Walking on Water: Faith and Doubt in the Christian Life,by Wayne Brouwer (CRC Publications, 135 pp.; $9.50, paper);

Hear Me, O God: Meditations on the Psalms,by Wayne Brouwer (CRC Publications, 303 pp.; $12.85, paper). Reviewed by Phyllis Ten Elshof, news editor of the Banner.

Finding time for devotions last fall seemed impossible. In addition to working full-time as an editor, I taught a college course. Between lesson plans and work deadlines, I barely had time for meals, much less luxuriating in Scripture.

Not that Bible reading wasn't important. I have always tried to carve out space for personal Bible study. Over the years I have done Bethel Bible Study, Bible Study Fellowship, church Bible study, and Bible correspondence courses. I have plugged the Bible on tape into my walking routine, listened to it in the car, sung it to my children, and memorized it while scrubbing the house.

Perhaps the most precious time I spent with the Bible was four years ago, when I was recuperating from cancer surgery. During the two-week hiatus from work, I'd often settle into a recliner in a warm patch of morning sun and immerse myself in Scripture.

I thought back on that time of healing, regretting that I had since allowed life to crank into overdrive. Here I was again, scrabbling for seconds of quality time with the Lord. How could I find them?

While drying my hair one morning, I had an epiphany. I shoved aside the novel I had been reading and reached for the devotional Walking on Water. I positioned the book and the Bible to the left of my curling iron and started reading. In the 20 minutes it took to blow-dry and curl my hair, I had worked through Scripture, devotional, and prayer. Minutes later I was off to work, body and soul prepped to take on the day.

Mind you, it wasn't the quick-read quality of this devotional by Wayne Brouwer, pastor of Harderwyk Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, that prompted me to purchase the book. What had piqued my interest was the subtitle: "Faith and Doubt in the Christian Life." At the time I was struggling through a long wilderness of unanswered prayer regarding a family problem. I didn't doubt God's power to answer the prayers that I had flung heavenward. But I did doubt his willingness to answer. And I had serious questions about his grace and lovingkindness. "What kind of a father is he to answer pleas for bread with a stone of silence?" I asked.

Walking on Water validates such questions. Doubts, honestly expressed before God, free us, Brouwer says. They set us on a journey that can ultimately nudge us back to faith.

The book tells how to mine jewels from our treasurehouse of dreams, memories, and experiences. "Remember the kindness, the forgiveness, the tenderness, and care," Brouwer says. "Remember God's grace—and transform that memory into your future."

When the pain of enduring God's silence becomes excruciating, Brouwer suggests, we should ask ourselves four questions to focus our faith: How large is our world? (Bigger than one person who cries for relief.) How rich is my spirit? (Christianity isn't a comfortable religion; when I experience pain it doesn't mean God has let me down.) How long is my view? (Sometimes the healing of our hurts starts only when we find another song to sing.) And how true is my God? (Maybe our picture of God isn't true to life.)

"We have dark emotions, moody thoughts," Brouwer writes. "But we don't live in them. That's not where we find our truest selves. We live in the heights, as Paul says. We find the best of ourselves in praise and joy and laughter. We find ourselves in the worship of our God."

The one thing I found disconcerting in Walking on Water was skipping round the Bible; the book was the structure into which Scripture fit rather than the other way round. Hear Me, O God, the next Brouwer devotional that I read, offers a more satisfying progression through Scripture, starting with Psalm 1 and ending with Psalm 150.

All of the psalms save four have fewer than 50 verses—which, along with a meditation, neatly fit my hair-grooming time slot. And their heart-rending pleas for God's deliverance and soaring testimonials to God's grace were balm for the soreness in my spirit.

At times Brouwer includes too many illustrations (each two-page meditation includes three or more anecdotes), even if they are like pearls well-strung together. But each meditation was engaging enough to keep me going. And many were profound enough for future reference. Perhaps the greatest gift that Hear Me, O God gave me, though, was the encouragement to move beyond the uncertainty in which psalmists lingered to the blessed assurance that God has already answered our prayers in his Son, who saves us in life as well as death.

"Worship and praise don't come naturally to us," Brouwer writes. "But when the Child lights up the darkness with his laughter, even the wild creatures in us want to dance!"

Someday I hope I won't have to squeeze devotions into the corners of my life. For now, however, Brouwer's books are a great way to get the day off and running.

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