Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: Finding Our Way Again

Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices"
by Brian McLaren
Thomas Nelson, 2008

“You can’t take an epidural shot to ease the pain of giving birth to character.” So states Brian McLaren in Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices. What, then, can we do to help shape the person that we trying to become? McLaren argues that the ancient spiritual practices can help us make our way through the chaos that is life. This is the first in a series of books published by Thomas Nelson focusing on the following spiritual practices: Prayer, Sabbath, Fasting, The Sacred Meal, Pilgrimage, the Liturgical Year, and Tithing. As such, “Finding Our Way Again” can both stand alone as an introduction to the value of these practices, as well as provide a hint of what is to come in the additional volumes.

These seven practices are common to all three faith traditions that trace their roots to Abraham: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In a world where religious conflict is all too common, these practices can help us realize just how much we actually share. McLaren, who is a Christian, writes from an emergent mindset. Like Phyllis Tickle who is the general editor of this series, he believes that a new way of practicing religion is coming into being, one that incorporates aspects of several different faith traditions. Regardless of whether one agrees with that assessment or not, one can find great value in learning about these common practices and incorporating at least some of them into one’s life. Contemplative practices such as prayer, observing the Sabbath, and fasting, “are means by which we become prepared for grace to surprise us. They are ways of opening our hands so that we can receive the gifts God wants to give us.” On the other hand, communal practices such as taking part in the sacred meal, a pilgrimage, the liturgical seasons, and tithing bring us out of ourselves and into community. “The Way of Community is about the inward journey, not the journey into me, but the journey into we.” In many ways the contemplative and community practices are interconnected. McLaren also devotes some time to discussing the three aspects of the ancient way: the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive aspects of our spiritual journey. The ancient practices are designed to assist us on that journey.

“Finding Our Way Again” is enlightening. McLaren offers questions and exercises so that this book may be used either alone or in group study. I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

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