It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Bill Delvaux taught Men of the Bible classes for two decades at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds degrees from Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is now a full-time speaker and retreat minister. Landmarks is his first book.
* A fresh new voice in contemplative Christian writing sets out nine spiritual markers — letting go of idols, overcoming scars, grasping your identity, etc. — that we must encounter if we are to truly come alive.
* As a respected teacher, Bill Delvaux shows a proven ability to connect with a broad audience ranging from children of well-known musicians (Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman) and pastors to NFL players and coaches.
Visit the author’s website.
The well-worn rut that most of us live in is safe, comfortable . . . some would call it dead. By contrast, coming alive requires a willingness to journey into the unknown. Following Jesus is just such a path — one that takes us deep into His death and then lifts us up into His resurrection.
There are some risks involved, and there are no point A to point B maps. But there are landmarks, places we must pass along the way if we are to keep following Christ into real life.
Landmarks describes these breakthrough places of the heart and mind in the general order in which they tend to show up. Long-time teacher and first-time author Bill Delvaux shares his landmark story and takes readers through nine different spiritual markers that must be encountered in order to live the full life that Jesus has planned for us.
Some of the landmarks include letting go of idols, overcoming scars, walking away from sexual sin, grasping your identity, fighting your battle, bonding with Christ, and choosing God first.
So, if you feel stuck out there on the highway of humanity and need some tried and true spiritual direction, look for Landmarks.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2013)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“Midway along the journey of our life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood For I had wandered off from the straight path.”
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.”
It was a just another typical afternoon on a typical summer day. But not for me. Everything in my life was about to change.
It was my turn to feed our infant daughter. She had been born with some physical issues that made each feeding an hour-long affair, so I had lots of time for thinking and praying. And I needed it. Shortly before her birth, I had resigned as the pastor of a church I had planted a few years earlier, and I was unsure of the next step. But this was no momentary bump in my ministry career. This was a cataclysmic quake. I was falling apart.
Like most young ministers, I had dreamed of a successful church, both in terms of numbers and impact. I was convinced that God had called me to it, but now the dream was crushed. And with the crushing appeared a larger foe, one that I had kept at bay for years, depression. It was beginning to swallow me whole. I became morose, aloof, and angry. My marriage was struggling as well, for my depression put Heidi on edge, and she felt she had to prop me up all the time. I was also furious with God. I had given my life to do his work, and my reward for such obedience appeared to be failure and now despair.
At the time of my resignation, I had graciously been given six months of severance pay. It was supposed to allow me some time to heal and get redirected. But I was now three months in, and there was no healing, nor was there any redirection.
Instead that afternoon I reached a level of darkness that began to unravel me. As I continued to feed my daughter, I thought briefly about suicide. But I brushed that thought away. I understood only too well the devastation brought on for those who are close to a suicide victim. I could never inflict that kind of sadness on Heidi or my children. So I continued to unravel in the depths of the darkness, and out of that abyss I cried, “God, I don’t care what it takes. I want out of this!”
It was the moment that would change everything. My journey out of the abyss began.
For the next seventeen years, I wandered frequently and wondered at times exactly where I was heading. Sometimes I ended up circling back and revisiting places I thought I had moved past. At other times, with no clear bearings to orient myself, I just felt lost. But at many unexpected points along the way, God appeared and gently guided me forward.
During those years, I took a job as a teacher and coach at a Christian high school where I had to find a way to connect the Bible to the hearts of students. In the process, I found my own heart connecting to Scripture in new ways. I was slowly climbing out of the abyss.
One day as I was talking with my good friend Daniel, the high school counselor, I began to describe some of the places I had traveled in my journey. He asked me to write them down and send the list to him. I first entitled it “Mile Markers,” like the ones posted along the interstate. Heidi objected to the name because she thought it made the journey sound too safe and predictable. She was right. This was no leisurely drive; this was a trek through the wilderness.
About the same time I was reading Undaunted Courage, the harrowing account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. These two men and their crew oared upstream for months to find the source of the Missouri River, hoping to discover a waterway across America to the Pacific. All along the way, they kept mentioning certain landmarks they had to reach, even if the exact path wasn’t known. Then it clicked. That’s exactly what I had felt in my journey, an awareness of certain landmarks I had to reach even if I didn’t know how I was going to get there. And so the “Landmarks” idea was born.
What exactly are the landmarks? Everyone knows at some level that life is a journey. It is a deep-seated feeling born out of the experience of change and growth. We are not what we were ten years ago, nor will we be the same ten years from now. But therein lies the problem. What kind of journey is this? Where am I going? How do I even know if this is the right direction? What if I’m lost? Not only do we have a sense that life is a journey, we also sense that we’re missing the map and some basic orienteering skills.
Here is where the landmarks come in to play. Think of them as points that chart out a journey we all need to take if we want to live well. It’s like looking at a topographical map, one that has the mountains and streams and forests marked on it, but little else. We have enough to get started on the hike, but there are still many unknowns ahead. Or imagine driving a car across America on some of the old highways with only a roadmap and no available Internet. We may know the general direction forward, but there are still many questions. What will we encounter on the road? Where will we stay each night? That’s the feel for the landmarks.
The Bible also speaks of life as a journey. Jesus himself laid out the general direction of the path ahead: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). We are immediately struck by the thought that something needs to die in order to take this journey. Interestingly, the apostle Paul marked out the same trail: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). It seems that the key to finding the life we long for is submitting to the death we fear. For what we most desire is hidden underneath our deepest terror. This is the course set by the nine landmarks in this book. The first four chart a downward descent into what feels like death. It’s a crucifixion, agonizing at times. The fifth landmark is a pivot in the journey, turning us in the opposite direction. The final four describe the resurrection we can now enter into, an ascent into real life. We are finally becoming what we were meant to be.
As I have spoken about these landmarks to many, I have had to be painfully honest. After all, they trace out my own journey. They represent my climb out of the abyss. But the feedback has surprised me. So many have spoken of a deep connection to what I have experienced.
A wise counselor once told me, “What is most personal is most universal.” And so what is written here is offered in the hope that this journey can be yours also.
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