Friday, June 20, 2003

The Valley of Childhood by Linda Whalen

Bright Books, 0961731729, $14.95

Often the journey towards contentment with Christ is presented in allegory - a winding road leading to the gates of Heaven, the calm eye of a hurricane wherein one can find brief solace with the Lord in the midst of a tempestuous life. For Linda Whalen, the journey is likened to a hike through a valley through which childhood memories are stirred, lessons are learned, and healing begins. The Valley of Childhood, part memoir and part devotional, offers such a raw, emotional testimony, as seen through the eyes of a child struggling to come to Christ.

Each chapter of Childhood presents a different level of the valley, from rocky terrains to sharp dips and hazy floors. Whalen reveals hardships endured throughout her childhood, the film of dust on her skin and mud caked to her shoes representative of past sins and transgressions, the opportunity for refreshment at the valley spring thwarted when the water is discovered to be too salty to drink - alluding to deceptions one often faces in life. A brief respite in a valley garden provides an oasis from hardship as Whalen recalls more pleasant memories of childhood and comes to appreciate the beauty in nature and life God offers us. "The first thing I understand is the need all people have to be in a still, quiet place with the Lord," writes Whalen as the garden dissolves into a desert of uncertainty. Wherever we are in our own personal valleys, be it lost in a maze of trees or threatened by tumbling rocks overhead, Whalen stresses, one need not be afraid if one lets Jesus lead the way home.

Whalen nicely ties each chapter, each leg of the journey with a Scriptural quote, prayer, and reflection. At times very personal, and often a simple book to which anyone can relate, The Valley of Childhood is a unique, vivid devotional.

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