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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"A Reflection of God" (Joanna Tulloch)

TITLE: A Reflection of God: Poems, Meditations, Prayer Resources
AUTHOR: Joanna Tulloch
PUBLISHER: Leicestershire, UK: Matador - Troubador Publishing, 2014, (160 pages).

There are many books that purport to be Christian and talks about how to do spirituality and theology about God. They tell us the steps to live well. They describe the points of certain Christian doctrines. They even show us the details behind the theology and the practices from which the theology can inform.What about having the theology and the practice working together more closely? What about letting the informing and the doing supplement each other through reflections? What about letting 101 poems, prayers, and reflections help us to see more of God, as we long to let God reflect us to Him? This is what the book tries to accomplish.

A Methodist lay preacher and a poet for many years, Joanna Tulloch puts together her years of personal devotions and meditations in this self-published book. Right from the start, she invites readers to journey with her in spiritual reflections of faith and hope. This reflection is like a dog that refuses to give up on the bone in the mouth. Part One is "Glimpses of Grace" that comprises thirty poems. The poems urge one to "go forward" without fear; to sing the songs of joy; to respect the beauty of silence; to enter the garden of spirituality to discover hope amid fear of darkness; to learn contentment; to question the purpose of coincidence; to reflect inward matters as well as to be open to God's speaking; and so on.

Part Two continues with forty meditations on Scripture and Icons with a commitment that says: "We Want to See Jesus." Like the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve first existed, Tulloch begins in the garden to remind us about our inner longing for our origins, and to reflect on the theological themes of creation and the fall. Thoughts about the cross, the tree, the wood, and the path of death, and the hard choices of life. There are thoughts on the Apocrypha, the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the Passion, and using symbols and Scripture to help one meditate on Jesus' life. There are many allusions to the gospels, with reflections on the transfiguration, the healing acts, the teachings of Christ, the journey to Gethsemane, and finally back to the garden.

Part Three concludes with thirty prayers and personal thoughts about the world. There are hopes for world unity in love; reflections on violence in our neighbourhoods; how languages can distance us or bring us closer; on the nature of fear;  everyday matters; the mystery and the stories of life; engaged spirituality; commitment; and the place of prayer; plus many others.

The book is a personal work of Tulloch who shares her thoughts and wisdom from both her observations of life as well as the biblical picture of Christ in our spirituality. The book is not DIY spirituality, but an invitation to walk with the author in reflecting God's Truth, and more importantly, seeing God at work in us and in the world. This is what personal reflections ought to be about. Sometimes I feel that Christians and authors have taken the narcissistic route, the self-help method, or the self-indulgent approach to spirituality. I like the reference to St Teresa of Avila's prayer, "It is enough to want to want to love God" which is essentially a very helpful path to contentment. Much of our busyness and ceaseless doing, our inability to rest well, our infatuation to get things done our way, have to do with our sense of restlessness and our tendency to trust ourselves more than God. This book bucks this trend.

Don't read this book like a speed-read program. Savour each page slowly. Let the words remind us of the biblical references and to go back frequently to the Bible for us to do our own reflections. Perhaps, Tulloch's reflections can reinforce, refresh, or even re-examine some of our beliefs. Sometimes, I feel more Christians ought to reflect on God in the way Tulloch has done. Maybe, some of us readers will also be inspired to write their own reflections on God. If that happens, I believe Tulloch will be most pleased.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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