by Edward Fudge
July – August, 2006
Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life, by Darryl Tippens (Leafwood Publishers, 2006), available at [http://www.leafwoodpublishers.com] or by phone toll-free (in USA) at 1-877-816-4455.
“Christianity is far more than a set of beliefs or a compelling intellectual vision; it is also a comprehensive way of life.” This premise both motivates and informs author Darryl Tippens, who in his delightful new book Pilgrim Heart presents “an invitation to consider afresh what it means to live like Jesus.” Even the Gospel of John, he notes, which so clearly emphasizes believing, practically begins and ends with Jesus’ personal call: “Follow me.” This call is reflected in the subtitle to Pilgrim Heart – “The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life.”
Tippens, whose present professional position is Provost of Pepperdine University, cheerfully acknowledges the place of the intellect in the life of faith. Indeed, “In the Bible, heart involves thinking as well as emotion.” But this is no apathetic intellect, no mind devoid of emotion, no reasoning as a stranger to passion. “It is impossible,” writes Tippens, “to please God without stirring and drawing upon the emotions of the heart.”
Tippens’ vision of discipleship is not only human and personal; it is dynamic, earthy, and social. Biblical faith is embodied in a journey, Tippens insists, not in the clouds but here on the ground. It is a pilgrimage of people living in human bodies, experiencing “passion, tears and laughter” in company with others on the same journey with Jesus. “A faithful heart is always a passionate pilgrim heart,” Tippens concludes, “ever on the road, ever moving forward – searching for understanding, seeking the face of God.”
What does such a life look like? In answer Tippens offers 14 “practices of the pilgrim heart” – Emptying, Welcoming, Resting, Befriending, Confessing, Forgiving, Listening, Discerning, Singing, Creating, Feasting, Reading and Storytelling, Suffering, Seeking. His discussions of these “practices” (or “disciplines”) share wisdom distilled from Tippens’ own spiritual travels, richly flavored with an encyclopedic range of quotations from such ancient pilgrims as Augustine, Aquinas, Lady Julian and Gregory the Great as well as modern writers including Bonhoeffer, Merton, Nouwen, Foster and L’Engle. Each chapter is intimate in tone and eminently practical, leaving no doubt what the particular “practice” involves for us here and now, the hazards it avoids and the blessings it affords.
The journey begins with Emptying, Tippens says. This involves relinquishing dependence on and attachment to possessions, power and prestige – all the false securities we naturally seek to insulate ourselves from pain and problems. Such emptying is counterintuitive and is possible only by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who himself emptied himself at enormous personal risk to become one of us.
Such emptying prepares us for Welcoming. This is Tippens’ word for holy hospitality, again following the steps of Jesus. Because Jesus has extended hospitality to us (a metaphor for divine grace), “we imitate our Savior by opening our homes, our lives, our checkbooks and our hearts to others.”
Resting means recognizing the God-ordained rhythm of created life. By practicing solitude we are refreshed and actually become more productive but resting is not merely a means to an end. It is an acknowledgement of our creatureliness, an imitation again of the Son of God who himself did what he saw the Father do.
Befriending comes next, by which Tippens signifies “the mutual regard and care for souls.” True friendship is costly, for it requires time, distance, compassion and self-sacrifice. Yet there is no greater treasure than a true soul-friend, a priceless and eternal blessing.
Confessing means telling the whole truth and it is complemented by hearing a word of absolution. This does not require an ordained priest but only a true friend. Closely related is Forgiving, a divine activity of which we are beneficiaries and to which we respond by forgiving others who have hurt us.
Listening means “learning to attend,” waiting patiently and expectantly for God to reveal himself to us, to speak to us if only in the unbroken silence. Discerning exercises the gift of wisdom, learning to think with one’s heart, head and imagination.
Singing is perhaps the most neglected spiritual practice, Tippens notes, yet “words of faith set to music convert us, encourage us, console us, sustain us, and take us to heaven’s door.” Creating acknowledges “the truth of beauty” and this awareness prompts an appreciation of all the arts. “Could it be,” this chapter concludes by asking, “that life on this earth is but a reflection of, and a preparation for, the superior, lasting beauty of the world to come?”
Reading and Storytelling are important on the spiritual journey because they remind us who we are, where we are going and Who has called us and is traveling by our side. By regular resort to our narrative “we remember our true story, stay on course, and find our way home.”
Suffering is part of our story and our experience as we follow Jesus. Yet it is “the fire that purifies” and “the wounds of grace” prove redemptive and, strangely, healing. Seeking completes “the end of the journey.” God invites us to seek him with our whole hearts and he promises that those who seek will find.
I am honored to know Darryl Tippens, a humble follower of Jesus who practices what he preaches, and it is a pleasure to recommend with five-star rating this excellent book. If you have a Bible already and can buy one more book, you will not go wrong by obtaining Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life.
Edward Fudge presently practices law with the Houston firm of The Lanier Law Firm, P.C. His mother was born Sybil Short; her parents were missionaries in southern Africa from the 1920s, and she was born and reared in what are now Zambia and Zimbabwe. Her parents were Will and Delia Short, and their story and hers are told in brief in Edward’s book, The Sound of His Voice. His father was Bennie Lee Fudge, a Christian publisher and preacher who influenced a generation of believers in Churches of Christ and Christian Churches through his “Use Your Bible” workbooks for Sunday Schools. Edward is an author of Christian works and a frequent guest speaker at many churches and gatherings, and operates the gracEmail ministry as well as maintaining its Web site, [www.EdwardFudge.com].