"In his life and writing, Michael Yankoski walks a tightrope between action and contemplation, and, behold, in ways we can all learn from, he manages to find a sort of essential balance."
Philip Yancey, author of What's So Amazing About Grace
"This book is a joy to the soul and a delight to the heart. It is destined to become a classic within the genre of contemporary spiritual and religious writing."
Phyllis Tickle, compiler of The Divine Hours
Frustrated and disillusioned with his life as a Christian motivational speaker, Michael Yankoski was determined to stop merely talking about living a life of faith and start experiencing it. The result was a year of focused engagement with spiritual practicesboth ancient and modernthat fundamentally reshaped and revived his life. By contemplating apples for an hour before tasting them (attentiveness), eating on just $2.00 a day (simplicity), or writing letters of thanks (gratitude), Michael discovered a whole new vitality and depth through the intentional life.
Guided by the voice of Father Solomona local monkYankoski's Sacred Year slowly transforms his life. Both entertaining and profound, his story will resonate with those who wish to deepen their own committed faith as well as those who are searchingperhaps for the first timefor their own authentic encounter with the Divine.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
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About the Author
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The Sacred Year
Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practiceâ?"How Contemplating Apples, Living in a Cave, and Befriending a Dying Woman Revived My Life
By Michael Yankoski
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Michael George Yankoski III
All rights reserved.
What Color Is Jaded?
Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wilderness —Dante, Inferno
O thou lord of life, send my roots rain. —Gerard Manley Hopkins
There were only a few lonely travelers in the otherwise vacant boarding area as I arrived for yet another 5:00 a.m. departure. I was several years into the speaking tour for my first book, Under the Overpass, traveling from city to city, telling the story of my friend Sam's and my intentional journey as homeless men. The allure of travel and bright lights had long since worn off by this point, and more and more I was finding the unanchored life of an itinerate speaker increasingly corrosive.
One of my fellow travelers—a large man with a stained Harley-Davidson shirt and a beard like a muddy waterfall—had passed out across a row of chairs. He was snoring loudly, and every so often his steel-toed right boot twitched menacingly. A tattooed arm extended out toward his nearby suitcase, and as I sat down to await the start of the boarding process, a shiny silver bracelet flashed against the background of blue ink on his forearm. When I looked closer I saw it wasn't a bracelet at all, but a handcuff—he had handcuffed himself to his suitcase.
"Your attention please," a perfectly timed electronic voice blared over the boarding area speakers. "Please do not leave your luggage unattended. All unattended baggage will be confiscated and may be destroyed."
Ha! I smirked. Nobody's going to confiscate his stuff.
Over the next few minutes several more early morning zombies straggled in, all of them greedily nursing steaming cups of dark, gritty stimulant beneath shadowy eyes and hollow cheeks. These recent additions brought the total number in the boarding area to ten, including myself. A cold light inside a nearby vending machine began to strobe in an irregular, distracting way.
The speech I'd delivered the night before had gone well. The audience was kind, and only one person snored audibly. (It only took a second before his mortified wife elbowed him hard in the ribs.) When the time came there was an engaging Q&A session, with some of the audience members texting in questions while others just raised their hands politely or stood up and used the provided microphones at the back of the room. When it was all over, I stood in the foyer for more than an hour, shaking hands, answering still more questions, and signing the occasional dog-eared book.
This was my third speech in as many days, and tonight I would be in yet another city, in another room, standing before another audience without knowing anybody's name, trying yet again to weave words into a tale worth hearing, a tale—if I was really on top of my game—that might just produce zero snoring audience members and maybe, just maybe, might be worth their remembering the next day.
An airline employee arrived and began fumbling behind the desk with the computer, cursing every so often as he banged a fist on the malfunctioning printer.
Just then, something new strolled into the boarding area: a surprisingly bright-eyed, sandy-haired fellow with flawless clothes, straight teeth, and an impressive tan. He swaggered in, quickly surveyed the rest of us, and evidently unimpressed by what he saw, chose a vacant corner for himself. Once he'd lounged himself in a chair, his phone rang—a ringtone from that old hard-rock song about driving the highway of life.
"Hiya, babe," the man drawled into the phone, flashing a shiny grin that had probably worked miracles for him in the past. But soon his face darkened and his jaw muscles rippled under that tanned skin at whatever the woman on the other end was saying. "Now Nikki, hold on a minute," the man said firmly.
But Nikki didn't hold on. She just kept right on talking, and his face turned crimson.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," the boarding agent announced. "We're now ready to begin our boarding process. Unlike you crazies, sane people sleep in Saturdays. That means we'll be boarding all groups at once. Please make sure your boarding passes are out and available as you approach the podium."
With his free hand, Mr. Harley-Davidson pulled out a bristle of keys and started working on his handcuff. We stood—most of us, that is—and made our way toward the podium, trying to remember where we'd stuffed our tickets to ride.
The guy with the tan stayed seated in the corner, the situation escalating.
"Now that's not fair!" he yelled. "We talked about this and you said—" But Nikki cut him off again.
"Good morning, Mr. Yankoski," the gate agent said once he'd scanned my boarding pass.
"You're in a better mood than I am," I mumbled.
"Enjoy your flight."
"You too," I said, and staggered down the jet bridge. As I neared the plane I could still hear the guy on the phone behind me, shouting.
I seem to have relatively good luck on airplanes. I've only had drinks spilled on me three times, lost my luggage twice, and been projectile-vomited on by a newborn once. And that's just the daytime flights. On my last red-eye I sat next to a broad-shouldered, flailing-snoring-farter who was remarkably capable at making sure that I didn't sleep for more than a few minutes at a time during the whole five-hour flight.
So it was par for the course when the Shouter threw his bag onto the seat directly across the aisle from me, ensuring that I'd have a front-row seat to the rest of his early morning tirade. I crammed in both of my earbuds and cranked up the volume to try and drown out the yelling. I'd almost managed to fall asleep when the flight attendant knocked on my shoulder.
I looked up, blinking at her for a moment, surprised by how well she could harmonize with Bon Iver. Then the song ended and her lips kept moving.
I yanked out an earbud. "Huh?"
"Turn off your MP3 player please, sir," the flight attendant said again. Then she turned to the man across the aisle.
The Shouter hadn't abated. "That's absurd, Nikki! You always do this. This is just like last time. I can't even—" But Nikki cut him off.
Now it was the flight attendant's turn to get frustrated. "Sir! I'm not going to tell you again. The main cabin door is closed. We are ready to depart. Turn off your phone!"
"Nikki, I've got to go," the man yelled. "Yeah, uh-huh. Like I believe that."
"Sir!" the flight attendant shouted, stamping her foot.
The man held up a silencing finger at the flight attendant and bellowed into the phone.
"Well excuse me, Nikki, for ruining your miserable little life!" With that the man ended the call and hurled his phone at the floor of the plane, where it shattered into several pieces. He glared up at the flight attendant. "There. It's off now. Are you happy?"
She was more than a little surprised, as was I. So were the other nine zombies on the plane that morning, all leaning out into the aisle to see what was happening. Somebody needed to get this guy some Valium, and fast.
"Thank you, sir," the flight attendant said. After a sarcastic curtsy she walked away.
The man swore under his breath, clicked off his seat belt, and started picking up the shrapnel from his phone.
Once he was safely restrained in his seat, I ventured a question across the aisle. "Rough morning, huh?"
The man bared his Hollywood-straight teeth and glared out the window at the darkness. "You have no idea." He slipped the wedding band from his finger and began playing with it absentmindedly.
As we accelerated down the runway, I put my earbuds back in, reclined my seat a full half-inch, and tried to sleep. When we landed an hour or so later, the man across the aisle leaped up and stormed to the front of the plane before I'd even managed to click off my seatbelt. As the main cabin door opened, I heard him toss an awkward "sorry about that" to the flight attendant.
She responded with a halfhearted smile. "Don't worry about it, sir. I'm sure it happens all the time."
He stiffened at this, obviously contemplating a retort, but then thought better of it and vanished off the plane.
I didn't expect to think more about what I'd seen that morning. It was just another marital argument; another shouting, cussing couple; another man with a confident, polished exterior and a frazzled, fraying interior.
Then I arrived at the conference.
The Change Our World conference it was called—or something both audacious and cheesy as only a crowd of well-meaning Christians can be. Thousands of people had come from all over the country to attend and learn and discuss ways they might individually and collectively help shape our world for good. It was a well-attended, well-funded, and well-produced affair. Even the welcome folder I was handed at check-in felt posh, with lots of swag and full-color prints crammed inside.
My arrival time meant I had missed most of the first session, but I was able to slip into the auditorium just before the afternoon session started. Duplicate images of a flashy, bouncy timer counted backward on the two jumbo screens at the front of the room, with each tick-tock of the clock accompanied by an amplified drumbeat that made you feel like you were getting punched in the stomach in a dark alley. You could feel the energy in the room rising as the zero-minute approached, and when at last we reached liftoff, the theme song from Rocky began screaming over the expensive speakers.
The emcee bounded up on stage with a bright shirt and manicured fingernails, all visible and larger than life on the expensive jumbo screens. "Welcome, welcome, welcome, my blessed brothers and sisters, to the Change Our World conference!" he yelled into his microphone. A blinding shot of a chemically whitened smile burst on the screens, and the audience cheered. "I don't know about y'all, but I can feel it down deep in my bones—God is in the house." The audience cheered again, and I rolled my eyes.
The emcee raised his hand like a rock star and hushed the audience. "Now we have a real treat in store for y'all this afternoon. Our next guest here at Change Our World has been an internationally renowned Christian comedian for more than twenty years. He's been featured on every radio show you can think of and has even been a guest on the major network late-night talk shows. But despite all that, everybody knows he has a real heart for the Lord, and a heart to change the world too. Just like all of you. So, now join with me and let's give him a raise-the-roof, Change Our World welcome!"
The music and the cheering reached fever pitch as a surprisingly bright-eyed, sandy-haired fellow with flawless clothes, straight teeth, and an impressive tan swaggered out onto the stage.
I blinked several times, speechless. There he was—the Shouter from across the aisle—peacocking his way back and forth across the brightly lit stage, tan and radiant as ever.
The world gave a sort of sickening half-turn at that point. I couldn't help but cringe at the sight of him up there—for I saw myself in him as well—all swagger and smile, a spectacle strutting his song and dance for all to see, making others laugh with a memorized routine at a conference that pitched itself as helping "make the world a better place" while inside ... well, who ever really knows what's going on down in our depths. Except that every so often we watch in horror as the turmoil within splashes over the sides of our carefully maintained facades and we chew out an innocent bystander, or sleep with a coworker, or wake up in a cold sweat after a nightmare in which we were the hamster running, running, running endlessly on the miniature Ferris wheel.
Before he'd even gotten into his routine, I stood up and bolted from the darkened auditorium, wondering if I was going to be sick. I ran toward the greenroom reserved for the conference's speakers and musicians, hoping to hide out there and collect myself until it was my turn to step on stage with my own song and dance. I practically crashed into three members of the headlining band as they stormed past me, pushing their way out of the greenroom with evident disgust. Inside the greenroom, the band's well-dressed manager was midstream in her harangue against two of the conference organizers.
"This is unthinkable," she seethed, her long silver earrings flickering like lightning with each syllable. "Completely unacceptable."
"Really, I am so very, very sorry," one of the conference organizers said. Her tone was genuinely apologetic, and she looked like she was about to burst into tears.
But the manager didn't hear a word. "Sometimes I wonder if you people even read the contract before you sign it. How can you mess up something as simple as this?"
The same organizer looked at me standing there in the doorway, a pleading expression on her face, and gently asked, "Would you mind excusing us for a little while, so the band can have their privacy until we get this sorted out?"
"I don't mind at all," I said. I scurried out of the room before the band manager could throw something at me. And I didn't mind. Whatever they were so furious about, I certainly didn't want to be there when the band returned.
* * *
The Shouter and the run-in with the high-maintenance band manager sparked an existential crisis on the plane flight home. Handcuffed to my suitcase, strapped into my seat at thirty thousand feet, I couldn't help but wonder if I was just another pawn in the brightly lit song-and-dance called "American Christianity," leading a life offstage that didn't actually warrant what I was saying on stage. Was my life deeply grounded in the living God and thus an indication of faith, hope, and love, or were the edges of my own life cracked and fraying?
When at last I arrived home from that trip, I decided to disappear for a week to a local Benedictine monastery. It was either that or check myself into the psychiatric ward of a local hospital for close observation.
It's hard to say what I was hoping for as I fled east from Vancouver toward the rolling, green farmland of the Fraser Valley. I'd never stayed at the monastery before, but several friends had highly recommended it to me, describing the quieter, more intentional life within the cloister's walls as a sort of healing balm on all their frenzy. After everything I'd been through in the past few days, I was looking for something—anything, really—by which to buoy and anchor myself amid the turbulence.
I parked my car outside the monastery and went through a sort of curved entryway. A young monk, dressed in a black habit and reminding me of someone I knew but couldn't place, welcomed me and offered to show me the way to my room.
As we walked the dark corridor, the silence of the place resonated all around us. We walked for quite a while, turning here and there down this hallway and that, passing the occasional black-robed monk who nodded and smiled at us but did not speak as we passed. There were no bright lights, no thudding speakers, no countdown timers, just the heartbeat of a life of work and prayer that was deeper, more substantial than words.
Suddenly I realized who the monk reminded me of. "Has anyone ever mentioned that you look like Luke Skywalker?"
The monk laughed and nodded. "It's the habit," he said, pulling on the coarse material he wore. "You know that George Lucas modeled the Jedi Knights after real monks, don't you?"
I thought for a moment, rearranging my mental chronology a little. "Of course he did," I said after a lengthy delay. "At least, I think I knew that."
"Here's your room," the monk said, stopping beside a door. "Dinner will be served in the main dining hall this evening at six o'clock, but be advised that it is a silent meal. Breakfast begins every morning at six thirty, and you're of course welcome to join us in the main chapel for any of our prayer services. But know that you are not obliged to do anything while you are here. Stay in your room the whole time, if you'd like, and rest. Or join in with the rhythms and life of this place. May I answer any questions?"
Excerpted from The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski. Copyright © 2014 Michael George Yankoski III. 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
1 What Color Is Jaded? 1
Section I Depth with Self
2 Single Tasking: The Practice of Attentiveness 17
3 Life and Death: The Practice of Daily Examen 33
4 Daily Bread: The Practice of Sustenance 47
5 Freedom in Downward Mobility: The Practice of Simplicity 65
6 Let There BE!: The Practice of Creativity 87
Section II Depth with God
8 Guilty as Diagnosed: The Practice of Confession 123
9 Is Anybody Listening?: The Practice of Listening Prayer 139
10 Taste and Become: The Practices of Lectio Divina and Regular Eucharist 155
11 Resonant Loneliness: The Practice of Still, Silent Solitude 167
12 A Deep, Deep Breath: The Practice of Sabbath 183
13 Into the Wild: The Practice of Wilderness 195
14 Saunter On: The Practice of Pilgrimage 209
Section III Depth with Others
15 Requisite Thunder: The Practice of Gratitude 229
16 All for It: The Practice of Protest 243
17 Unto Others #1: The Practice of Pursuing Justice 259
18 Life Together: The Practice of Community 285
19 Unto Others #2: The Practice of Caring 301
20 Year-End Review 319
Appendix A Additional Resources 327
Appendix B Almost Answered: AQA with the Author 333
A Brief Note on Anonymity and Privacy 342
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Year worthy of Reading! I highly recommend this book. Michael is a gifted storyteller; lively and excited to tell stories that have shaped him while at the same time being very honest and vulnerable. I like how Michael sees contemplation as a practice of engagement with God, yourself, and the world. Rather than being something which isolates us, I've learned how contemplation actually brings us into the world, with renewed vision and capacity to work towards the Kingdom of God. After reading about how Michael was challenged and impacted by taking up various spiritual practices (ways of living), i feel invited and even excited to see how these practices will shape me as well. Already I have found myself more attentive and grateful. I look forward to giving this book as a gift and hope that North American Christians will be transformed and encouraged by the wisdom in these pages.
Michael asked me to read and review his newest book, The Sacred Year, and I immediately said yes because I had loved reading Under the Overpass. I quickly realized this book was going to be different. Words like “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wilderness,” from Dante’s Inferno, and “The problem with doing more and more is that it makes answering your question-where am I most myself?- almost impossible,” captured me. I kept reading with a hope that maybe I, too, could be changed. This is Michael’s story, but I found myself challenged to embrace new spiritual practices in my own life. The past six months have been filled with much loss for me. You wouldn’t notice it by just looking at me, but deep down, I am fragile, thirsty, finding my footing in the new normal of life. While I have kept a thankful journal off and on for years, the Daily Examen took this practice a step further. “You begin with gratitude, then move into a petition to God for clarity, crescendo with a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour review of the day’s events, descend into confession for the wrongs committed, and wrap things up with express hope of living well in the time that is to come.” I have been a Christian for many years and lately the reading of my Bible has been one more thing to check off my list. Lectio Divina is another spiritual practice I am starting to embrace. Michael explains it well, “In Lectio Divina we come to Holy Text not to be informed, but to be formed. Not to coolly observe, but to taste and become… To slow down and sit with the text, giving twenty minutes to twenty words or even two, instead of trying to blaze through four or five whole chapters in the same amount of time.” I could go on and on about this book, but I would rather you read it for yourself and find those practices which speak to you, and start applying them to your own life. You will be changed, I guarantee it! After reviewing this book, I bought five copies for close friends and family members. I would recommend this book to anyone who is searching for something more. For anyone who has been a Christian for a long time and is feeling stuck in a rut. I would also recommend this book to someone looking at Christianity for the first time. Michael’s style of writing is accessible to all. His voice rings genuine and true. I highly recommend The Sacred Year.
I thought The Sacred Year—with its subtitle that talked of “contemplating apples [and] living in a cave”—would be a fun read on the order of A. J. Jacob’s book The Know-It-All, on reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from beginning to end, or his The Year of Living Biblically, where he tried to live the Old Testament laws, including stoning adulterers. Yeah, I was wrong. This book (which I received free from BookLook Bloggers) has it’s funny moments, but it’s not just a compendium of absurd actions taken by a writer who takes something to the extremes simply so he can write about it. Michael Yankoski dove headlong into the spiritual disciplines to save his life after a rude awakening to the sometimes fakeness of celebrity Christianity. Yes, he goes to extremes, like living in a cave for a week to practice silence or digging a grave to focus on his own mortality, but his goal is to allow the disciplines to shape his soul and thus his life, his relationships, his actions. I will never take on the disciplines in the way Yankoski did. (In addition to no cave-dwelling or grave-digging, there will be no darning socks on a bus or hiking 48.6 miles to a monastery.) But after reading The Sacred Year, the lessons he learned are swirling through my head. I have lived (too recently) these feelings he describes: “I’m flat-out weary from the ever-present fear that I am falling behind, that I’m not getting ahead, that I’m not doing enough, not swinging the hammer high enough or hard enough.” I wasn’t raised in a tradition that spoke much of spiritual disciplines other than reading the Bible and praying, but over the years I’ve learned how I need much more than this duet, and how easy it is to let them go. Yankoski’s book adds to the spiritual discipline symphony I’ve already discovered. It reminds me why I need to consciously incorporate them into my life as I make everyday decisions. As I intentionally begin to practice the spiritual disciplines, I will need to listen more and more to the Spirit of God. Yankoski puts it this way: “Taken together . . . the spiritual practices become a lifelong way. . . . The unfathomable invitation presented to us in the way of spiritual practice is to work synergistically with God by walking on that pilgrim path, to meld our hearts and minds and wills and our very lives with God through the ongoing journey until we are at last standing in the full light of day, fully ‘conformed to the image of his Son.’” If you desire to be conformed to the image of Christ, take the time to delve into The Sacred Year. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth the trip.
Rarely do I advise people to NOT read a book. I'm a believer in reading, whatever your preferred genre, however long it takes you. But for this book, The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski, I feel compelled to caution you before you begin reading. It's one of those dangerous books that will force you to ask hard questions about your life and will make you responsible for your decisions. If you're not prepared to consider a different way of living, then don't even think about reading this book. That said, The Sacred Year is one of my favorite reads so far this year. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my review.) Yankoski, who gained fame as the author of Under the Overpass, recounts his search for meaning and purpose in his faith. As a sought-after Christian speaker, Yankoski comes to a point of seeing himself as a person spread too thin with very little depth. He commits to exploring spiritual practices that act counter-culturally to the way he currently lives. He focuses on practices like solitude, simplicity, confession, pilgrimage, gratitude and justice. There are 18 in all, and his experiences are as challenging as they are fascinating. This is not a book to rush through or read carelessly, and while it can be overwhelming to consider the kind of life Yankoski presents, he encourages readers to consider one or two of the practices for starters and begin living a life of more depth. I've enjoyed Yankoski's writing in the past. He is an honest and captivating storyteller who doesn't paint perfect pictures of his journey but acknowledges the hard parts and the failings. My copy of the book is already well-worn and dog-eared from the many places his words hit home. An entire section on creativity has become an agent for change in my writing life. Despite my earlier warning, there's nothing to fear about this book. It hits at the heart of a longing I think many are feeling about living a life of faith, purpose and meaning. Not an easy book to read but a necessary one. Definitely among my top books for the year.
How could staring at an apple for over an hour help you to change your focus? How could digging a grave help give you a deeper understanding of what our own mortality means? How long could you sit in a room in utter silence until you had to do something or engage in another activity? How can you learn to appreciate all that life has to offer when you can't seem to find hope and happiness anymore? I found some amazing insights into one man's spiritual walk, Michael Yankoski during one year he entitled in his book, The Sacred Year. In meeting with a man known as Father Solomon, he engaged Michael to take his own spiritual journey to find deeper nourishment, deeper encouragement, and deeper hope in a book that follows, through the ups and downs of one honest questioner's year of spiritual practice. There are simply so many amazing things that my poor copy of this book is more dog-eared than not. From outstanding quotes that open each chapter to the insights Michael discovered in so many profound ways, causes the reader to stop and pause at their own life, and realize how much we are truly missing. From learning to appreciate a great meal simply by fasting for 24 hours gives you a greater sense of the food you are eating. A good meal is never more appreciated than when you have gone without food for a few days. How too often we simply give up appreciating the abundance of food and flavors we have available to us simply by walking into a grocery store. How when challenged to learn how to reclaim items that too often we simply discard not because we can't use them any longer but because we don't want them anymore. "We humans throw away such an astonishing amount of stuff every year, especially in the developed world. Resources are scarce, clean air and water and land are precious, and perhaps one of the ways of protecting what remains includes reclaiming what we might throw away, like lumber scraps, clothing or furniture. If we truly don't want them, and they are perfectly good, why not consider donating them instead? Michael actually spent time dumpster diving to see just what we so often throw away that still has value left in it. How learning what is really important instead of the stronger overtaking the weaker, building something bigger, better and bolder, when you consider what is the point of it all anyway? "Is everything we build just destined to become rubble in another's ambition? For all the power and wealth here, for all the cultural influence and clout these culture-makers possess with their red carpets and private jets, they will all - we will all - one day be six feet under." (pg 111). He gains an insight into his own mortality digging a grave by hand. "The fact that I'm going to be down there someday. That we're all going to be down there someday. And the whole world will just keep on going about its business above us, like we were never even here."(pg 114). He uncovers how God views us all not as a harsh judge looking for the moment to wipe us off the planet but in discovering through a close friend who is dying of cancer, how God views sin in our life like as a father views cancer taking the life of his daughter. The father hates cancer with an absolute, burning passion. So sin is like cancer, eating us alive, diminishing what we're made to be. It's a cancer of the mind, a cancer of the heart, a cancer of the soul. And it has spread out like a tumor throughout our whole selves. And, like the Bible says, "the wages of sin," are like the effects of untreated cancer, "is death." "And God like the father of the child with cancer, hates sin, hates the cancer that is eating us alive. He loves us and so he hates whatever it is that is killing us. He doesn't hate us, though, He loves us. He loves us and hates cancer, hates cancer because He loves us. God desires for us to live, to flourish, to thrive. That is why He made us. That is why God keeps us in existence from moment to moment." (pg 131). I received The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski compliments of Thomas Nelson Publishers and Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own unless otherwise notated. There is simply so much to be gleaned from Michael's book and in his own year long search for something more than simply making it through this life doing the best we can with what God has given us. For those of you looking for a little bit more insight as the world grows at an exponential rate leaving us as debris in its wake, you just might uncover a true diamond in the rough tucked between the covers of this book.. I easily give this one a 4.5 out of 5 stars and can't wait to begin my own journey!
The Sacred Year became a 2014 favorite right away. Michael Yankoski's writing epitomizes "productive contemplation" without ever devolving into navel-gazing. This book is full of stories and he takes the time to tell them well, tasting, touching, savoring... meditating on each experience. His observations in the opening chapter are spot on. We are all busy with working and caring and dealing with problems and chasing dreams. It's a crazy world, and we have noisy minds and often broken hearts. It can all become one big carnival ride (inside our souls and out) and we can lose touch with reality as we live our lives. We need something to bring us back, to center us, to reassure us and to hold us. When Michael took his concerns to a spiritual retreat, an older monk understood the unasked questions. And this Brother guided him toward his first Sacred Year. Those intimidating and misunderstood things called "spiritual practices" would soon become the rhythm of his days. The unfolding year was spent "trimming the sail" of his soul, hoping to better catch the Wind of the Spirit. And Michael brings us into that year, through 18 chapters, each one devoted to a different practice. As Brother Solomon carefully explained, these practices aren't methods of earning grace or getting God's favor. In fact, they aren't strictly methods at all, in the sense of "systematic procedures." There is a chapter about Daily Bread, the process of growth, harvest, and preparation that links us humans to our sustenance. It's funny, most of us eat three meals a day and it's so easy to forget that our food comes from the earth, and that nourishing is more than caloric intake. It made me want to go cook something. There is Guilty as Charged, on confession. He delves into the heart of what confession is, the pain and darkness that we can feel, and then points to the merciful Hand that reaches down to us. He reminds us that confession should bring healing instead of shame, and be life-giving instead of threatening. Into The Wild, this chapter is on seeking out nature. There's a reason why Anne Frank, St. Francis, and Dostoyevsky all found God in His creation. As Edna St. Vincent Millay cried in her poetry "O God, I push the grass apart and lay my finger on Thy heart!" Taste and Become, a chapter on reading Scripture to soak it in and thus be transformed, rather than striving to dissect the text. He was dead on with his description of my own "skim and scavenge" reading habits. It may be efficient for completing a book, but is that the worthiest goal, to get things done fast? Ah, all this review can be is a basic outline. If you read the book you'll get much more meat. In full disclosure, I originally thought the subtitle "contemplating apples, living in a cave, and befriending a dying woman revived my life" made this sound like one of those trendy 12-Steps-to-a-Spiritual-High books. Nope. The Sacred Year is the farthest thing from that. This is his personal journey of communion and community, and something in here will assuredly speak to you. You'd better have a pen and a highlighter handy as you read, and then expect to give some copies out as Christmas gifts. Final thought: The Sacred Year is delightful, ecumenical, and honest. Thank you Litfuse for my review copy.
The Sacred Year is a journey through the soul. Michael acts as both a guide and a friend as he narrates his own travels from the shallow pools of frantic action to a depth of life and peace. At the twists and turns one feels him echoing your own words, your own desire for simplicity, meaning, life. With characteristic humour and humility, Michael shares with us both his deep fears and his experiments with the spiritual practices that have brought him grounding and meaning. But The Sacred Year is not just a memoir, it is a devotional and a resource. As a writer, I have deeply appreciated his craft--not just telling us about the spiritual life, but narrating spiritually. Each practice, whether confession, rest, or pilgrimage, is a personal invitation into engaging God in a profound way. As a leader in our local church community, I have found these practices (and the forms that they take in The Sacred Year) both inspiring and creative. Just recently I had a room of youth contemplating an apple--and reflecting together on God's creation in new ways. The Sacred Year is a profound book, highly recommended for those wanting inspiration to more deeply connect with their own soulscape, or those looking for ways to find a more grounding and authentic spiritual life in the midst of a frantic world.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Sacred Year – and would highly recommend it to anyone desiring to live more fully and intentionally in this beautiful world. What I particularly appreciated was the way Michael described so vividly with deep authenticity, the temptation to live our lives an inch deep and mile wide – tossed to and fro with the demands of life! The Sacred Year poignantly touches upon different practices that can be developed in our lives to help us pay attention to the small gifts of life that invite us into deeper living. I personally enjoyed being challenged by the practice of simplicity, and already have started to give away clothes that I haven’t been wearing! Using personal examples, wisdom from others and poignant conversations with a monk - this book is funny, exceptionally written, thought provoking. I haven’t enjoyed reading a book this much in a very long time!
In this fast paced world of moving from one task to the next Michael Yankoski’s book The Sacred Year is a powerful tool to help us break free and experience the transformative depths that ancient spiritual practices can have in our modern lives. The book is contemplative and authentic; it was something I needed to read.
The Sacred Year is refreshing, to say the least. In an environment of doing more and leaning in, The Sacred Year gives us the freedom to step back and find God in the quiet and even the mundane. A captivating and thought-provoking book, The Sacred Year has caused me to contemplate the presence of God in my daily life. Things like preparing food, feeling the wind, and going to sleep now take on an intentional and sacred meaning and Yankoski's views on the Sabbath have challenged me to rethink how it is practiced. The Sacred Year is an important book and is destined to become a classic on par with Foster's Celebration of Discipline.