21 February 2011

Nancy Guthrie trio

First it was Marilynne Robinson.  And now for another excellent trio of books.  Nancy Guthrie has edited three excellent anthologies, each for a different season.

The first is Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, the collection of Christmas readings reviewed here. I loved, loved, LOVED reading this wonderful little book during Advent.  The readings were short, which is always helpful during December!  Every aspect of the Christmas story was covered, each reading prefaced by its relevant Scripture.  What a joy to learn about Christmas in such interesting detail and marvel at Immanuel on a daily basis during this busiest of months.

It certainly helped to keep my head and heart in the Right place - more effectively than any other year I can remember - in what is the hurly-burly of December.  This book would be useful for ministers, Sunday School and Scripture teachers...anyone who gets to teach through the Christmas story each year as it provides plenty of fresh angles to take.  And it is useful for anyone who wants to be reminded all through Advent why we stop and wonder at God's goodness on 25th December each year.

The second collection I read is called Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering.  As the title suggests, this is an anthology of 25 classic and contemporary readings for the season of suffering.  The book is divided into three sections - God's perspective on suffering, God's purpose in suffering and God's provision in suffering. 

It works on the premise that suffering will happen - to us personally and generally in our midst.  We ought not to be shocked by this.  And that great comfort and blessings are to be found in suffering when in our weakness we become strong in Him, as we learn to lean on and trust in and depend upon God in our times of trials and as our faith is tested during these times.  Nancy Guthrie is no stranger to loss and suffering, having lost two infant children to a rare genetic disorder.  She can deliver this anthology with integrity.

I have to say that I feel perfectly positioned to review this particular book.  (Now there's a bold statement!)  It's the sort of book that is excellent to read during the good times in order to instruct and prepare heart, mind, body and soul for a godly response to suffering when it comes.  And I started reading it at the very best of times - just towards the end of the long summer holidays, feeling refreshed and relaxed and at my most hopeful and optimistic for the year...you know, life before the committees and commitments start up again and you think you will be conquering dragons this year given all this energy and spare time you seem to have.

I found myself well taught as I started making my way through this book and wondered how well it would translate into a book that actually provides comfort and perspective during a time of suffering.  As it happened, halfway through the book my circumstances changed and I found myself at least on the edges of a situation of substantial suffering.  I kept reading.  It was a great comfort.  It worked, not unlike the Advent book, keeping my head and heart in the Right place during a difficult time.  This book is a profoundly useful resource.

The third member of this trio is Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter.  Now I haven't actually read this book.  I am saving it for the four to six weeks leading up to Easter this year.  But here is my second bold statement for this post...I warmly commend this book to you even though I haven't read it.  Go and get yourself a copy - and get one for a friend as well.  At one level I wonder whether it will have quite the same impact on me as the Advent book did.  The lead up to Easter is much less busy and Easter naturally invites quiet reflection.  But the line up of contributors is as good as ever so there is no reason to expect anything but good to come of diving into this collection as Easter approaches.   

In thinking about all three anthologies it is worth noting that some readings will resonate more than others because of style of language, points of emphasis, personal experience and understanding - but they are truly worthwhile volumes.  The other benefit is that they provide a snapshot of a wide range of great writers, theologians and preachers, which may prompt further reading if you find someone new to you who sparks some interest.

I have been twice bold in this post and as it turns out, once misleading. In clicking on Nancy Guthrie's website I have discovered that this trio is about to become a quartet.  Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God is set to be released later this month.  But that is a BIG topic for another day.


Mrs. Edwards said...

Thank you, Meredith, for this tip. I would love to get the Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross book to read this Lenten season.

Meredith said...

I hope you are able to get yourself a copy. I am pretty confident it's going to be great.