Monday, February 8, 2016
Book Review: Valley of Vision
I could see how people might be intimidated by Valley of Vision. Why? Two reasons. First, it is a collection of poems. Some people do really love poetry, the experience of reading--feeling--a poem. But others not so much. Some poems can be really hard to unpack and understand. Sometimes poems leave you feeling disconnected, like you just can't relate. Second, all of the poems are by Puritans. Within some Christian circles, there's a celebration--an appreciation--of Puritans. So the fact that this book is a collection of Puritan authors will be cause of rejoicing for some. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that Puritans have--on the whole--a bad reputation. Whenever I see a stereotypical Puritan in fiction, I cringe!
Though I was a little worried by the poetry aspect of this book, I was excited about the Puritan aspect!!! I decided to "risk" it and ask for Valley of Vision as a Christmas present with the hope that it would be a TREASURE that I'd want to read and reread.
Essentially I want my review to carry across the point: DON'T BE INTIMIDATED; READ THIS BOOK!
The book is divided into ten thematic sections:
1) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
2) Redemption and Reconciliation
3) Penitence and Deprecation
4) Needs and Devotions
5) Holy Aspirations
6) Approach to God
7) Gifts of Grace
8) Service and Ministry
10) A Week's Shared Prayers
Some sections are longer than others--feature more poems that is. And you might notice some overlap in the themes. All themes, in my opinion, could be filed under "Christian Living" or "Theology."
What should you know? A few things. One. All the poems are presented anonymously. Arthur Bennett includes a bibliographical list of books he referenced, but that is it. We simply do not know who wrote what. Does that matter? Yes and no. Yes, in that I would love to be able to read more from my favorites. No, in that it doesn't change the goodness--the greatness--of the book. You don't get distracted from the main point: the worship of God.
Two. The poems are relevant. Yes, I want to say that emphatically. The poems ARE relevant. Human nature hasn't changed all that much. We struggle. We sin. We doubt. We believe. We repent. We confess. We pray. We praise. We rejoice and give thanks. We seek. We bow down. We testify. The poems reflect who we are as believers. But our humanity is never the focus of the poems. The poems ARE God-centered, God-focused. Each poem points you to God. Each poem is theologically rich--substantive. I never felt detached from the poems. There was a connection.
Three. This would make a wonderful devotional. If you're looking to preach the gospel to yourself daily, then this is a GREAT place to start. For no matter the "theme" in the section you're reading, you're reminded again and again of the gospel.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible