A Pilgrim Looks at 60: Life in the Middle of the Christian Bell Curve
Elm Hill, a division of Harper Collins Christian Publishing, 2019.
By James Annable
What happens when a “truth grenade” goes off in your face? How do you deal with it? Who do you tell, and why?
These questions and more saturate this entertaining, engaging, and insightful read by James Annable.
As noted in the Introduction, the author undertakes his “reflective pilgrimage” to explore who he is and how he came to be that way, explaining same to his five children. He discovers something universal along the way. Something worth sharing.
Background & Basis
A Marine Corps flier turned-commercial airline pilot who describes himself as a “pretty average bell-curve Christian,” Annable peppers his lively narrative with Cornerstone Questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? How do I live well and what should that look like? What will happen to me after I die?
These questions and the answers he’s discovered form the basis for his reflections and the rest of the book.
A Pilgrim Looks at 60 tells the author’s “kitchen table story” of what he’s learned and continues to learn in six decades. There are no glib, “drive-by truth claims” here. Instead, the author offers pithy observations on a broad range of “high altitude” topics including:
- Who you are when no one’s looking and why it matters.
- Discipline and commitment.
- Law and grace.
- How and why some words have different meanings to different people.
- The difference between knowing, believing, and having faith.
- Doubt and disappointment.
- Unity vs. uniformity.
- How to effectively sift and examine competing truth claims.
- Fatherhood and manhood.
- Why are things the way they are?
- Autonomy vs. freedom.
- Living with uncertainty.
- What makes life meaningful?
- What is self-sacrificial love and where does it come from?
- What about the thin line between good and evil in the human heart?
- How the Marine Corps provided a life-changing “course correction” at just the right time.
- Why a pilgrimage toward a meaningful life based solely on opinion or speculation instead of objective truth may be a rough ride.
- How should we then live?
Briskly paced, the first-person narrative is tightly written and lithe. It includes stops in East Asia, Romania, Kenya, Ecuador, several states, and numerous outdoor and other adventures – including a sleeping bag that caught on fire during a hunting trip. In between, the author gently folds biblically-based observations around his life story in a way that’s not pushy or preachy but natural and neighborly.
Nimble and absorbing, each chapter and paragraph glides effortlessly into the next with solid transitions. Stand-out chapters include Chapter 11, George Washington Memorial Forest, Chapter 12, Romania, and Chapter 13, Ecuador and the Imago Dei. Black and white photos of family members, friends, and adventures are included.
Practical and down-to-earth, the narrative is limber and agile. The tone is warm and welcoming. Like you’re chatting with a neighbor over a cup of coffee. Told with a twinkle, the memoir is also seasoned with hefty helpings of wry wit and gentle, self-deprecating humor.
A robust read with plenty of heart and soul, A Pilgrim Looks at 60 is generously layered with Lucado-esque insights and musings. This authentic life story will resonate with any “average bell curver” who’s ever grappled with life’s Cornerstone Questions and is “moving ever so slowly and intentionally” toward echoes of eternity.