"Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked" by Lynn Austin, a bestselling author with more than one million copies of her books sold worldwide and an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, is a tour of Israel unlike any other. {Sneak peak: read the first thirty pages.}

The opportunity to tour Israel came at a good time. For months, my life has been a mindless plodding through necessary routine, as monotonous as an all-night shift on an assembly line. Life gets that way sometimes, when nothing specific is wrong but the world around us seems drained of color. Even my weekly worship experiences and daily quiet times with God have felt as dry and stale as last year's crackers. I'm ashamed to confess the malaise I've felt. I have been given so much. Shouldn't a Christian's life be an abundant one, as exciting as Christmas morning, as joyful as Easter Sunday?

As the back cover reflects, Austin was "[struggling] with spiritual dryness in a season of loss and unwanted change" and took the opportunity to travel once again to Israel, on a pilgrimage just as the Israelites took three pilgrimages to Jerusalem each year, in hopes of spiritual renewal and encouragement, a renewed prayer life, and an acceptance of God's will for her life (14).

"Pilgrimage" is a fascinating, insightful, and relevant book. Austin weaves Biblical passages and context together with her own reflections and experiences. I was impressed with not only her knowledge of the Bible and Israel but also the great detail and descriptions of the sights and locations, and what Austin was experiencing, as if walking right along with her, as well as what she was thinking and pondering. The book reads often like a journal, as Austin writes very honestly of her struggles and doubts, and I appreciated how Austin shared the poignant truths that she was reminded of during her trip that are relevant not only to her but also more broadly for readers.

One of the many thoughts that stood out to me was Austin's reflections on observing the Sabbath. For many modern Christians, keeping the Sabbath is inconvenient or considered legalistic, yet Jews rearrange their schedules and plan for it. And the Sabbath is that important. Austin writes:

On the Sabbath we remember to rest on God, trusting Him for all of our practical needs [...,] to rest in God, trusting Him for our salvation [..., and] to rest for God, because when we organize our lives and our work around a special day to honor Him, He is glorified. Can you imagine what a witness we would be to a restless, exhausted world if Christians set apart the Sabbath as holy, making it different from our ordinary days? (222)

Personally, the only downside, more a distraction, was the shifting tenses within the book. I dislike reading first-person writing overall, but I found it somewhat "clunky", especially in the first chapter or so, that Austin not only most often writes in first person but also at times shifts to third person.

Overall, "Pilgrimage" is a unique, interesting easy read. As Austin travels on her pilgrimage through Israel and gains a renewed spirit and hopeful heart and perspective, even though her circumstances "back home" are unchanged, readers journey beside her and share her thoughtful, Bible-based ponderings. The truths and conclusions Austin comes to are insightful and equally beneficial reminders for readers as for the author herself.

Disclaimer: This book was received for free from Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.

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