In The Hollow

BOOK REVIEWS

Book Review by Author and Publisher Ed Renehan

“Packed with gorgeous full color images of the natural world, carefully chosen Bible verses together, and meaningful modern meditations, Rich Earl's IN THE HOLLOW provides a unique tool with which to foster one's own daily contemplation and prayer. A truly beautiful contribution.”   

Book Review by Marcy S.

“I say this with all sincerity. This book is phenomenal. I want a copy of every book, and each season’s book will be stored in a ziplock bag in my backpack. I look forward to meditating on these beautiful truths in my own hollows.” 

Book Review by Drs. Bill and Kristi Gaultiere of Soul Shepherding

"Rich presents simple but profound truths based in scripture and beautifully illustrated in creation to invite us to reflect on our life with God and inspire us to worship and grow.  We appreciate his combination of  picture, words and space for journaling  reflections  prayers.” 

In The Hollow: Winter

Book Review by 

Bert Saraco of The Phantom Tollbooth

Author/photographer Rich Earl looks beyond the obvious and finds beauty and truth in environments that we too-often overlook or deem unimportant. This should give hope for the less pious - there is indeed a devotional for the rest of us!

In The Hollow, Volume One - Winter

Please indulge me for this unusual introduction …do you remember the Certs commercial? One person contended that Certs was a breath mint – the other party insisted that Certs was a candy mint. That’s when the announcer proclaimed, “stop – you’re both right! It’s two, two, two mints in one!” The obvious point was that you, the consumer, could enjoy their product for either of those two reasons – or both. So how does this relate to Rich Earl’s fine new book, In the Hollow, Volume One - Winter? Quite simply, you can enjoy this book both as a devotional and a photography book. That’s right – it’s two, two, two books in one!

Even though the above might not be relatable to readers under the age of …well, let’s not go there – I’m sure that author/photographer Earl would forgive my baby boomer TV reference. You see, this isn’t your ordinary devotional book. Earl breaks the shackles of devotional-book-orthodoxy (if there is such a thing) by including well-chosen quotes that one might not expect to be cited in a ‘religious’ tome. Alongside the likes of Spurgeon and Tozer are insightful comments from Marshall McLuhan, Yogi Berra, Randy Stonehill, Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young, and even a certain Pooh Bear named Winnie. You see, God places wisdom in many unusual settings, and it’s refreshing to find a devotional book that seeks out those places. Earl does the same with his stunning nature photography, looking beyond the obvious and finding the beauty and truth in environments that we too-often overlook or deem unimportant. This should give hope for the less pious - there is indeed a devotional for the rest of us!

 

This is not to imply that Earl doesn’t treat his words seriously. In fact, his observations – served in daily half-page portions – are thoughtful, balanced with scripture, and focused in a way that brings new light to subjects and life-issues that we often wrestle with. If seeing the hidden, and seeing things in a new light seems to be a recurring theme it’s with good reason. Much of this book was born out of the author’s love of hiking in Central Pennsylvania - spending time in ‘the hollows’ between a pair of hills or mountains . It’s during those outings that inspiration for the words and opportunities to capture the images were able to happen, and for hidden truths to emerge from unexpected places.

 

Like most devotionals, In the Hollow is designed to be read daily, to inspire wisdom and contemplation in small doses. The wonderfully diverse and intriguing quotations both reflect the accompanying images and introduce the subject of the writer’s thoughts for the day. Earl writes with eloquence and every-day common sense. There’s no effort made to make reality ‘pretty’ but there’s always an acknowlegement of God’s ability to get us through. For example, the January 23 entry begins by referencing the epic journey of explorers Lewis and Clark: “…I wonder what would have happened if, instead of strapping on their boots and making the climb, they had held a prayer meeting beseeching The Lord to move it [the mountain] out of the way? Lord, make us fit to climb, and give us understanding to know when to pray and when to climb.”

 

In many ways, In the Hollow is also a photo book (remember? Two books in one). The images in the book are laid out so that each image is facing a page of relating text and spaces to record your own thoughts and reactions. Earl has a fine photographer’s eye. His sense of color and composition combined with macro techniques as well as more traditional nature photography, is technically sound and aesthetically pleasing. These photographs aren’t the usual Hallmark Greeting Card variety that often end up decorating scripture-based texts – these images are thoughtfully created and intentionally placed by the photographer/author to speak to the soul.  Even as the soul goes through seasons, the full title of this book indicates that Rich Earl intends to continue from Winter into the other three seasons. No doubt, his words and images will bring new life, insight and inspiration to the winter, spring, summer and fall of your own life.

Read more about the book, get a look at some hi-res images and order a copy at www.inthehollow.net 

 

- Bert Saraco

Book Review by Jeffrey B.

I now have the paperback version AND the kindle version.  If you know someone who is physically unable to go on hikes, this is the book to buy for them.  Rich brings his incredible journeys to your coffee table with many glorious images undoctored and untouched.  This author has heartily mined and combined both the breathtaking glory AND the depth of life lesson in God’s creation.  Every picture is a gem in its own right, attesting to the presence of a creator who baffles the senses.  Earl lassos many spiritual lessons which had previously been hidden in plain sight.  Every turn of the page is a treasure of life simply waiting to be experienced.  Be prepared to feast your eyes and refresh your soul.  Thank you Rich Earl!

Book Review by Lois H.

“I absolutely love this book! In the Hollows speaks directly to the heart of man. It is not only food for your soul but a challenge to walk a more righteous path. The photos are stunning and draw you deeper into each reading. Even the cover photo inspires, as it makes a great coffee table book drawing you to continue your daily readings. The author Rich Earl truly knows how to speak to and coach you in your daily journey of life. I can not wait for his next volume to be released.”   

Book Review by Rob H.

“Garrison Keillor once wrote that a book is a gift you can open again and again. Inside this gift you will find at first an apparent disagreement. A disagreement between the reality of God's word in the daily devotional and the visual images of our fallen reality on the opposite page. Images of long abandoned rail tracks covered with the cruel curse of entropy. Vegetation growing haphazardly along trails that seem to serve no purpose. Paths that seem to have never before been visited by man. Yet Rich Earl shows us how easy it is to peel away the thin layer and see the world in its most elegant form invisible to the carnal eye. In the hollow is a wonderful book to read if you wish to hear the faint voice of our Heavenly Father as it vibrates through the natural world. Both in the written word and in visual form.”

In The Hollow: Autumn

Book Review by 

Bert Saraco of The Phantom Tollbooth

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

In The Hollow: Winter
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