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There Are Burning Bushes Everywhere

There Are Burning Bushes Everywhere: Poems and Prayers of a Rebel Mystic
by Jan Phillips
San Diego, CA: Livingkindness Foundation
57 pages
Reviewed by Stephanie Bussey-Spencer Patton

This delightful little book, filled with fifty-seven poems and prayers for a multitude of occasions, is likely to become a favorite of spiritual directors and anyone seeking to grow in their faith. Jan Phillips writes passionately about her faith, about her questions regarding life, and about who God is. She writes with a refreshing eye, not afraid to raise difficult issues or to push the reader to reflect on her own faith. She clearly sees God’s revelation (burning bushes) in all aspects of life.

The poems address a variety of topics. Many of them are about God: God’s nature, God’s relationship with humankind, God’s love, God’s mystery, and God’s speech. There are also a number of poems about hope and the future. There are poems of praise and a list of the Beatitudes. There are prayers of confession, simple prayers, and a prayer to all the gods. There is one that would be particularly appropriate for use at a funeral. Some of the poems raise questions about religious institutions, particularly about Catholicism, as that is Phillips’s denomination. There are poems about the nature of things and the nature of human beings. One of my favorites is based on the spiritual practice of the daily examen. The last poems are particularly creative and provide two reflections from Mary Magdalene and one written from the perspective of Buddha’s son. These poems are beautiful, and they stretch the person of faith to reflect on what he believes and encourage him to grow in faith.

In the subtitle, Phillips calls herself a “rebel mystic.” She does not hold back in critique of her church and traditional religion. She puts current issues about environment out in plain view. Phillips incorporates a variety of religious traditions, in addition to Christianity, into her poetry. She is not afraid to push boundaries or rattle the cage of traditional Catholicism, even writing a poem entitled, “If I Were Pope.”

This book is recommended for spiritual directors and self-proclaimed mystics, rebels, and even orthodox Christians. It is small enough to carry in one’s pocket or purse and that makes it a ready resource for many situations. Its use in retreats and workshops, as well as for individuals and in spiritual direction settings, could be endless.

Stephanie Bussey-Spencer Patton has been a spiritual director for ten years, a Presbyterian pastor for over twenty-five years, and a teacher throughout her lifetime. Currently serving as pastor of Oakland Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Tennessee, USA, Stephanie recently received her DMin in spiritual direction from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, California, USA. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

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