The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2020
W. David O. Taylor
Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2020
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Reading the Psalms, we eavesdrop on prayers to “a very particular God, not a generic deity”; these cries grant us courage to topple gods of our own making (45-46). As our lips form prayers, and our heart is formed by them, “the psalms provide us with an edited poetic language to give expression to our unedited emotions. Their structure frees us to ‘let it all out’ in faithful ways” (51).
We need not fear where this free speech leads. Lament is not a road to ruin, but a pathway to wholeness. “When nothing makes sense, the lament psalms give coherence to the incoherence of our world” (84).
And as Taylor makes plain throughout, whether we exhale lament or praise, cry with longing or bellow complaints of injustice, our words come in relationship with a God that, on some level, we believe hears and talks back.
The more our lives reflect the Psalms, the more poetic they become. And, contrary to popular perception, this poetry roots us in the stuff of earth—in real feelings, real concerns, real motion toward Christlikeness. We grow in our awareness of God and all his good gifts. “This is because poets, like God, love the details of life” (64).
“At its best, good poetry makes the familiar, strange, and the strange, familiar,” Taylor writes. “As a work of poetry, the psalms make what is familiar to us about God, life, faith, and prayer strange again, reminding us that these things cannot be domesticated or absolutely mastered. But they also make the things that are strange to us—like God, life, faith, prayer—familiar again, reminding us that these are things we can know and do” (70).
- from our review of Open and Unafraid
by Aarik Danielsen
*** WATCH a video clip by the author …