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For those who do not travel alone

by
27 June 2011

John Kiddle considers three guides on the path of discipleship

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A Faithful Heart: Daily guide for joyful living
Sally Dyck

Abingdon Press £7.99
(978-1-426-70998-2)
Church Times Bookshop £7.20

Facing the Darkness and Finding the Light
David Winter
BRF £6.99
(978-1-84101-835-5)
Church Times Bookshop £6.30

Love Upside Down: Life, love and the subversive Jesus
Steven Ogden
O Books £9.99
(978-1-84694-546-5)
Church Times Bookshop £9

THREE BOOKS, three companions for a journey. Though strikingly different from each other in style and direction, they are all short and written out of experience and reflection, and invite the reader to go deeper in faith and further in discipleship.

A Faithful Heart: Daily guide for joyful living is an eight-week jour­ney with a warm, wise, and encour­aging companion. Sally Dyck, a bishop in the United Methodist Church in the United States, offers a verse from scripture and a thought for each day, together with ques­tions for the reader’s own reflections and space to write them down. There are also group-discussion ques­tions at the end of each week’s chapter.

This is a practical and a gentle book. It takes its shape and direc­tion from an exploration of the person and faithful heart of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This makes the book both familiar and challenging. It feels like a stroll through a small and well-loved garden that some­times unexpectedly opens into new and broader fields of colour and beauty. It is about an inner journey, but one that leads into the world and is alongside others.

A faithful heart is, as Dyck puts it, “one that is willing to stretch”. She has written “to encour­age women to grow and share their heart”, but her warmth and sense will appeal to all.

Love Upside Down: Life, love and the subversive Jesus by Steve Ogden is no garden stroll: more a bumpy walk through a crowded dusty street. The Principal of St Francis’ Theological College, Brisbane, has written a gritty and challenging book about life and love in today’s world and today’s Church. Love is about seeing people and the world differently. Love is embracing creation, engaging with difference, and putting people before principle.

This is not a gentle book: it is sometimes angry and often uncomfortable. It is not primarily about the life of Jesus, but about the “quirky kingdom of God” today. It is personal: Ogden’s testimony to what love means to a man ex­plor­ing vulnerability, to a priest in and out of love with the Church, and to an Anglican struggling for a truly inclusive celebration of love — “the queer banquet”, as he deliber­ately describes it.

It has something of a slow and repetitive start, and there is a hint of self-righteousness, but it is well worth reading. What is most attract­ive about it, and in the end most engaging, is that it is ultimately about the radical difference that love brings to people, the Church, and the world.

Facing the Darkness and Finding the Light by David Winter is a book of “reflections for troubled times from the book of Revelation”. There are really two journeys here: into the dreams, symbols, and strange images of the Revelation of St John, and into the suffering and struggles of life and the world. It is Winter’s assertion that one brings light to the darkness of the other.

Probably one of the best-known Christian writers in the UK, he takes the reader through the visions and mystery of Revelation with clarity and assurance. He has written a brief but valuable guide, which includes thoughtful questions for group discussion.

Winter’s observations are insight­ful, and he does indeed shed “light in the darkness” as he seeks to ad­dress the big questions to be faced personally and globally: our fears and our suffering. His under­stand­ing, experience, and pastoral heart are evident. The problem, however, is that not all answers are found in Revelation, and some of the answers raise other big questions: for example, “ultimately God is in control.”

Facing the Darkness and Finding the Light is a kind and thoughtful companion to the last book of the Bible; it opens the reader’s eyes not just to the visions and images in Revelation, but also to the fears, pain, and questions of life.

Canon John Kiddle is Officer for Mission and Development in the diocese of St Albans.

JO SAXTON’s Real God, Real Life is based on a Soul Survivor seminar series, aimed at helping people to grow in godliness, while taking account of the busyness of daily life (Hodder & Stoughton, £11.99 (£10.80); 978-0-340-99527-3).

JO SAXTON’s Real God, Real Life is based on a Soul Survivor seminar series, aimed at helping people to grow in godliness, while taking account of the busyness of daily life (Hodder & Stoughton, £11.99 (£10.80); 978-0-340-99527-3).

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