“Confessions of a Christian Mystic,” by River Jordan

River Jordan

Reviewed by Niles Reddick

River Jordan’s Confessions of a Christian Mystic is an inspirational work of nonfiction and unveils parts of her journey, illustrates her deep and abiding faith in God, and most importantly offers readers both a road map and encouragement to keep looking in every nook and cranny to find God, build a relationship with God, and keep that faith over a lifetime.  Confessions of a Christian Mystic comes on the heels of her Praying for Strangers, another well-received work of nonfiction.

I first met River when we did a panel together at Parnassus Bookstore in Nashville for the new anthology Southern Writers on Writing. We met again at one of the restaurants in Nashville before another panel at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. What I learned quickly was that River and I shared a love of different characters, including our own colorful family members, and a passion for stories. Having just read Confessions of a Christian Mystic, I understand and appreciate River even more. She inspires me. Reading her work recently, I recalled several stories I needed to write and then, due to her inspiration, blended them into a creative nonfiction piece titled “Children.”

The stories in Confessions of a Christian Mystic span River’s childhood to the present and highlight her commitments and beliefs, which deviate from conventional Christian doctrines taught in established churches. One of my favorite stories from this book is part of a fiction piece River is working on (titled “The City of Truth”). Presented as a letter to a friend, it illustrates that fiction can capture the truth better than lived experience can. In one scene, a grandfather, about to be hanged for a crime, says, “When you surround yourself by wide-hipped women bearing shotguns and full of enough righteous anger that it would split the hair of angels, you don’t consider that too much argument makes good sense. After all, a hanging tree generally has room for another customer in due time.” Here we see a strong narrative voice, great description, and subtle sense of humor.

Another striking passage regarding River’s childhood involves a flight she took with her mother to Germany to live on a military base with her father. Young River looked out the window of the plane into the clouds and asked her mother: “Where is God?” For River, this was a learning moment, a turning point, and an expanding view of her own understanding of God. It may remind readers, as it reminded me, of those simplistic times when, as children, we believed in literal interpretations before we grew up and became more critical, cynical, in our thinking.

River tells of spiritual and mystical experiences that have shaped her into a stronger woman of faith: the dream about her grandmother whom she loved, for instance, or even a paranormal experience or a period of struggle. In one account, River, divorced and raising children on her own, couldn’t afford to pay the electric bill. She talked to God and received a call to come by the church where someone handed her an envelope with cash. The cash was from a parishioner who just stopped by and told the church employee to give it her. We are taught from River that you might not see God’s face from a plane window, but you can hear him speaking through others or see him in the actions of others, in their help and charity. Thus you can achieve understanding and belief in a way that makes life more palatable, more inspirational, and actually more realistic.

Jordan’s Confessions of a Christian Mystic is a must-read. There are surprises here, and readers will go on many journeys with her that will expand their own views of and experiences with God,  pointing them in new directions for their own lives. River teaches without being preachy. We are better humans for having learned her story. In addition to Confessions of a Christian Mystic and Praying for Strangers, Jordan is the author of four novels, a regular contributor to Psychology Today’s Spirituality blog, and the host and producer of the literary radio program Clearstory. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.  To read more about her, visit her website: www.riverjordanink.com.

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  1. What a beautiful and thoughtful review! I’m so looking forward to reading River’s book!

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