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Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices (Ancient Practices Series) Paperback – December 27, 2010
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About 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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I find McLaren's thesis for this book important for all Christians, if only they will stop criticising him long enough to listen to what he has to say. It was in the first chapter that he dropped the bombshell. He was telling a story about him conducting an interview with Dr. Peter Senge (father of systems theory and author of The Fifth Discipline). Senge was saying that in any bookstore, the best selling books will be on how to get rich and the second will be on Buddhism. Why Buddhism? Senge replied "I think it's because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief.'
McLaren went on to explain that what is important is not either/or but both/and. Christianity needs a system of belief and a way of life or else it is not relevant. It will not give to what people are searching for today. McLaren suggests that we (Christians) have to rediscover our faith as a way of life, shaped and strengthened by ancient practices (p.6).
In any discussion about the ancient practices, one usually comes to the contemplative versus the active life or the Mary/Martha conflict. McLaren's solution was rather simplistic in that he lumps it all in a circle and place it in heaven and earth. What he did was to repeat what Ignatius of Loyola was teaching the Jesuit during the counter-Reformation times of Martin Luther: the sacredness of the everyday life. This was also the teachings of other Christian mystics such as Margery Kempe. Recently discovered by the Protestants, it is now strongly advocated by Richard Foster, Diana Bass and Phyllis Tickle. The way of the Christian life is to be both active and contemplative at the same time.
As in other McLaren's books, I learned a number of new words to the English language such as `open-source spirituality' which McLaren use to mean Christians learning and mentoring from each other; `faithing our practices'; `otherliness' (mean love); and this memorable quote from Doug Pagitt "preaching without speeching."
This is a good introductory book to Christian spirituality and Christian spiritual disciplines. It is highly readable, written in McLaren's conversational style with lots and lots of stories to illustrate his points.
This book is about the rediscovery of Christianity as a way of life and not just a system of beliefs or putting it another way how do we find sacredness in all that we do, everyday. How do we become more spiritual and less religious? How do we tend or care for our souls or how do we strengthen our character? Brian's writing always challenges me to think, to reflect, to listen to God to become all that God wants me to be.
On page 16, Brian writes, "spiritual practices are about life, about training ourselves to become the kinds of people who have eyes and
actually see and who have ears and actually hear, and so experience...not just survival but life. " Brian reviews how these practices got started and are practiced by 50% of the world's largest faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Brian reflects on what it means to be a follower of Jesus, walking in this new way of life and seeing His Kingdom and how we fit into it. How we become more learners of this way so that we can model it for others. He follows the life of Jesus with the life of Paul and how Paul's life echoed the life of Jesus by being "reconciled with God, one another, and all creation in a global community."
Brian's humility also comes out in his writing, how he has learned these different practices from different friends who come from different backgrounds. These have added richness to his his spiritual journey and have clarified where the destination of this journey is to take us. I will let you discover what the practices are but I have found this book to be practical, raising questions, having a time at the end of each chapter to reflect or to discuss with others various implications through the spiritual exercises. Page 185, "It would be tragic for you to read this book and walk away with a longer to-do list." Page 188, " The ancient way is about joining God in the spending of every day."
This book has been helping me to find my way. Maybe it will help you too.