Tables in the Wilderness - A Spiritual Memoir

Spiritual memoirs are my favorite genre right now, especially when I read snippets of the journeys of others that help me put words to my own.  Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, is Preston Yancey’s  journey of a faith that fell apart and what he found through the loss as he fit pieces back together. 

Preston claims to be a lifelong Texan-raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality.  This resonated with me, and I was really looking forward to identifying with his journey, especially since I have recently wrestled with changes in the meaning and practice of my faith at mid-life.  I was a little disappointed to find out Preston is fresh out of college, still in his 20’s.  However, even though his spiritual struggle takes place during his college years at Baylor University, I could relate to the way he found the God who is bigger and more mysterious than he ever thought.  

Preston writes in a style that connects, feeling like a friend sharing his story, albeit a somewhat annoying friend that you tolerate when they get on their high horse or go through spells of feeling whiny or emotional.  He is real and raw.  I would be especially interested in reading how he would reinterpret his journey 25 years from now and where his faith carries him.

I would recommend this book to those who are interested in reading spiritual memoirs, who have wrestled with their own faith and are interested in seeing how others have wrestled and thrived.  I would not recommend this book for the person who feels lost and is looking for answers. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Beyond Grocery-List Prayers

Praying is the key discipline to spiritual growth and gradual transformation, but do you ever feel like your default prayer mode is like bringing a grocery list to God?  Sometimes we struggle with how to pray meaningfully.  I have found that written prayers are a springboard for deepening my prayer life, especially when they also inspire and intertwine with my own spontaneous prayers.  I found an excellent praying catalyst in Kurt Bjorklund’s prayer book Prayers for Today: A Yearlong Journey of Contemplative Prayer

In this book, each day of prayer begins with a Scripture to pray, guiding us to think and pray God’s thoughts after Him.  Following the Scriptural prayer, he provides a prayer written or recited from classical and contemporary sources, many of which I found resonated with me, giving expression to the longings of my heart and soul.  At the bottom of the page, he supplies a prayer for today that prompts spontaneous prayer and reflection, digging into your own personal life and thoughts and turning them over to God.

Each day/page includes a few different styles of prayer, but Bjorklund also categorizes the prayers so that within each day, we focus on a single, particular type of prayers - thanksgiving, confession, affirmation, petition, renewal, praise, guidance, surrender, etc.  I found myself praying new things that I had never prayed before.  If you are looking for a way to revitalize your prayer life, this book provides the means to connecting with God on the great themes of His Word so that you can get to His heart and so that your heart reflects His.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Press in exchange for my honest review.

Loss and Love

As a parent, you try to do everything to protect your child to keep them safe, yet allowing them to spread their wings and practice moments of courage and bravery so that they can eventually leave the nest and soar.  When they are young, you teach them kindness, goodness, and integrity.  You protect them by locking up your cleaning supplies, teaching them not to take candy from strangers, and monitoring their internet usage.  You wonder if you are doing enough.  You feel like if you follow all the rules and do the right things, life should be good.

Regardless of how much you try to control, you find out you really have very little it.  In a moment, it can all slip away, leaving you questioning if you did it all wrong, if you did enough, if you should have done it differently.  You learn that you love the child you have been given, not the child you thought you would have.  You love, but as time passes, you learn to love well.

Anna Whiston-Donaldson, mother, writer, and blogger, experienced one of a mother’s worst nightmares.  She followed all the rules to protecting her children without smothering.  It was a warm day at the end of summer, and she let her children play with the neighborhood children in the rain. 

Anna tells her story in Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love.  Her 12-year-old son, who was cautious and always followed the rules, was swept away in a raging creek, a creek that she had never warned her children about, a creek that was usually dry and had never given an inkling of a threat, a creek that grew into a monstrous raging river that day during a 150-year rain event.      

Anna’s story is also a journey of her faith in Christ – not a fluffy, shallow story about how He carried her through and gave her all the strength she needed, though He did.  She tells a story sharing her raw grief, emotions, and changes over the next year as their family dynamics were forever altered on this side of heaven.  She writes with heart and poise, gifted with words to evoke the reader to share the journey with her.  In the middle of her grief, she also shares her glimpses of hope, love, encouragement.

I found this book to be utterly heart-wrenching as well as enlightening.  I hope never to experience such depths of despair, but I do hope to be able to learn from others without having to endure it myself.  She helped me to understand what others may need in their times of grief, to know what is ‘normal’ as one grieves, and proves that after the darkness can come the dawn. (I received a complimentary copy of this book from Convergent Books in exchange for my honest review.)