught and shivering under the cheap hospital blankets my first night in the chaplains’ on-call room—praying for a night of silence and peace—I realized how little those words have to do with the work of this place. When I of speak of death and dying here, amidst the acrid mix of sanitized countertops overfull bedpans, I speak in abstraction and jargon, the foreign tongue of a distant land.
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The Joy of God’s Companionship

A Feature Review of

Leisure and Spirituality: Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Perspectives (Engaging Culture Series)
Paul Heintzman

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2015
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Reviewed by Ben Simpson
In the past week, I have exercised at my local YMCA, listened to Wilco’s new Star Wars album, watched Sporting Kansas City play the Houston Dynamo to a 1-1 draw, listened to Kansas City Royals baseball, and undertaken two home improvement projects. I have read books and enjoyed time with friends and family. That is a small sample of what I have done while at leisure.

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There is no scarcity. There is no shortage.

A Feature Review of

Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering
Rosemarie Freeney Harding with Rachel Elizabeth Harding

Paperback: Duke University Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Ric Hudgens

Near the end of this utterly unique mother-daughter memoir Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930-2004) writes: “Grandma Rye and those old Africans put something in the ground. When they got here, they stepped off those boats, chained up and weary. They looked around at this new land and they could see the heartbreak and suffering that were waiting for them and their generation. They saw these traumas waiting for us here. And they knew we were going to need something strong. Some medicine. Some spirit medicine to carry us through these storms.”
Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering is a record of Harding’s journey, the journey of a generation, in drawing upon that spirit medicine as a resource for healing and transformation. Harding is perhaps not as well known as her husband Dr Vincent Harding (1931-2014) and yet this volume is a testament to the individuality of her creative imagination, her deep mystical spirit, and the core of her sacred activism. She was an organizer, teacher, social worker, and co-founder of the Veterans of Hope Project at the Iliff School of Theology.
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