Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review of 40 day Journey with Howard Thurman

Edited by Donna Schaper

ISBN 978-0806657691

Published by Augsburg Fortress

Review by Clint Walker

Howard Thurman is one of my favorite leaders and thinkers of the twentieth century. He was a social activist, a theologian, and a pastor. He wrote over twenty books, and he was respected around the world. Thurman was an inspiration to leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., who was known to take Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited with him wherever he went. Much of the civil rights movement was based on his thinking. He lived from 1899 to 1981. His impact is underappreciated by most. He was a man ahead of his time.

In recent years, Augsburg Fortress has tried to gather snippets of the work of well-respected Christian thinkers and leaders from contemporary times and history. They then took these snippets and placed them into a devotional based on that person’s work. Included are luminaries such as Luther and Julian of Norwich, as well as more recent leaders like Parker Palmer and Kathleen Norris. Howard Thurman was selected as one of the people whose work would be guiding people’s spiritual reflections. The result is the book entitled 40-Day Journey with HowardThurman.

The 40-DayJourney with Howard Thurman is organized in an intelligent manner. Each day has a paragraph or two from a sermon, essay, or book by Howard Thurman. Then a Scripture is shared that relates to the quote. After some time for silence, the reader is given a few questions to help guide the readers thinking about the issues that Thurman presents in his writing. Then there is a Psalm reading, and some further questions to guide a reader that wants to go deeper by journaling as they work their way through this book. The day’s devotional guide then concludes with a couple of prayers for the reader to recite. By organizing the 40-Day Journey in this manner, this devotional is helpful for those who want to go deep in their theological reflection, as well as those who don’t have time to be as thoughtful and contemplative.

I thought the actual selections in 40-Day Journey with Howard Thurman were well-chosen, although I did enjoy some days more than others. What impresses me as I read through the whole book is just how contemporary Thurman sounds, even though he was born 112 years ago. His writing speaks both to issues in these times, and to the state of his readers’ hearts and souls.

This book is an excellent primer to the work of Howard Thurman, as well as a great book for further reflection on Thurman’s work for Howard Thurman admirers. I would recommend it quickly to friends, and especially to friends who are interested in theology and recent history.

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