In The Hollow: Autumn … offers not a roadmap but an invitation to look deeper, and in unexpected places.
In The Hollow: Autumn
183 pages / square bound soft cover
Rich Earl’s latest volume of photographs and spiritual meditations, In The Hollow: Autumn, is a worthy addition to his seasonal devotional series. Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of ‘devotionals’ - and I’ve got my reasons (after all, I have to be ready to explain myself to my more spiritual Christian friends). The average devotional is filled with Hallmark greeting card style writing, retreaded platitudes and ‘feel-good’ Christian inspiration - chicken soup for the soul, but right out of the can. Earl takes the path less travelled, transcribing, as it were, inspiring meditations from God’s heart to the printed page via unexpected words and images. In The Hollow: Autumn is a devotional for people that don’t like devotionals - in other words, as I described his previous “Winter” volume, this is a ‘religious’ book for ‘the rest of us’ - the restless, the less pious, those whose faith needs prodding, not coddling.
As with the previous volume, ‘Autumn’ is formatted so that the open book features a full page image by photographer Earl, whose pictures are intriguing and evocative, across from a page featuring writer Earl’s daily inspirations (really both are inspiring, but one page inspires with imagery and the other with words). The text page features a quote followed by a paragraph or three of insight and challenge. Directly under the author’s observations there’s allotted space for the reader to record their own reactions. It’s a good formula - it works.
The daily quote is always a treat - sometimes a direct Bible reference, other times a thought from any one of a wide variety of thinkers, including Earl himself. Earl steps out of the ‘Christian devotional’ box by featuring quotes from the ‘usual suspects’ such as Spurgeon and Tozer right alongside those of Woody Allen, Bruce Cockburn, C.S. Lewis, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Paul Simon. Since God dispenses wisdom liberally, there’s even one quote from a local pastor whose name might not be widely known but whose influence touched Earl and many others... This is one of the wonderful things about these books - that Earl displays wisdom where he finds it, and sometimes it’s hiding in unexpected places. The author finds wisdom and shares it through quotes but he allows the reader to find personal truths by contemplating the images and allowing them to speak on a non-verbal level. Your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions...
“We can say without reservation,” writes the author in the September 27th entry, “that each one of us is born to glorify God, but that leaves a bit of room for us to discover just how we are supposed to do that! Sometimes, God sends an unmistakable sign, like Gideon’s fleece, and there is little doubt about the path forward. Most other times, He leaves room for interpretation, and I have come to believe that He finds some of His greatest enjoyment just watching us figure it out.” No cookie-cutter answers and neatly-lettered slogans here. Earl invites the reader to settle into The Hollow along with him, to look at what God has done, and to surrender to The Mystery - and by doing that, to get to know God a little better.
God speaks in words and images, visions and dreams, and certainly through His children’s lives. The hollows in life aren’t neatly ordered and don’t always offer clearly marked paths. I think that Rich Earl’s In The Hollow: Autumn reflects that truth, and offers not a roadmap but an invitation to look deeper, and in unexpected places.
- Bert Saraco