Prolific author and pastor McLaren is a big-picture guy. One of the most influential thinkers in the emergent church movement, he likes to analyze and categorize. This book, which inaugurates a series about traditional spiritual practices, paves the way for future installments by elaborating the big-picture rationale for spiritual disciplines: they cleanse us, enlighten us and bring us closer to God. As the title signals, they will also help us find our way past the unsatisfactory alternatives of secularism, dangerous fundamentalism and "mushy spirituality." The former English teacher has a gift for the pithy phrase that nails a concept: "faithing our practices" is seeing the sacred value of everyday activities, for example. McLaren fans will enjoy his usual breadth of vision, easy style of exposition and synthesis of big ideas. His more conservative detractors may find him too generous in his references to the other two Abrahamic faiths in discussing spiritual practices. This book nicely opens the door for a series as well as a more disciplined Christian life. (May 6)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices (Ancient Practices Series)by Brian D. McLaren
Shines a practical light on the spiritual disciplines that have been in use since the time of Abraham.
In a sense, every day of our lives is labor. It is questionable if you can ever be exactly the same person waking up on two consecutive days. How are spiritual sojourners to cope with the constant change? Many are beginning to explore the ancient/b>
Shines a practical light on the spiritual disciplines that have been in use since the time of Abraham.
In a sense, every day of our lives is labor. It is questionable if you can ever be exactly the same person waking up on two consecutive days. How are spiritual sojourners to cope with the constant change? Many are beginning to explore the ancient Christian spiritual practices that have been in use for centuries, everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of the Sabbath. What is causing this hunger for deeper spirituality?
Brian McLaren guides us on this quest for an explanation of these spiritual practices, many of which go all the way back to Abraham and the establishment of Israel. In the midst of contemporary Christianity, we discover the beauty of these ancient disciplines and the transformation through Christ that each can provide.
Why have certain spiritual disciplines been in use for centuries and why is it important?
It is questionable if one can ever be exactly the same person waking up on two consecutive days. How are spiritual sojourners to cope with the constant change? Many are beginning to explore the ancient Christian spiritual practices, such as fixed-hour prayer, fasting and sincere observance of the Sabbath. What is causing this hunger for deeper spirituality?
Brian McLaren guides us on this quest for an explanation of these spiritual practices, many of which go all the way back to Abraham and the establishment of Israel. In the midst of contemporary Christianity, we discover the beauty of these disciplines and the transformation through Christ that each can provide.
This is the first of eight titles in the publisher's "Ancient Practices" series, in which expert authors individually address such topics as the Sabbath, fasting, tithing, and Communion (next in the series and publishing concurrently with this volume: Robert Benson's In Constant Prayer). In this series starter, author, speaker, and pastor McLaren (A New Kind of Christian) discusses the subject of spirituality in three sections: the first section addresses Christian faith as a way of life, the second covers spiritual practices, and the third deals with ancient spiritual traditions. Each chapter ends with spiritual exercises for deeper reflection on the ideas presented within. While the language is nontechnical and easy to understand, McLaren shows a strong grasp of scripture, church history, and ancient spiritual practices. He is the ideal candidate to kick off this series, as he motivates readers to pursue the topic at a deeper level. While this book focuses specifically on Christian spirituality, a bit of attention is given to that of Judaism and Islam. Highly recommended for all libraries.
Read an Excerpt
FINDING OUR WAY AGAIN
THE RETURN OF THE ANCIENT PRACTICES
By BRIAN MCLAREN Thomas Nelson
Copyright © 2008
Brian D. McLaren
All right reserved.
Chapter One SEARCHING FOR AN EVERYDAY SACREDNESS
It was one of those moments of panic that gets translated into anxiety dreams-the kind where you're trying to run, but your legs feel like a mixture of lead and rubber, or where you're transported back in time to a hallway in your high school, and you look down to realize you forgot to put on your pants, or where you're trying to catch a train, but your suitcase falls open, and your clothes pour out on the platform.
I was at a conference for pastors, where I had been asked to introduce a famous speaker, Dr. Peter Senge. I had come well prepared, because at the time I was in my thirties and quite fearful of doing anything less than excellently. So it puzzled me that in the days leading up to Dr. Senge's presentation, the event organizer, Brad, kept quizzing me: "Hey, Brian-ready for your big day on Thursday?" Why is he so anxious about my introduction? I thought. Either I'm a liability, or he's a control freak. The night before the big day, Brad nudged me one more time. "So, Brian, you're sure you're ready to interview Dr. Senge tomorrow, right?"
That's the moment when the real-life anxiety dream began. Interview Dr. Senge? I thought to myself in panic. But I thought I was only supposed to introduce him. It didn't matter how themisunderstanding had occurred. Ready or not, I was on for the big event.
"Sure thing, Brad," I responded casually. Trying to appear calm, I beat a hasty retreat to my room, frantically pulled out a yellow pad, and began scribbling possible questions. Dr. Senge was scheduled to appear from a remote location via satellite teleconference, which only made the task more daunting.
The next day I arrived at the lecture hall a half hour early and went over timing with Brad and his team. Then, predictably, there was a "bug" in the satellite hookup, so I soon found myself standing in front of the crowd next to a large screen filled with static, filling in time. I could see someone in the production booth making exaggerated gestures at me, pulling apart the fingertips of his two hands in a kind of taffy-stretching motion. I ran through my planned introduction about Dr. Senge being one of the fathers of systems thinking. Then I began to improvise, describing how his book The Fifth Discipline had influenced my thinking as a pastor, and so on, and so on.
Just as I was about to break into a couple of dance steps to entertain the crowd, the satellite hookup was completed. I looked down at my yellow legal pad and stumbled into one of the lamest opening questions ever asked: "Hello, Dr. Senge. It's a great honor for us to have you with us. Your image is being projected to about five hundred pastors. I imagine this is a different kind of crowd than you normally address. What would you like to say to a group of five hundred Christian ministers?"
Dr. Senge's gracious response compensated for my nervousness: "Well, Brian, you're right. I don't normally speak to pastors. Actually, I was thinking about that very question yesterday when I was in a large bookstore. I asked the bookstore manager what the most popular books are these days. Most popular, he said, were books about how to get rich in the new information economy, which didn't surprise me."
A ripple of laughter gave me a moment of relief. Dr. Senge continued, "Second most popular, the manager said, were books about spirituality, and in particular, books about Buddhism. And so when I thought about speaking to five hundred Christian pastors today, I thought I'd begin by asking you all a question: why are books on Buddhism so popular, and not books on Christianity?"
Great. Not only did I have to pose questions to a face on the screen, but now I had to field one from him as well. I managed to recover enough to punt the question back to him. "Well, Dr. Senge," I said, trying not to sound as clumsy as I felt, "how would you answer that question?"
He replied, "I think it's because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief. So I would want to get Christian ministers thinking about how to rediscover their own faith as a way of life, because that's what people are searching for today. That's what they need most."
I don't remember a single thing about the rest of the interview, but I will always remember Dr. Senge's statement. In fact, a number of the attendees told me how that one statement was worth the price of the entire event for them. In the days and weeks after the event, I couldn't stop thinking about the relative proportions we in our religious communities had assigned to "system of belief" and to "way of life." And I couldn't help but agree with Dr. Senge: we must rediscover our faith as a way of life, not simply as a system of belief.
The issue, of course, isn't either/or, but both/and; it's hard to deny that too many of us have lost the "way" of our faith. Without a coherent and compelling way of life, formed in community and expressed in mission, some of us begin losing interest in the system of belief, or we begin holding it grimly, even meanly, driving more and more people away from our faith rather than attracting them toward it.
Those who reject religion are often rejecting a certain arid system of belief, or if not that, a set of trivial taboos or rules or rituals that have lost meaning for them-each the thin residue of a lost way of life.
However, in this age of environmental unsustainability, the unconscionable juxtaposition between wasteful luxury and crushing poverty, and intensifying conflicts that can avalanche into potentially catastrophic war, nearly everyone, whether nonreligious or religious, seems to agree that we need to discover or rediscover a viable way of life. Much of what we'll explore in this series of books will involve restoring a kind of sacred normalcy to the rhythms of life-making prayer ordinary in our daily schedule or annual calendar; making generosity normal, normative, and habitual so that it is done automatically; making regular time for rest every single week whether we feel we need it or not, as a matter of routine; practicing simplicity instead of consumption; countering violence with peacemaking.
If the modern era can be characterized by a cold war between scientific and religious belief systems, then the postmodern era can best be characterized by a search for spirituality, a word that somehow captures this idea of a viable, sustainable, meaningful way of life. After centuries of a relationship almost always characterized by the term versus, the scientific and religious communities seem to realize that we need to move beyond our deadlock, our polarization, our binary, either/or thinking regarding faith and reason, religion and science, matter and spirit.
The word spiritual captures this reintegration for us; it says, "We don't believe that conventional organized religion has all the answers for us, nor does secular, reductionist science. We need a fusion of the sacred and the secular. We need an everyday sacredness." The word spirituality tries to capture that fusion of everyday sacredness. For many people, it represents a life-giving alternative to secularist fundamentalism and religious fundamentalism, the former offering the world weapons of mass destruction and the latter stirring emotions to put the suicidal machinery into motion.
Our story (in the West, at least) could be told like this: we are witnessing the transition from conventional premodern religions, to an early modern period of institutional religion, to a late-modern religious collapse and replacement by secularism, to a growing dissatisfaction with all of the above-premodern religion, institutional religion, and modern secularism. This dissatisfaction in some cases has led to a reactionary resurgence of pushy fundamentalism-fearful, manic, violent, apocalyptic. And in other cases it has led to a search for a new kind of spirituality. The success or failure of this search will, no doubt, play a major role in the story of the twenty-first century.
In its early stages, this search for spirituality has been associated with the term new age, which for many means something vague, consumerist, undefined, and mushy. However, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, more and more of us are realizing that a warm but mushy spirituality is no match for hot and pushy fundamentalism, of whatever religious variety, especially when that fundamentalism is well armed, dangerous, and in the mood for an apocalypse. More and more of us feel, more and more intensely, the need for a fresh, creative alternative-a fourth alternative, something beyond militarist scientific secularism, pushy religious fundamentalism, and mushy amorphous spirituality.
This alternative, we realize, needs to be creative and new to face the new challenges of a new age, a world gone "post-al"-postmodern, postcolonial, post-Enlightenment, post-Christendom, post-Holocaust, post-9/11. Yet it also needs to derive strength from the old religious traditions; it needs to face new-age challenges with age-old wisdom. The challenge of the future will require, we realize, rediscovery and adaptive reuse of resources from the ancient past.
This book-together with the series of books it introduces-explores this fresh alternative, this fourth way beyond three unacceptable alternatives. It seeks to bring ancient spiritual practices to bear on the emerging world. It reaches toward an alternative beyond a reductionistic secularism, beyond a reactive and intransigent fundamentalism, and beyond a vague, consumerist spirituality.
This new focus is an acknowledgment that we have lost the path and are seeking to rediscover our faith as a way of life, shaped and strengthened by ancient practices. Although written by a Christian primarily for Christians, this initial book in the series extends our acknowledgment to unreligious people as well as to adherents of all three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each of the books following this one in the series will explore in depth and detail one of the seven ancient practices shared by the Abrahamic faith traditions: fixed-hour prayer, fasting, Sabbath, the sacred meal, pilgrimage, observance of sacred seasons, and giving.
1. Using the matrix below, plot your life in five-year increments. For example, when you were five years old, was your faith more a way of life or a system of belief, or was it low on both counts? How about at fifteen? Twenty-five? Where would you like it to be for five-year increments into the future?
2. Imagine yourself in the cold war between science and religion described in this chapter. Which side have you been on? Or have you been caught in the crossfire? Describe your experience and how this war has affected you or people close to you.
3. Reflect on the ideas of a "fusion between the sacred and the secular" and "everyday sacredness." Describe your experiences of this kind of fusion, and then describe your aspirations or hopes for it. What would it mean for you to learn how to live in this kind of fusion?
4. Consider the three common religious alternatives described in this chapter: scientific secularism, "hot and pushy fundamentalism," and "warm but mushy spirituality." Name strengths and weaknesses of each, and then imagine combining the strengths into a fourth alternative.
5. Give yourself permission to write in this book (unless it's borrowed from the library or a friend). Underline. Write notes in the margins. Ask questions. Jot down ideas. Talk back. Make this book a two-way conversation.
6. Go over your answers to questions one through four above. Say (or better, write) a prayer that expresses your hopes, desires, dreams, concerns, and decisions
<%TOC%> Contents ACKNOWLEDGMENTS....................vii
Excerpted from FINDING OUR WAY AGAIN by BRIAN MCLAREN Copyright © 2008 by Brian D. McLaren. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
CHAPTER 1: SEARCHING FOR AN EVERYDAY SACREDNESS....................1
PART 1 : WAY CHAPTER 2: WHY SPIRITUAL PRACTICES MATTER....................11
CHAPTER 3: THE GENESIS OF PRACTICE....................21
CHAPTER 4: PRACTICING THE WAY OF JESUS....................31
CHAPTER 5: PAUL AND THE WAY OF LOVE....................41
CHAPTER 6: SHARING TREASURES AMONG FRIENDS....................51
CHAPTER 7: OPEN-SOURCE SPIRITUALITY....................61
CHAPTER 8: SHALLOW TROUBLE, DEEP TROUBLE....................67
PART 2 : PRACTICES CHAPTER 9: PRACTICE MAKES POSSIBLE....................79
CHAPTER 10: CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES....................89
CHAPTER 11: COMMUNAL PRACTICES....................99
CHAPTER 12: MISSIONAL PRACTICES....................113
CHAPTER 13: THE CYCLE WE FIND OURSELVES IN....................123
CHAPTER 14: MOVING ON....................131
PART 3 : ANCIENT CHAPTER 15: PRACTICING THE ANCIENT WAY....................143
CHAPTER 16: KATHARSIS (VIA PURGATIVA)....................151
CHAPTER 17: FOTOSIS (VIA ILLUMINATIVA)....................159
CHAPTER 18: THEOSIS (VIA UNITIVA)....................169
CHAPTER 19: FAITHING OUR PRACTICES....................181
CHAPTER 20: LEARNING BY (BROKEN) HEART....................191
ABOUT THE AUTHOR....................215
Meet the Author
Brian D. McLaren (MA, University of Maryland) is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. After teaching college English, Brian pastored Cedar Ridge Community Church in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area. Brain has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors for over 20 years. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the US and internationally.
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