Recently I’ve been following James Emery White on Twitter. I love his thinking and his way with words. White pastors a church in Charlotte, NC and serves as adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell. His most recent book, noted in the title of this blog post, is one that caught my eye immediately. I love traveling (who doesn’t?), and travel is all the more interesting when you have a bit of history that applies to any of your passions. When White offered a free book to those who would review it and blog about it, I jumped on it!
In Traveler’s Guide, White visits places many dream of visiting – The Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford, The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC, and the Dachau Concentration Camp in Dachau, Germany. What makes this traveler’s guide different is that White uses the places as opportunities for discipleship and teaching. For example, when he speaks about The Eagle and Child Pub, he gives you a sort of biography of C. S. Lewis, noting how he came to faith and presenting an overview of some of Lewis’ contributions to Christian thought. When White writes concerning the Iona Abbey in Scotland, he takes time to speak to the heart of the reader with words such as these: The heart of Christian spirituality is to be like Jesus. And to be like Jesus you train. You do the things Jesus did in order to live like Jesus lived. That’s why Jesus once said that “everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). And the apostle Paul wrote, “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26). “Anyone who is not a continual student of Jesus, and who nevertheless reads the great promises of the Bible as if they were for him or her,” writes Dallas Willard, “is like someone trying to cash a check on another person’s account.” The key to a spiritual life is to order your life around those activities, disciplines, and practices that were modeled by Christ in order to accomplish through training what you currently cannot do simply through exposure. ~p. 45.
After reading a chapter or two, you begin to realize this Traveler’s Guide is less about the places (although White gives you a good basic feel for the places in his descriptions) and more about your own spiritual journey. At times — okay, most of the time — the book feels like a devotional book — a pastoral book.
That’s why White’s book is so applicable and so valuable. When speaking of the spiritual depth of the Celts, he provides some suggestions for people who have never developed a spiritual growth pattern. When he writes about Saint Catherine’s Monastery, he spends time recounting some of the biblical events marked by that place, drawing the reader to dig into the biblical text and discover principles for personal spiritual development. He segues from the sacredness of Chartres Cathedral to the sacredness of sexuality. As he speaks of the Billy Graham Library, he speaks of the call God places on each of those who come to faith in Him. He indicates that each person has a “second calling“. His story concerning Mother Theresa’s advice on clarity and trust is, to me, worth the reading of the entire book. His stories of the Ten Boom house in Amsterdam give you a fond appreciation for the Ten Booms — especially for the father of that household. And quite surprisingly, the chapter gives you an appreciation for lice. As the journey takes the reader to Dachau, White addresses the problem of evil and the manner in which God views our questions about the same.
In all of these chapters, White places his pastoral hand on the reader’s heart, working to open the door for the Spirit to mold it into what God wants each to be.
This book was a great read for me and helped me refocus my spiritual path. And as I read, I thought of so many people in my church who would benefit from reading it.
I hope you will.