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52 Experiences in Unhurried Honesty with God
If yesterday’s word was “simple,” tomorrow’s word will be “slow.”
Our culture is shifting from fast food to health food both physically and spiritually. Self-care, soul-care, life coaches, and spiritual retreats all show our dissatisfaction in quick fixes and fast faith. The Sacred Slow is an invitation to unhurried honesty before God. Formatted as 52 experiences, The Sacred Slow reminds readers on every page that God never wanted to use them: He always wanted to love them.
Experienced devotionally or in small groups, each chapter features a short but unexpected reading and two options for application: a thought focus or a heart exercise. The content is the overflow of Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s thirty+ years as a spiritual mentor to leaders and learners. The tone is personal, practical, and penetrating. The fruit is sustainable (as opposed to event-based) intimacy with God.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
An award-winning writer, Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s messages address both head and heart and are often described as grace-filled surgeries. Alicia is a speaker, author, and leadership mentor who enjoys thunderstorms, jalapenos, and honest questions. To explore Alicia’s other books or learn more about her ministry, visit www.aliciabrittchole.com.
Read an Excerpt
WHAT IS FAST FAITH?
Ours is a hurried age in which speed is deified and waiting is demonized.
Ours is a cluttered age in which noise is the norm and images constantly clamor for our attention.
And in our hurried, cluttered age, faster has become synonymous with better, and experience has become a substitute for relationship.
The problem, however, is that faster experiences do not produce better relationships with people or with God.
Relationship with God is best fed by a steady practice of attentiveness to God (as opposed to a diet of relative neglect, interrupted occasionally by quick spikes of engagement and intense surges of experience), which may help explain some of the spiritual dissatisfaction and burnout puzzling countless sincere souls in our day. We mistake the spikes and surges for spiritual strength and are left wondering why our faith at times still feels uneven and lonely.
Changing such age-old patterns requires new thinking, and that, at first, can seem strenuous. We are so attached to — and consequently so protective of — our fast, experiential, adrenaline-addicted culture that we confidently call physical spikes energy and spiritual spikes inspiration. And when the physical and spiritual align — when we feel something tangible in our senses while thinking something spiritual in our minds — we call it intimacy with God.
The potential combinations of surges and spikes are almost endless in an age where many, but certainly not all, Jesus-followers suffer an embarrassment of spiritual riches. Inspirational quotes are at our fingertips. Moving devotionals remind us that God's mercies are new multiple times every morning. Books abound. The best of the best sermons, interviews, and teachings are instantly accessible. These ever-expanding options are then supercharged by prayerfully and carefully crafted weekly services and truly breathtaking seasonal conferences and conventions.
However, God did not architect us to live — physically or spiritually — on adrenaline surges, however excellent their choreography may be. By divine design, we flourish with a connectivity that is more even and steady: one that accompanies each breath and affects each step. Faith is a glorious opportunity to live in Him — with or without the experience of feelings — through willful, moment-by-moment attentiveness to Jesus, Whose presence neither surges nor wanes.
Fast Faith, in contrast, lives surge to surge, ever alert to formulas and combinations that help the feelings linger longer.
Fast Faith interprets the sensory crashes in between surges not as waning adrenaline or normalization but rather as a lack of devotion or — even more erroneously — as the absence of God.
Fast Faith is a restless spirituality that often craves what is new and what is next, in the recycled hope that the latest "it" can satisfy an ache that can only be described as timeless.
And sadly, Fast Faith is also one of the reasons a generation is departing from Christianity to explore other religions that promise inner peace. To date, I have never heard anyone excuse him- or herself from the table because there were not enough excellent or exciting offerings to choose from, but because, after eating, he or she still felt hungry. Their complaint is about sustainability: "It was great. But it just didn't last." So he or she keeps wandering in search of something that will endure, in search of a feeling that can remain.
In truth, only God remains.
And God is not a feeling.
Before You Begin
Each of the fifty-two experiences in The Sacred Slow contains two components — a reading and a guided response. Every guided response offers two options for engagement through a thought focus or an exercise.
The thought foci are questions or statements for reflection, personal journaling, or conversation with friends. The exercises are strategic sets of action steps designed to mentor you in the holy habit of intentionality toward your spiritual formation. Some will feel fun and natural, and others may feel clumsy and uncomfortable. For this context, the latter are needed as much as the former.
How long it will take to experience The Sacred Slow depends on what is best for you.
Though diverse in style and length, the readings are relatively short and can be scanned in a day. A prayerful consideration of each chapter's reading and its thought focus might take one or two weeks. To meaningfully engage in the readings and the exercises, I recommend twelve weeks — which is why the book is formatted in twelve movements. However, many have taken an even slower pace and sat with one chapter a week for a year.
At the beginning of each new movement, consider your schedule and invest for the duration of that movement in either the thought focus or the exercise. You can always return and do the other level of response at another time.
Most often, both options will flow directly from the chapter reading. However, in the first two movements, the readings will focus on the story behind the book and the guided response options will focus on the story of your life.
For many, the first nine exercises are the most intense as far as requiring the cooperation of your head, heart, and hands. As a mentor, I would rather you choose the less intense level of response (the thought focus) if you think that the intensity of these first exercises might cause you to abandon The Sacred Slow prematurely.
Remember that consistency can still be creative. Maybe you will thrive reading The Sacred Slow at the same time every morning. Maybe you are wired more for an extended block of time to focus on the journey once a week. Either way, shape your experience to complement how God has designed you.
If your history were to be made into a movie, what sets would the director design as the backdrop for the most formative moments of your life?
1. Generate a list of three or four trusted souls who (a) know you very well and (b) are emotionally safe. These are individuals who love you enough to be honest and are healthy enough not to abuse you with that honesty.
2. Generate a list of three or four trusted souls whom you spiritually respect for the depth of their love for Jesus.
3. Contact each person listed with some version of the following: I am working my way through a book with exercises that sometimes require input from respected friends. I' d like to ask if you' d pray for me whenever I come to mind and also if you would be willing to help me out by responding to a few questions along the way. I'd be honored if you can say yes, but there's no pressure and no problem if you need to say no.
4. Begin creating your Life Scroll. The first five exercises of The Sacred Slow focus on the development of a timeline that will evolve into an insightful spiritual tool. As the rings of a tree trunk tell some of its story, your Life Scroll will enable you to see your life in layers and then interact with those layers anew in a way that is often healing.
Unfold your Life Scroll from the Toolbox in the back of the book. Make a timeline at the bottom edge of the page by labeling each tick with a year, starting with your birth and ending with next year.
Above the corresponding year, populate row 1 with information that the government and/or insurance companies have recorded, such as the date and city of your birth, significant dates in your family's history, out-of-country travel, dates and names of schools attended, when you received your driver's license, moves, jobs, new business endeavors, major purchases, illnesses, accidents, adoptions, etc.
For example, the first timeline tick at the base of my Life Scroll is labeled 1965. Above it, in the first row, I have written: born in Las Vegas, NV. Above 1990: married Barry Jay Chole. Above 1999: son diagnosed with autism. Above 2001: Daddy died. Above 2010: purchased prayer retreat home. Above 2013: diagnosed with breast cancer. Above 2016: took daughter to Australia. Above 2017: published The Sacred Slow.
With exercises like this, it is easy to spend the whole time mentally talking to yourself. Attempt to work through each part of this exercise conscious of God and in prayerful conversation with Him. He foresaw and was present for every single moment you are describing.
WHAT IS THE SACRED SLOW?
This God Who is not a feeling is the One Who established time. In the beginning, "there was evening, and there was morning — the first day" (Genesis 1:5). Time has not changed: it remains one of the few unaltered, original residents of the garden of Eden. Each day still holds roughly twenty-four hours, and each hour still holds approximately sixty minutes as Earth rotates on its axis in obedience to laws too old to be called ancient. Time, by divine design, is quite composed. Demand it to speed up or beg it to stand still, time will remain steady because it bows to only One. (And we, too, are His servants.)
However, each slow, calm tick of time has ceased to be a sacred reminder of the gift of life (let alone of the Giver of life). Now we view the steady, unhurried ticks as maddening reminders of what is undone. On the job, the undone may be a task. In our hearts, the undone is us.
In reality, time is not the enemy.
Perhaps the real problem lies not with time but with our expectations. Since information travels at rates approaching the speed of light, we expect transformation to do the same. We want to grow faster and go faster and know faster than ever before. And if faith were a thing — a dead, inanimate thing — perhaps we could hurry it along by upgrading our technology.
Spiritual transformation, however, travels more at the speed of sound. To the point: we grow as we attend to the sound of God's love. If you just inadvertently rolled your eyes (or wondered how you could regift this book to some flowy friend), let me clarify. I have never heard that sound with my ears. Nor do I spend my days conjuring up the sound with my imagination. Attending to God's love is not the blissful fallout of sensationalism but the cultivated fruit of intentionality.
Welcome to the Sacred Slow.
The Sacred Slow is a holy departure from Fast Faith. It is a path that is both ancient (Enoch knew it) and holy (Jesus epitomized it).
Instead of going from surge to surge in pursuit of increasingly sticky spiritual experiences, the Sacred Slow invites you to willfully live in Him moment by moment by faith. Brother Lawrence described the contrast well:
People seek for methods of learning to love God. They hope to arrive at it by I know not how many different practices. ... Is it not much shorter and more direct to do everything for the love of God, to make use of all of the labors in one's state of life to show Him that love, and to maintain His presence within us by this communion of our hearts with His? There is no finesse about it; one has only to do it generously and simply.
This "more direct" route is not remotely a denial of feelings or a dismissal of experiences. But it is a call to revoke the authority we have given our feelings to tell us whether or not God is in the room. Nor is this more direct route an elitist alternative reserved for certain personalities or professions. This way is open to all! As the sacred weight of slow living builds layer upon layer in our souls, we begin to live aglow from within, lit up in our minds and souls by increasingly continuous intimacy with God.
Be prepared; we will not begin by focusing on what Lawrence called "practicing the presence of God." We have some soul work to do to enable that adventure to become sustainable.
In the meantime, what should we do with our favorite experiences and practices? Enjoy them as you would any gift or privilege. The songs, books, teachings, and conferences are not the real problem. The real problem is our belief that these gifts are how or where we encounter God's presence.
God is not shyly hiding in the greenroom awaiting just the right atmosphere to make an appearance during a church service. Nor is He coyly withholding His presence from us until we play a certain song or open a specific book.
As you enter into the Sacred Slow, view these gifts not as sources of God's company but as celebrations of God's company. Delight in the gifts not as surges that usher in God's presence but rather as holy reminders that God is already, and always, with you. I am pretty sure that this is the deepest desire of the pastors who craft services, the worshipers who write songs, the authors who pen books, the preachers who record teachings, and the planners who painstakingly choreograph conferences.
They want you to know that the God you hear about and sometimes feel there is with you everywhere.
Recall the three or four sets identified in chapter 1 of your life as a movie. Wrap words around what was happening within you spiritually in these formative sets or spaces.
1. God is with you! Conscious of that reality, open your Life Scroll in His presence and make one request: "God, walk with me through the years and show me, remind me, reveal to me significant moments in my journey with You."
2. In row 2 of your Life Scroll, write these pivotal, critical, landmark, or formative spiritual moments and experiences in the space above the corresponding year.
For example, in the space above my early childhood, I wrote: attended mass with Mom. Above 1974: chose atheism as a belief system. 1983: God interrupted my atheistic existence. 1994: yearlong sabbatical. 2013–2014: thick experience of God's love during breast cancer surgery and recovery.
Allow yourself to revisit these moments. Life Scroll memories may inspire prayer, gratitude, or tears. Give yourself permission to pause or ponder, worship or wonder, miss a loved one or write a letter to a dear one.
3. And then rest. Distancing ourselves from our story may (initially) appear easier. Being honest to our history can be hard work.
Excerpted from "The Sacred Slow"
Copyright © 2017 Alicia Britt Chole.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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.
Table of Contents
Movement One — Two Stories,
1. What Is Fast Faith?, 3,
2. What Is the Sacred Slow?, 8,
3. The Number of Rest, 12,
4. The Original Sacred Slow, 16,
5. God's Issue with Clenched Fists, 21,
Movement Two — Adding Intentionality,
6. The Underestimated Danger of Not Listening, 27,
7. A Curious Remedy for Idolatry, 32,
8. The Sound of Listening, 37,
9. Seed #3 and the Enemy's Plan B, 43,
Movement Three — God-Concepts,
10. The Source of Spiritual Misthink, 49,
11. How to Water Thorns, 53,
12. God in the Room, 56,
13. Thinking Backward, 60,
Movement Four — Self-Concepts,
14. Does God Have an Opinion?, 67,
15. Sorting the Mail, 70,
16. New Rules, New Start, 73,
17. Changing the Locks, 77,
Movement Five — Centralizing His Presence,
18. Faith as a Duet, 83,
19. Our Primary Occupation, 87,
20. Invited Home, 91,
21. Inheritance Prayers, 95,
Movement Six — Relating to His Word,
22. The Word, 101,
23. A Kite Without a String, 105,
24. To God About God's Word, 109,
25. When the Word Is Heard and Heeded, 114,
26. A Request for More, 120,
Movement Seven — DiscoveringGod-Prints,
27. Sploshy, 127,
28. A Wall and a Door, 131,
29. Our Original Artist, 134,
30. An Internal Air Freshener, 139,
31. The Positive Power of Pure Pleasure, 143,
Movement Eight — The Discipline of Restraint,
32. Can. Should, 149,
33. Living Led, 154,
34. Mental Waiting, 157,
35. Earthly Simplicity, 161,
36. Purity of Soul, 164,
Movement Nine — A Theology of Time and Space,
37. Gift or Grinch?, 171,
38. The Flow of Time, 175,
39. Margin, 180,
40. Space-Shaping Saboteurs, 184,
Movement Ten — Unexpected Friends,
41. Where Follow Leads, 191,
42. An Ancient Angst, 193,
43. The Silence of God, 196,
44. A Friend Called Failure, 199,
Movement Eleven — Sabbath and Prayer Retreats,
45. The Work of Rest, 205,
46. Come Away, 209,
47. Packing Light, 212,
48. Retreat Rhythms, 217,
Movement Twelve — The Sacred Go,
49. The Overflow, 225,
50. Open Eyes, 229,
51. You+, 233,
52. Anticipation, 237,
Twelve-Week Facilitator Guide, 243,
My Personal Inventory, 297,
John 14–17, 301,
About the Author, 325,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Sacred Slow isn't just another "personal growth" book. It's clear from the outset that Dr. Chole is a deep thinker AND teacher, so the concepts are incredibly powerful, but take time to grasp. If you're looking for a quick fix this isn't it. However, if you find yourself a little dissatisfied with some of the books you've read lately... or you feel you're stuck in a rut...or you just need some REST from all the effort you're pouring out daily, this book could be the saving grace you're searching for. Each chapter and exercise is meant to be savored...like a good piece of chocolate. I spent one week on each chapter, versus one day, because I really wanted to go deep into the content. It's just a really powerful tool strong, foundational teaching and lessons to help people STOP RUSHING through what matters most in our lives. Alicia encourages us to slow down and focus on the little things we miss so often in our busy, busy lives. I can't recommend this book highly enough!!
THE SACRED SLOW A Holy Departure From Fast Faith By Alicia Britt Chole 52 experiences in unhurried honesty with God. In today’s world we are doing things faster and faster all the time. We want our food fast, we want to drive fast cars, etc., but one thing that we need to take at a slower pace is our learning about God and His Love. In her book, Alicia Britt Chole gives us 52 experiences divided into twelve, what she calls movements, to help us slowdown in hearing God Word and what He wants us to know and do. You will learn about His concepts, His word, theology of time and space and other movements. Each reading can be used as a daily reading or devotion, as a weekly time of study or however you wish. You will start with a quote, then a list of items needed for that section. She shares a short story about the question she is asking and give a section called a guided response, offers thought focuses for that section. The book is setup to be used by yourself or it can be used in a study group. I liked the idea of the book but I did not like the method used to get her point across. I did not care for some of the suggestion in the guided response sections, I think the reader should do their own responses and journaling. The subject of the book is good. I received this book free from Handlebar Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255