In the introduction to her latest project, editor Evelyn Bence, a fellow FaithfulReader.com contributor, reveals that as a teenager she loved the classic gospel song “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” The words Elvis Presley and Stuart Hamblin sang --- "Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea..." --- helped her personalize the scriptural image of God as companion.
Bence writes, "As I read the Gospel accounts, it's easy to envision sandaled Jesus, surrounded by disciples, trekking from one village to another. I think of Him sometimes teaching, sometimes listening intently, sometimes simply being present among them, maybe singing old-time songs of Zion."
Bence goes on to talk about Jesus' memorable walk with his friends after his resurrection, on the road from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. She points out that "Mysteriously, His friends didn't recognize Him immediately. And in this way they are much like us today --- though Jesus is present in our midst, on our daily walk, do we appreciate or understand who or where He is? Do we glimpse Him walking with us on the road of life?"
In A CLOSER WALK WITH JESUS, Bence has culled through years of Guideposts publications and pulled together a collection of true stories that illustrate how men, women and children have caught glimpses of Jesus in their daily lives. She has divided up these experiences into chapters called Glimpses of Jesus as... Friend and Companion, Savior and Lord, Abiding Presence, Wounded Healer, Guiding Light and Leader, Giver of Life, Our Peace, Mentor and Model, Our Strength for the Journey, and Jesus in One Another.
The list of contributors is also impressive, including Sue Monk Kidd, Olympian Rulon Gardner and Bence herself. Catherine Marshall, widow of the well-known pastor Peter Marshall, contributes a piece called “The Mercy Prayer,” in which she tells the story of her growing awareness of her dependence on God’s mercy.
Marshall writes, “During a wakeful time in the middle of the night, the inner Voice (there is no mistaking it!) forcibly reminded me of the particular words of the promise God had given me on the morning of Peter Marshall’s death back in 1949. It had come as I had been about to leave the hospital room in which my husband’s body lay. Even as I had reached for the doorknob, it was as if a firm hand had stopped me. Then, clearly and emphatically, yet with tenderness combined with surprising power, had come a line from Psalm 23:6: ‘Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’ And now, so many years later, deep in the night, the same Voice was saying, ‘Note that word mercy, Catherine. My goodness, my mercy. That’s what is following you and will surround you to the end of your earthly walk. Lean back on that. Depend on it.’”
Another story in this collection that will be of special interest to many readers is the true tale behind the well-known poem “Footprints.” The work went unattributed for many years, but the author was eventually able to prove that she had written it, and the love story that inspired her creativity is heartwarming.
The entries in A CLOSER WALK WITH JESUS range in length from a few paragraphs to several pages, all of them suitable for quick reading before bed or first thing in the morning. It’s clear that Bence has in mind the idea that the reader will be able to dip into this book for just moments at a time and come away with a bit of perspective and inspiration.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on November 13, 2011