Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Loving God with heart, soul, mind and practice.

Gazing at my bookshelves looking for the book that has influenced me most is not easy. Some, which felt influential years ago now seem less so. Others authors continue to be important in shaping who I am (Eugene Peterson and Stanley Hauerwas for example).

Of the books, I’ve read in the last year, one that is worthy of mention is Tony Jones’s ‘The Sacred Way’. I read it whilst on the train to London and Didcot last autumn and have suggested it to a number of people in church since. The book, subtitled ‘Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life’ looks at different approaches to spirituality along with some pointers to help integrate them into our daily lives; contemplative approaches such as the Jesus Prayer, Sacred Reading and the Daily Office; bodily approaches such as pilgrimage and fasting together with some thoughts about developing a Rule of Life.

For those who have experience of these different approaches the book may seem lightweight but for those with little exposure to them it may be just the encouragement you need. Jones grew up in a church-going family and went to a Christian college in the US. As he puts it, “by the time I was 25, my views of God, prayer, the Bible, etc. were pretty screwed up.” The shallowness of this eventually provoked him to look at how people had connected with God in past generations, whereupon he discovered, “the incredible richness in the spiritual practices of ancient and modern Christian communities from around the world.”

This is a book for those whose prayer life and walk with God has become stale. It is accessible without being lightweight, insightful but generous, practical because it is about God and about the practice of daily living. Buy a copy, read it and then give it away to someone who will need it more than you.

As Julian of Norwich wrote:

“Therefore we can with his grace and his help persevere in spiritual contemplation, with endless wonder at this high, surpassing, immeasurable love which our Lord in his goodness has for us; and therefore we may with reverence ask from our lover all that we will, for our natural will is to have God, and God’s good will is to have us, and we can never stop willing or loving until we possess him in the fullness of joy.”

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