Finding Our Way Again

I loved Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again (The Return of the Ancient Practices).

I know McLaren has his detractors in the church, but I enjoy and appreciate his writing and many of his perspectives. And, though I found his efforts to include Islam along with Judaism and Christianity in his depictions and prescriptions for spirituality more distracting than constructive, I nonetheless exulted in this brother's way of both speaking beautiful things that I have experienced and enticing me further, into deeper and broader experience.

Finding Our Way Again is a delightful exploration of the ancient spiritual practices of fixed-hour prayer, fasting, the sacred meal, Sabbath, tithing, and pilgrimage. It weaves those practices into the ancient way of Katharsis (Via Purgativa), Fotosis (Via Illuminativa), and Theosis (Via Unitiva). And it does so in a way that does not place a burden on the reader--adding more things to our "to do" lists--but encourages a new and liberating perspective.

Some of the portions I tabbed to remember and refer to in the future:
(quoting Dr. Peter Senge: "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 people need" (p. 3).

Spiritual practices are actions...[that] help us become someone weighty, someone worthy of a name and reputation....They're about surviving your twenties or forties or eighties and not becoming a jerk in the process" (p. 14).

This paradox--that skill and practice and experience are necessary conditions, but not sufficient conditions--is a paradox known well to people in the contemplative spiritual tradition, just as it is to musicians, artists, teachers, preachers, comedians, dancers, and anyone involved in work that can be labeled "inspired" or "uninspired" (p. 94).

Contemplative practices, then, are means by which we become prepared for grace to surprise us (p. 95).

I often ask people what question would come to mind if God sent them the following message: I will give you a message of great importance sometime during a sermon in the next three years. They always reply with this question: "Which Sunday?" After all, they don't want to miss the big week. About this time, they always laugh, because they anticipate the follow-up question I've got coming down the chute: what if the only way you'll be prepared to hear that message when it comes is by practicing attentiveness for the next 155 Sundays? (p. 107).

The purpose of the ancient way and the ancient practices is not to make us more religious. It is to make us more alive. Alive to God. Alive to our spouses, parents, children, neighbors, strangers, and yes, even our enemies. Alive to the house wren speeding to her nest with another caterpillar to feed her demanding brood. Alive to the cricket singing outside our back doors. Alive to the cloud that is sailing over you right now. Alive to the spin of our planet--real, but completely undetectable to us. Alive to chemistry and physics and philosophy and economics and even politics. Alive to open books and folded sheets, a sleeping dog, migrating geese, frying eggs, everything (pp. 182-183).

Learning something by heart can save you when your heart is broken so nothing can come from it except tears, and spontaneity is simply another burden on an already overburdened soul (pp. 197-198).

When the pilot of your plane dies of a heart attack, it's too late for you to go into the cockpit and figure out how to fly. When the biopsy comes back positive (which is negative)'s too late to draw on reserves of strength and courage and love that you've never created. The ancient way is about building up those reserves when they're not needed so they're available when they are (pp. 198-199).
Finding Our Way Again, and the Ancient Practices Series of books it introduces, is well conceived and well written. My sincere hope is that it will be well read and well well.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, for review purposes. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”)

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