Book Review Feed

Growing Slowly Wise--Book Review

Large Growing Slowly Wise: Building a Faith that Works. David Roper, (Discovery House, 2000).

For more than a decade I have been involved in leading various weekly early morning men’s groups, and out of all the excellent spiritual books that the men and I have worked through together, none can compare to David Roper’s book, Growing Slowly Wise.  This book plunges the reader directly into the Biblical book of James and focuses upon the idea of a holiness of heart and life—that works.  It makes an effective connection between the pragmatic writings of James and the issues of holy living in the very real moments of life.

Roper’s comments and reflections on the message of James resonate out of over thirty years of pastoring, a lifetime of biblical study and a knack for presenting and communicating the Word of God in a subtle, yet compelling manner that leads one to a response.  Roper knows what it is to live the adventurous life of faith and he is able to lead others in this way as they are in the midst of regular lifetime activities. 

The key idea in Roper’s book is that all of us, in heart and life, are being formed in Christ and this formation takes place in the continual instances of day-to-day living.  As Christians interact with the questions, challenges, joys and struggles of life in relation to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, growth happens—growth that manifests itself in wisdom, holy living and a “beautiful” life.  It is within this life of beauty and holiness that the gospel picture of hope and love resides and is realized by a seeking world.  Roper does a masterful job of taking the “faith that works” of James and melding it with a faith that resides in God at the deepest levels of the human heart. 
Every chapter of Growing Slowly Wise is a pragmatic look at the living message in the book of James.  Roper’s comments and insights into the scripture serve to focus the reader upon aspects of the message that are most relevant to current life and holy living.  It is an approach to the Word that rests upon the idea that the message of the Bible is dynamic and is guiding the reader to respond obediently to the grace of God at work in their life.

Upon completion of Roper’s book, Growing Slowly Wise, the reader is left with a sense of awe.   There is a mature aspect of wisdom and a poetic element of insight in Roper’s words that combine with the powerful words of scripture in the book of James to create a sense of confidence in the fact that the daily lives of believers are to be worked out in the very hopeful realm of faith.  Roper’s words remind us that holiness in life is realized in response to God’s leadings in the midst of the minute by minute dynamic of life.  It is a slow process of growth, but the result is an aspect of wisdom in relationships and an essence of holiness in life that is well worth the wait. 

A Traveler Toward the Dawn--Book Review

0829406476 A Traveler Toward the Dawn:  The Spiritual Journal of John Eagan, S.J., John Eagan, ed. William J. O’Malley, S.J. (Loyola University Press, 1990).

A Traveler Toward the Dawn by John Eagan is one of the most treasured books on my bookshelf.  I have read this book at least five or six times and I just finished reading it again.  This is a book that has been extremely formative in my life.  It is not a popular book and looking back I have no recollection as to how I ever came across this book.  I know that I read it for the first time in the early 1990s and I know that I gleaned its title from the bibliography of another book that I was reading at the time.  The copy of the book that I currently have in my possession is not my original copy.  My original, marked up, tear stained copy is most likely sitting on a bookshelf in an office or a study of one of my friends.  I have purchased many copies of this book and have passed them along to a number of people over the years.

This morning, as I read the final paragraph of the book and closed the back cover, I had to take a few moments to reflect, pray and weep.  The story between the covers of A Traveler Toward the Dawn deeply touches my heart.  It is the story and spiritual journal of John Eagan, a Jesuit Priest of the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, who spent most of his life teaching high school students and guiding them along in their spiritual journeys.   

John Eagan’s life was not only one of service unto high school students and a commitment to the life of being a Jesuit Priest but it was also the life of one who was hard after God.  John Eagan was a seeker and a finder of God.  In my earlier readings of this book I found appealing the connection between the very real life and heart of this man and his dynamic journey with his very immanent and loving Heavenly Father.  This book was my first experience with terms like liturgy, daily office, contemplative prayer and spiritual direction, and it was my first exposure to the concepts of liberation theology and to the thoughts of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. 

I return again and again to this book because in John Eagan’s spiritual journal I find an honest account of a very ordinary person’s journey in Christ.  In his writing I find a pilgrim who travels with the Lord through the desolation and the beauty of this world and of his own heart.  As he wrestles with the issues of self-centeredness, the passage of time and the unrelenting reality of change, he is ever looking to God, desiring more and more of the Lover of his soul, and throughout his journey he finds God faithful.  This book has greatly impacted my pilgrimage to God and I suspect, if given the chance, I will read it again as I travel toward the dawn.

The Memory of Old Jack--Book Review

Old_jack I just recently finished reading the book, The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry.  I was looking for a thoughtful and heartwarming read and I was not disappointed with this book by Berry. This is the second book in Berry’s fiction series that is based in the imagined farming community of Port William.  The first one I read by Berry was the very satisfying book titled, Jayber Crow.

Without spoiling the book, The Memory of Old Jack takes place in a small farming community at the tail end of the 1800s.  The story is about the land, farming, hard work, relationships and the unique treasure of people.  The story is a collage of memories of an old man and a life well lived.  Throughout the book is realized the “beauty” of God’s creation in the form of work, agricultural living, farm animals and relationships.  This book is full of practical wisdom that has been lived and learned the hard way.

As one who grew up on a farm and who has always been fascinated by the wisdom of the aged and the artistry of work, I found Berry’s book deeply satisfying.  Throughout The Memory of Old Jack I found my memory quickened with recollections that surfaced in the form of reminiscent tears.  In the work gnarled hands and the tapping cane of Old Jack I could see my great grandfather and in Old Jack’s encouraging words and commitment to family I could see my grandfather who was not only committed to caring for and looking in on his brothers and sisters but who was also available to love and mentor me, his only grandson.

In Berry’s book is realized the beauty of human life and also the banality of living.  Life is not perfect and this reality is evident in Berry’s story line and characters in the novel.  For a piece of fiction, this book is a very real depiction of life as some have known it to be.  It is the real moments of life, the good and the bad, that make up what are considered life memories.  It is these types of memories that are touched upon in Berry’s book, The Memory of Old Jack.  It is a novel that I recommend to you as a book of memories from long ago that you will remember.