Kate Bowler is an interesting person and writer. Born in the United Kingdom, she was raised in Canada and now teaches Christian history at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. Bowler is a Protestant Christian with evangelical leanings (she’s Mennonite), with the ability to speak generously to a wide audience of people looking for spiritual answers. She’s also a cancer survivor, which informed her earlier New York Times bestseller, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved).

We enjoyed her perspective in this new book. Bowler wants to encourage readers to be honest about their feelings and emotions, no matter where those feelings go, as part of walking the spiritual path. She has no patience for the “always be cheerful” approach taught by some Christian groups. She takes much of her inspiration from the biblical book of Psalms.

Bowler begins with a quick analysis of the anxiety that fills most people’s hearts today and all of the good reasons why this is the case. But she reminds that we are also “living in the beautiful, terrible.” This means that every “dark season of pain” — and she admits to being in one, as she writes — also carries frequent reminders of blessings, friends, and ordinary miracles.

The number one prescription for our situation, she writes, is to remember that “awareness is your gift.” This is roughly the same, in our alphabet of spiritual literacy, as Attention. Also, Grace.

A section of forty-five short reflections of two pages each is followed by a section of reflections of similar length for every day in Lent and then a final section of eight reflections for the season of Advent, making this book encompass a full year. Topics in section one include “Not Drowning in Other People’s Problems” and “To Feel Wonder Again.” Topics in the Lenten section include “To Feel a Little More Grateful” and “To Feel More Love” (see the spiritual practice accompanying this review).

This is definitely designed as a book for Christians, but with a big, inclusive heart.

try a spiritual practice on love