Everywhere You Go There’s A Zacchaeus Up The Tree: Small Town Faith And Words Of Wisdom, by Roger Campbell, edited by Timothy Campbell
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Given the title of the book, I expected this to be a lighthearted work, and found it to be much more sentimental. This is not to say that I disliked the surprise, only that I was surprised. I could not help reading this book and thinking about what it said about the issues and problems of small town American life. To read this book was a refreshing contrast from the presentist woes of a great deal of reportage and leftist propaganda concerning the politics of blame and class. This book, in contrast, was written by someone with a sense of realism but also a sense of perspective that showed a great deal of concern for home and family but also a larger sense of history and theology that allows him to provide comfort and encouragement to others rather than traffic in anger and despair. Ultimately, this book is one of the more consistent pleas for forgiveness that I have read, which came as no little surprise .
This book is a fine example of what can be done within the confines of the devotional form by someone who writes with a great deal of skill as well as delicacy. A short book–just over 150 pages of core material–this book is made up of thoughtful midrashing on biblical verses that begin with a title, then have 300-700 words of material, enough for a short blog daily blog entry, with the verse being commented upon at the bottom. Within that constrained form the author offers many thoughts on forgiveness, family, and manages to pull stories from his own life and personal experience as well as from the Bible, history, and the lives of famous preachers of times past. In one memorable case, he pulls headlines from a 1920’s newspaper to show that the news media has always trafficked in bad news and that the “good old days” were never entirely good. The author has a consistent tone of optimism, but it is not an optimism that seeks to deny the reality of struggles but rather the sort of optimism that seeks to equip people with the strength to surmount and overcome them. This is an author who realizes there is much work in the world that needs to be done and wishes to strengthen the hands of those who could be called upon to do the Lord’s work.
Overall, this book is a success. Although the book is organized somewhat randomly and haphazardly, without a sense of overall structure, the consistency of the author’s perspective and areas of focus give this book the feel of a series of short but thoughtful interactions with a writer I would like to become more familiar with. This book is probably to be best used as bits of encouragement to go along with relevant Bible Study for those passages that the author cites and quotes. The obvious intended audience of this book are small-town Protestants who wish to rise above the despair and anger that mark our world, and that especially result from the perspective and well-being of rural areas being ignored and disregarded. This is an author who unobtrusively and inoffensively provides a small-town or even rural perspective and does so in a way that is likely to buoy the spirits of many. Let us hope that this work is well appreciated by those whom the author wishes to serve and inspire, as there is a great deal of good that books like this can do by putting our contemporary situation in a larger perspective that does not look so scary or hopeless.
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