Review by James Stambaugh
Reviewing a daily devotional is different from reviewing other genres. Devotionals are designed to be read in small doses throughout the course of a long period of time, usually a few months or a year. Even the most long-suffering editor would balk at a book review taking a year to write. So, the reviewer must cram an entire year’s worth of short meditations into a couple of weeks. This, of course, goes against the design and intention of the book.
Daily Grace: The Mockingbird Devotional, Volume 2
Mockingbird Ministries, pp. 434, $30
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Nevertheless, with Daily Grace: The Mockingbird Devotional, Volume 2, the compression of a year’s worth of material into a short time drove home one controlling truth: each entry has the same laser focus and singular purpose. This volume contains contributions from 63 authors who write from a variety of backgrounds and Christian denominations. The framing material is varied, including personal experiences, unvarnished scriptural exhortation, and myriad pop-culture references (imagine if the classic devotional My Utmost for his Highest constantly referred to the likes of Seinfeld and the hip-hop artist Ice Cube).
Each roughly one-page, daily meditation is unique and self-contained. Yet. each is remarkably the same. The editors were keenly aware of this. The introduction makes no apology for it. “We believe the gospel often goes in one ear and out the other, and that we need to be reminded of it constantly. Which is why our organization is, after all, called Mockingbird. We sing the same gospel song repeatedly…” (page 3). Each entry of this devotional sings about God’s grace abounding to sinners. It is aptly named Daily Grace. It relentlessly points the reader to a hope that is not found by trying harder to be a better person but only in the inexhaustible mercy of God. As one contributor writes, “Holiness is always a divine gift, not a human achievement” (page 160).
The entries are vaguely arranged according to the Christian year, but liturgical connections are not emphasized. Each entry begins with a Scripture passage (152 from the Old Testament and 213 from the New). The choices are eclectic. You will find stalwarts of devotional literature alongside more obscure stories from the historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures. You will find straightforward exposition of Pauline texts traditionally favored by reformed and evangelical Christians, as well as spiritual and moral exegesis from texts out of Exodus, Judges, Jonah, and Haggai. Even in the most obscure passages, God’s grace is unveiled and offered to weary hearts.
Three indexes move this book from the well-done category to the excellent. Daily Grace illustrates that almost any book is improved by a thorough index, including devotionals. A thematic index will aid the reader in finding meditations on particular themes. An author index will help the reader find more from their favorites (mine were Sarah Condon, Chad Bird, and Ben Maddison). A Scripture index makes this daily devotional a useful resource for preaching and teaching. You wouldn’t think a Mockingbird would make a good, daily spiritual companion, but this one does.
The Rev. James Stambaugh is rector of Holy Apostles, Wynnewood, Pa.