Review: Sailing Between the Stars, by Steven James

Sailing Between the Stars: Musings on the Mysteries of Faith, by Steven James (Revell, 2006)

Sailing Between the Stars is the best book I’ve read in 2010. And I’m writing this in December, not January. I felt safe, understood, reading Steven James’ musings. Not that it’s comfortable reading, but that he talks honestly about many of the same questions I have. He affirms the value of asking the questions, of not trying to pretend we know all the answers correctly and absolutely.

I may have finished the book with more questions than when I started, but that’s okay. It means a lot to know I’m not the only one who has them, and I’ve learned that honest questions don’t cause us to vanish in a puff of confusion. If anything, they let us be more real. And they point us to the Source of all answers, the God who is bigger than our comprehension.

Steven James puts it this way:

“The questions, not the explanations, are what draw me deeper into the wonder of the dance.” p. 164

His writing is gentle and lyrical. If you like Mark Buchanan’s books, you’ll like this. It’s poignant at times, whimsical at others, and there are a few places that had me laughing out loud.

And while the topics aren’t easy to nail down with a “definitive” answer, there’s no philosophical mumbo-jumbo to exclude the average reader. There is one heavy-duty word, agathokakological (follow link for definition), but it’s introduced naturally through an anecdote about a child’s spelling bee and since it describes us, I think it makes the point that we’re more complex than we can understand.

You can read an excerpt of Sailing Between the Stars here.  Here’s a quote from the beginning of the book to set the tone:

“Imagination dwells at the heart of Christianity. It’s a worldview of wonder. …And it’s packed full of paradox…which makes many believers today uncomfortable.” p.19

If the mystery and paradox of faith threaten you, you’ll want to give the book a miss. I don’t know what I’d have thought if I’d read it in my younger days, when I “knew” more of the answers. Now that I’ve begun to be more sure of God and less sure of myself, I found a lot of truth in this book.

In prose and occasional poetry, the author ponders some deep topics: the good and evil in each of us, joy and pain, love and failing, humility, free will, doubt, unanswered prayer. In voicing our common weaknesses, he points to the mystery of Jesus, who alone lived life to the fullest and who came to point us to the Father.

None of these topics are addressed with an “I’ll tell you what to believe” agenda. He just explores them and leaves us to explore too… and to trust the God who actually sees the full picture.

Right now, Sailing Between the Stars is featured at Christianbook.com for $1.99 USD. It’s worth full cover price, but at this price why not buy in bulk for your spiritually-musing friends? It’s also available through amazon.ca. Amazon.com and chapters-indigo.ca are both sold out, and I can’t find it on the publisher’s site. So glad I found a copy when I did. This is a definite keeper and re-reader.

Steven James blogs occasionally on writing, faith or life, at Musings and Meanderings. His website showcases his intense thriller series, The Patrick Bowers Files. I’ve reviewed book one, The Pawn, and I’d love to know what happens next in Patrick Bowers’ life. Still working up my nerve….

[review copy from my personal library]

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